The sight and sounds of the holidays approaching used to make my blood boil. The holidays in my eyes, were several weeks of running a gauntlet of forced fun at work, in my personal life and most dreaded, with my family.
This sounds incredibly harsh. Even as I write it I’m embarrassed at how I saw what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” But it wasn’t for me, not for a very long time.
I grew up in a quiet, tense, bitter and angry environment. The holidays tended to put a very bold exclamation point on all the wrongs and woes my family had endured. I know that doesn’t make me special. All families have their issues, and I’m not going to belabor the reason and faults in this piece. This article is about freedom from that, so let me get back on track.
I got married at 24 because that’s what Akron girls do. I saw it as an escape from my family and a retreat to where the grass was greener. We know how the story goes… girl meets boy, she overlooks all issues as she will fix him later, gets married, etc. Now I spent holidays with his family in the basement of a house in New Jersey where things are explained to me because I’m from the interior and therefore not as smart as those on the east coast. Side note: we were watching the O.J. Simpson trial news coverage, and his father said to me “you know, he used to be a really good football player.” Do they think we don’t have televisions in Ohio?
So, for years, I dreaded guilt from my family for not being with them for the holidays and a load of stress and anger of having to be with his family. This went on way too long.
Fast forward to years after my divorce, hours of therapy and a ridiculous amount of time learning who I am and what I want out of this life. I lost friends to cancer, saw others beat it and repeatedly learned how short our time is on this earth. Still, it wasn’t until 40 that I had the epiphany that this is MY life and how I choose to spend my time and who I spend it with is my choice. Why did that take me so long?
Women do this to themselves. We do. We are martyrs and slaves to guilt and shame and put ourselves last. We do things because we think we’re supposed to. We get married even when that little voice says, ‘what are you doing?” We take jobs we don’t like to make money to buy things we don’t need. We smile at others who we know are against us to avoid making waves. Then is all culminates each year with a series of supposedly required parties, work functions, socials, etc. that exhaust us both mentally and physically. No wonder the sound of holiday music and the sight of Christmas trees in August make us crazy! The long marathon is coming.
Stop it! You can you know. You don’t have to do any of it.
Seven years ago, I met my now significant other. He was two years divorced and navigating the stressful co-parenting of four great kids whose lives had been dramatically disrupted. The thought of four kids and the life of joining a divorced family was daunting, but I knew he was a great guy and what the hell?!
I’m happy. Actually, content! We are developing real estate together, the kids and doing great and more to the point, we have fantastic holidays. The kids spend time where they want on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve’s. No pressure, but we’re lucky that they still choose to spend that time with us, and they spend Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day with their mother.
On the eve’s, we play card games, eat, drink (the legally aged ones, anyway), joke around and just chill out at our home. The next day, we sleep in, like really late! We don’t leave the house all day, so why would we change out of our pajamas? We watch movies, snuggle with the dogs on the sofa, listen to music, occasionally break into a slow dance and relax. We warm up the pre-cooked turkey breast I bought from Giant Eagle and make all the side dishes, so we still enjoy all the yummy holiday smells. We commence relaxing, and we love it.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas, we are asked by many who feel sorry for us for being ‘alone’ to join their family for the holiday dinners. We smile, appreciate their offer and know that nothing beats our holidays and we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Happy Holidays! Seriously! Have a happy holiday! You deserve it!