Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Hate the Holidays

I hate the holidays.  I don't merely find them stressful or tedious.  I truly, madly, hate them.  I have hated them since I was about nine years old.  Several things happened when I was nine that changed my life forever -- and definitely NOT for the better.

Anyway, from the time I was nine until I was twenty-five, when my mother finally died late on Christmas Day, the holidays were an absolute horror for me.  I hated all the fuss, all the stress.  I hated having to interact with an extended family that made no secret of their disdain for me.  I didn't like them either, but I at least didn't talk badly about them.  Not then, anyway.  Nowadays, I have no problem expressing how much I disliked them.

After my mother died, things got a little better.  I felt no obligation to spend the holidays with those who would enjoy my absence more than my presence.  I still hated the holidays.  But now, I didn't have to pretend to enjoy them.  I could growl at the Christmas decorations in the stores.  I could not buy a single present for anyone other than myself.  I could spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone with a good book and a cup of mulled cider.  I was not happy.  But at least, I was alone and didn't have to hide my unhappiness.

Gradually, as the years passed, I began to be a little less stressed about the holidays.  I managed to make friends with a few people who actually liked me as I actually was.  They made it their purpose to create happy holiday memories for me.  I still didn't like the holidays, but they did succeed to such an extent that I no longer found myself growling at the Christmas decorations in the store.  Those few years between developing those friendships and meeting my husband were probably the least stressful holidays I ever experienced.  I wasn't alone, but nothing was really expected of me either.  I could just be myself and hang out with my friends.

Then I met my husband.  I love my husband.  If it weren't for him, I probably would have committed suicide years ago.  I even like most of his immediate family.  I love his sister like the sister I wish I had had growing up.  I adore his father.  I even like the man his sister is marrying this spring.  He and I are developing a very nice friendship.  His mother... well... you know what they say about mother-in-laws.  She doesn't like me.  I don't like her.  I try and be polite to her.  She finds ways to subtly and not-so-subtly insult me.  However, she could be much worse.  So I can't complain too much.

His extended family isn't that bad either.  I don't have much of anything in common with them, but they are friendly towards me, and I try to be as friendly to them as I can be.  I'm just not naturally a very sociable person.

However, because hubby does have a family -- a family that is as into celebrating Christmas as most American families -- I am expected to participate in the Christmas madness.  If I don't go to family Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, then hubby is pestered with questions of where I am and why aren't I there, which puts a lot of stress on him, and consequently on me.  (He doesn't "take it out on me" or anything like that.  It's just that when he's stressed -- especially when he's stressed because of me in some way -- it makes me feel bad.)  However, if I go to these parties, I have to pretend to enjoy them, which puts even more stress on me.  So, no matter what I do, I end up stressed.

And then there are the traditions of his immediate family.  His mother is very religious.  She demands that the immediate family go to a Christmas Eve church service -- despite the fact that no one but her really cares about it.  I was raised Christian, but now have very negative feelings about anything to do with organized religion.  I hate going to that church service.  I am being hypocritical. I do not believe.  I am putting on the appearance of belief in order to propitiate hubby's mother.  And no matter how much it disturbs his mother, I simply cannot take communion.  That would not just be hypocritical on my part, it would be a profanation of a symbol that the rest of those at the church truly believe in.  I simply can't do that.  I may not believe, but I do not want in any way to degrade the beliefs of others.

Finally, there is the Christmas morning giving of presents.  I actually like giving presents.  I like shopping and finding things that I think will make people happy.  I tend to buy lots of presents.  However, no matter how much I enjoy giving presents, mother-in-law generally finds some way to make the gift exchange stressful and unpleasant.  She subtly insults the giver's gift acumen.  She talks about how sister's fiance' isn't really part of the family.  She insults the way I dress.  She always finds some way to insinuate negativity into the situation.  The one part of Christmas that I might possibly be able to actually enjoy, she manages to make frustrating and tense. 

It is now officially Christmas Eve and I am dreading the upcoming 36 hours.   I wish I could just spend the time with my husband and with the people that I actually like.  I know hubby loves his mother.  Despite the fact that she frequently makes him miserable in various ways.  She's his mother, and despite her many faults, she does love him.  So he has to love her.

She has breast cancer.  She's had the surgery and she's undergoing chemo and things are going as well as they can be.  But the fact that she's sick is making my husband extremely stressed this year, and is bringing up all sorts of negative memories in me regarding my own mother's very long term illness.

You're not supposed to speak badly of someone who is bravely struggling against cancer or any other life-threatening illness.  Even if you don't like them, you're supposed to be all supportive and everything, and I just can't be.  I've never liked her.  I didn't like her before she got sick, and just because she is now ill does not make me like her.  It just makes her presence even more stressful for me.  I hate this.  I hate this.  I hate this.

I can't wait for the holidays to be over.

I hate the holidays.