• Twenty-two Twenty-eight

Fear and Loathing on Christmas

Photo Source: media.defense.gov

I am not a Christmas person. Actually, I am not a holiday person. The small exceptions are St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and New Year’s Day (not the Eve, however). One of the big problems I have with holidays is all the expectation. I simply do not do well regarding personal things and performance under pressure. With work, I thrive on pressure and love the thrill; however, in life, I panic and shut down. Take Valentine’s Day; I simply cannot be romantic on demand. I just do not have the skill or muscle to just be lovey-dovey and express all sorts of verbal and physical wonders as a way to show my love. Instead, I avoid the holiday altogether. It is not that I am not capable of verbal and physical wonders—it is just that for me they are things that arrive sincerely as part of a natural course of events. It is the Taoist in me—in that I do not like to force things or try to conjure emotions and sentiments. With that said, as stressful and awkward Valentine’s has been for me over the years (and God bless the gentlemen who have suffered), Christmas is for me the granddaddy of high-pressure performance. Somehow, I am supposed to co-create, as well as experience, a magical, ultra-loving, significant, oddly moral moment once a year that will create memories worth saving in photos and shared stories—which for me feels like torture—how on earth is one supposed to create profundity?

With that said, I do not live alone, so I do understand that everyone else around me is loving Christmas and making merry and loving me and dragging me into all sorts of things from tree decorating, to present opening, and then a candlelit dinner. I have created a few boundaries—on Christmas décor for the house, I like to go very very subtle. I’ve agreed on our freezer being decorated. My husband takes out the light in our freezer and plugs in twinkle lights instead, so that every time you open our freezer, all of our frozen foods are dancing in Christmas splendor. If it snows, I will make a little snowman and put it in the freezer to finish off the overall winter wonderland effect.

On trees, I need to make sure its 6 feet or under and a poorly rendered fake. I called my last tree The Apocalyptic Christmas Tree. The Apocalyptic Tree (that we had for years) was assembled incorrectly at the factory (I was delighted by the fact and refused to take it back). Consequently, the layers were out of order—giving it an hour-glass shape versus a triangular shape. I loved that tree, but finally, it died—fake trees die too—all of its needles fell off as we took down the ornaments and lights. This year the Tao picked our tree—it was December 23 at around six at night, and it was the very last tree at Target. I was relieved, as it did not require any decision making. This new tree even shocked me a little, as I never thought our hourglass tree could be topped for ugliness—but wow, our new tree is almost thrilling in its scofflaw disregard at looking at all like a real evergreen tree. After a great deal of hysterical laughter, we strung it with lights and ornaments and really felt a kind of warm regard for our new family tree—the very tender regard that often arises from pity.

This year, my husband made a bold move and so did I—daringly he put on our coffee table a little sterling silver candle thingy that has silver snowflake fins that spin when the heat of a votive candle rises. It sat unspoken of until Christmas day when I asked why it wasn’t lit. My husband said we were out of votive candles. On Boxing Day, I startled the family by informing them that if they go to the top drawer of my dresser, they will find a few votive candles. Needless to say, it was a startling break from my iron-fisted policies regarding Christmas décor—and even I had to admit it was fun to see the little silver snowflakes spin merrily in the candlelight.

The funny thing about not trying is that what arises has a kind of truth that can be felt. We were all genuinely sad when our little Apocalyptic Christmas Tree finally died; and we all laughed with delight when we saw our new tree, picked by the Tao, was splendidly ugly. Trying to find and create the most beautiful tree in the world can be a lot of pressure. Finding the beauty in a humble little plastic tree can bring out the heart. I always feel bad that I am so awful at Christmas (or my birthday or Valentine’s Day), but the funny thing is that for the people who love me, it only seems to make them laugh. Somehow, they do not mind when I explain Christmas decorations make me claustrophobic, or that I hate the surprise element of opening presents, or when I exclaim boldly at dinner, “I hate Christmas,” instead, they make fun of me and tease me and, after awhile, get me laughing too as I am being ridiculous.

The funniest thing about not trying is that when a magical Christmas moment does arrive, it is profound, and I always feel humbly lucky when it happens. However, the profound is profound in its contrast to the mundane—which means it is quite rare. With that said, my Christmas hang-ups do not mean I do not see value in tradition or togetherness or celebration, and I gently follow all the normal customs—especially if I am spending it in another’s house. However, I am quite sure there are others out there like me, who just aren’t very good at Christmasing, and I wanted to out myself in the very Christmas spirit of love and comradery. Happy Holidays everyone, love Jennifer