Monday, December 25, 2017

Holiday Anxiety

I’m at my parent’s house and I am still having bouts with my insomnia so instead of tossing and turning quietly in the night I will write this thing. It’s Christmas, obviously, and that means family time, traditions, and all the rest that comes with it.

I’ll be frank. I hate the holidays. They make me feel anxious and sort of pinned in. They feel like an obligation that feels selfish to be annoyed at because you know you have to do it and if you chin-up and smile through it, it will make it better for all involved including yourself.

This got me to thinking about why that is, why I dislike the holiday season, and why so many other people feel the same way.

Perhaps it’s because it is a type of reminder. All this tradition is packed into them, all those memories and each year we try to re-simulate them. But it’s hard to do that isn’t it? Especially since things change, maybe some changes are bigger then others; deaths, births, things like that, but generally the changes are slighter. The dynamics, distances, and the very act of knowing someone shifts through time even when these events stay still.

As one gets older and experience more independent lives, there is a mote around yourself and those that you are supposed to be, or once were, closest to. There may always be a type of closeness, a bond of having shared so much time with another during such formative years but distance/change is keen, sharp and hard to ignore.

Even with this distance there is an agreement made between everyone. There is a script, a performance of being/acting to make that distance feel less sharp around the edges. That is why tradition is so vital to surviving the holidays. If things have a setting, props and vague ritual, it is easier to cope and to understand what is supposed to happen, how, when and by whom.

Maybe it’s the performativity of the holidays that has me in such an agitated state. Of course, that’s par for the course for everyday living but it is heightened during this time and there are so many expectations at stake.

Maybe that’s the key word to all of this. Expectation. Expectation is a real ball and chain sometimes. It quashes any chance for imagination and sincerity. The formalizing of behavior can be quite entrancing though, and I see how its use can be purposeful and propellant in a holiday setting but still, when it becomes so heavily enforced, there isn’t that much honesty and or fun.

Expectation is not only from external sources but internal as well. The holidays is a great way to measure time and to register what you and your near and dears have accomplished or not in the past year. Having the bone chilling realization that you have not progressed and are exposing that to those who have invested so much into your potential can feel like self inflicted crucifixion. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but back to the point, expectation–it’s the fuel in in which holidays run–and there’s really no way to escape its grip during this time.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. The holidays aren’t really all that bad, it actually is not bad at all, but I wanted to untangle, at least for myself, why this time of year, bring certain feelings to the surface. And I’m certain others feel this way too; I mean it is ‘the holidays’ after all, a well trodden setting of ill content.  

Is there a way to ‘fix’ or change any of this festive anxiety? Not really. We all know that it really isn’t that big a deal, to be asked to grin and bare it for a day or so to make those that love you happy. But yeah, it’s still there, that dread of having to get through it.

In the face of not having a clue how to remedy it and not having the guts or the will to fly away and ride it out anonymously on a beach or in the woods alone, I guess the only thing to do is embrace it, relax and not make it into a big deal. That’s hard for someone like me but yeah, to really get over it, one has to have some grace and willingly go along for the ride. Who knows, maybe doing this will make it easier for everyone else; maybe it will make their participation feel less jagged at the edges as well.

I’m lucky, I know it, and while I wax and wane about this most trivial of things, I know there are those that have nowhere to go for the holidays and perhaps no one they have to see. For those who may be in that situation, I could jest  and say I envy you, but that’s cruel and false. Regardless where you are in the complexities of relationships with family, what the holidays are good at doing is bringing people together, even if it feels hard, and there is a type of truce and truth to ignoring or acknowledging differences but also a type of love that is real, even if it feels imperfect at times.

Whether you are with family or friends, I hope you get through the holidays and if not, don’t fret, you’re not alone.