Breaking Old Holiday Habits

As this post goes up, I will be in the middle of my winter holiday vacation. My (currently in-progress) celebration of Candlenights will have ended, I will have observed Christmas, and I will be gearing up for a visit from the two biological family members I am still on speaking and visiting terms with. I will be eyeing the approach of New Year’s Eve with some skepticism, not sure if whatever I wind up doing to mark the end of 2021 will be celebrating a new year, celebrating the end of this year, fortifying myself against whatever is coming in 2022 (given, you know, that things have pretty much just gotten steadily worse since 2016), or maybe all three at the same time. Or maybe just the last two, since I’m not sure I can bring myself to hope that 2022 will be better.

As I write this, I am in the middle of a 4-day work week in which I am doing my usual four 10-hour days despite Friday being a holiday not because I want the overtime pay (though I definitely do), but because I need to get as much work done as I can before a thing I have to travel for on January 4th. I am feeling frantic, exhausted, at my wit’s end, and less capable than ever. Which is pretty much just 2021 in a nutshell. I am making steady progress, trying to pace myself so I don’t burn out entirely (or worse, I guess, since I’m basically at that point already), and doing as much work as I can manage between preparations for holidays I don’t really care for.

I have nothing against winter holidays. I even celebrate one myself and try to observe the ones my friends and associates celebrate so I can wish them holiday-appropriate seasonal greetings. I just have a bad track record with most of them, thanks to my childhood and, honestly, most of my adult life. The holidays are a difficult time to feel like an outsider or like an afterthought, be it in a family, a religious circle, or even a group of friends, and I have felt like one or both of those things for most of my life. It is very difficult to be feeling the guilt from both directions, as someone who felt like a tagalong for most of my biological family and has now decided to cut them off. I felt (and sometimes still feel) like a bad person for choosing to avoid them, but I also felt incredibly bad for being an annoyance, supurfluous, or uncared for, so there was never any way I could not feel terrible over the holidays.

Except this year, I guess. This year, most of my stress and bad-feelings are coming from the frenetic pace I’m keeping at work right up to my vacation and will be immediately picking up after my vacation, and from being lazy about ordering presents so that most of them won’t arrive in time (and for being so broke than I had to really hunt for bargains). So far, I feel alright that I’m avoiding my family. I have no idea how they feel about it, I have no idea if they know what’s going on (I left it to my parents to tell my extended family whatever my parents cared to share, which means they probably haven’t heard anything) and I have no desire to know.

I want to say something like ‘ignorance is bliss’ and deflect how I feel, but I don’t know if I could handle knowing my absence has hurt them. Or that my choice to remove myself has upset them. I don’t like knowing my actions have resulted in someone else feeling hurt, even if my actions were the appropriate and healthy choice for me to make. I was raised to sacrifice my own well-being for the sake of others’ needs, comfort, and happiness, so it’s difficult to fight against that kind of thinking even when I know it isn’t healthy.

These holidays will be easier than the last few have been. Perhaps easier than any holidays I can actually remember, even. But they will not be objectively easy. It will still be difficult as I overcome decades of toxicity, trauma, and emotional manipulation/abuse. I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to feel when this goes up, when I’ve finally gotten past my work stress enough to actually think about a time further away than a couple hours, but I am willing to bet it will be better than I think. It is, after all, the first year I’ve claimed the holidays for my own.

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