The holidays are rapidly approaching and I've figured out a new way to avoid the pain that big gatherings always trigger in my poor, sensitive head: I won't go.
That's right, it only took me 6 1/2 years to sort that out. I've spent the last six christmases in pain, torturing myself to keep up the tradition of full-family-immersion. I couldn't imagine spending christmas any other way because as long as I could remember, that's what the holidays were: family, chaos, food, horseplay, drinking, talking, cookies, laughter, and there may only be thirty-something of us, but when we're all together, the roar of the crowd amplifies upon itself and we all find ourselves shout-conversing during the peakier points of the party.
The last six christmases have been truly miserable for me. I do my best to smile and socialize as much as I can with earplugs in, hat on, and medicated to the brimmmiest of brims, but no matter how precautious I am, it's ALWAYS at least a week of laying around afterwards and often the recuperation lasts until my birthday (two weeks into January), when I am expected to go through the same thing again for the joy of a massive family birthday party (for me and others).
So, this year: NO.
No big family christmas party, and no big birthday party. I will not attend any gathering that hosts more than a handful of people, and I will not hurt myself for the sake of appearances or to fulfill anyone's misguided idea of what the holidays are, particularly my own.
This year, this existentialist atheist will celebrate christmas however seems migraine-appropriate, with my parents on the eve perhaps, or with just my grandparents the weekend after. I will not travel so hard it hurts me, and I will certainly not give the tiniest iota of a shit if some clueless relative thinks I'm rude for taking care of myself.
We also have a cloud over the season as it'll be a year since my partner's mom died. He's sad, and not interested in most christmasy things, but he did watch Die Hard with me, so he'll be ok.
Without the needs and chaos of other people being the center of my solstice-celebrations, I am free to embrace the season however moves me in the moments, and I've been reveling in it in my own, very quiet way. I've acquired a few presents for loved ones, and I'd love to get more if my budget allows. I've been enjoying both christmas music and movies, my favorites this year being nearly any version of Carol of the Bells (oddly, because I always thought it sounded like the soundtrack to a christmas-themed slasher flick) and the Robert Downey Jr/Holly Hunter flick, Home for the Holidays (which is Thanksgiving-themed, but WEV). Pandora's got a decent, but rather repetitive holiday channel, to which I added a little Vince Guaraldi from a Charlie Brown Christmas, the equivalent of a musical shot of eggnog to my soul.
I'm looking forward to having just a few, small gatherings with people I love, and taking time to reflect on the future. Change is constant, and I can't wait to see what comes next.