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A Gift for Yourself

fall to heaven This is, for me, the least wonderful time of the year.

The crass commercialism is merely annoying. Crushing seasonal depression mostly responds to medication. Anxiety hits a high whining note of stress. The desperation, aggravation, and just plain miserable anger swirling in almost every public place is worse, since it rasps on all my edges. The post office parking lot is a cesspool of barely restrained aggression; I suppose I’m glad that inside, the lines are mostly well-mannered. (At least, I haven’t seen any fisticuffs, mostly because I duck in, check my PO box, and duck out.) Years of working in retail and seeing parents explode at tired, cranky children overwhelmed by the sensory input has filled me with sadness. The grocery store is full of tired, cranky adults, many of whom use their selves and carts to block all progress in the physical sense, and in other senses as well.

I have the same problem with “Christmas cheer” that I have with church–plenty of people think that if they go one day a week, hair slicked down and good clothing on, that they can be complete assholes the other six without qualm. One grand gesture at Christmas does not outweigh 364 days of being a douchenozzle.

The explosion of false good cheer makes me nervous the same way presents from abusers did. You know you’re going to pay for it sooner or later, and a calm right now means the storm has only paused. Once the extended family has gone home, the presents one received (meant to impress said extended family) are easily taken away. Small things one has done during the holiday parties are dragged up later and furious punishments are meted out. God forbid you smile at another man during a holiday party while a jealous boyfriend is watching, taking notes for things to use later when he wants to use his fists.

Some years I manage to enjoy some aspects of this time of year, mostly through the happiness of my children. Their joy makes me think maybe it’s not so bad after all. To them, the holidays are full of special things and good food, burning paper wishes and lighting the vigil candle on the solstice, a few thoughtful presents and time spent lounging in the living room together, each of us engrossed in something–a book, knitting, a video game–but being proximal. And of course, winter break, that holy time of no school.

But for me personally, the joy of the holidays was shattered early, and mostly I just set myself to endure them. It’s like my birthday–I don’t want presents, I don’t want cake, I don’t want fuss, I just want the day to pass as quietly as possible, with no breaking plates or screaming or paralyzing fear. A few of my loved ones find this hard to accept, but it’s a gift that means the most to me.

Some holiday seasons aren’t so bad. This one, well. I’m not responding to contact-form emails until January. (Sorry about that, but you don’t want me responding when I’m on edge. TRUST ME.) I’m withdrawing from many things, holing up until the storm passes. Spending what little leftover energy I have on work, which is ironic since publishers shut down from December to February.

Like I said, I know a lot of people love this time of year. That’s great; I’m unreservedly happy for them. For those who share my sentiments, though–you’re not alone. Take care of yourself out there. It’s okay to say no and conserve your energy. It’s all right, I promise. You can give yourself the gift of getting through the end of the year intact, and it’s a great gift for yourself and for everyone you care about.

Over and out.

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Amanda Toop

This all sounds so familiar. Thanks for putting this into words. I think I feel much the same way. I am basically working out like crazy to take things down a notch.

Katherine C.

I’m sorry that the traditional holiday season is an unhappy one for so many for so many different reasons. I hope that you and others are able to make it through to the other side with a minimal level of stress and that the good bits for you are extra good this year. And thanks for the reminder to stop and think for a minute about those for whom this is not “The most wonderful time of the year” just because it is one of mine.


Thank you for saying all of this. This time of year is so damn exhausting for my household and although I do not wish the same experience on anyone, it is comforting to know we are not alone in our endeavor to endure. *hugs*

Mel Reams

It’s okay to say no and conserve your energy.

This! I even like the holidays and I’m still really, *really* looking forward to the part where my husband and I hide in our house and don’t talk to people. I kind of overloaded on social stuff this year, should’ve said No more often.


having to do the mandatory observances with custodial and non custodian parents, the grandparents, the 4-6 holiday meals… wake me when its January… no, make that February. Everyone keeps track of everything, and its stressful.