It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Sad Winter Holiday Thread

Have a difficult family? Dealing with a lot of stress right now? Dreading food policing? Grieving? If your mantra at this time of year is “Please let me just make it to 2015,” this is your thread. Lay it on us.

If you love the holidays, your thread is here. Go and deck some halls!

Comments closed as of 11/29. Thank you all. 

A tiny Christmas tree with Omar finger puppet
My actual Christmas tree from a few years back.


460 thoughts on “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Sad Winter Holiday Thread

  1. Is this the place where we complain about things we don’t like about the holidays? If so, can I just go on the record and say that I absolutely hate 95.4% of Christmas music? And yes, that’s a precise figure. I’m an accountant; I did the math.

      1. I have a small business selling handmade. I otherwise hate the holidays – the season’s redeeming quality, to me, is that I make most of my money at this time of year. So, Boyfriend and I go around singing, to the tune of Jingle Bells:

        “buy my shit! buy my shit! buy my fucking shit!
        heyyyy, come on and buy my shit, buy my fucking shi-IT!”

        It at least makes us laugh.

    1. I found I enjoyed Christmas music more when I started replacing random words with “fish.”

      “I have no fish for him parumpabumbum”
      “Giddy up jingle fish”
      “Silent fish, holy fish”

      It has an inverse affect on other people and eventually they stop playing Christmas music around you.

      1. oh my god. i will do this next time i have to shop at evil department store. it will be glorious. “baby it’s fish outside.” “on a one-fish open sleigh.” “on the fourth day of fishmas my true love gave to me…” *glee*

          1. The lyrics in my head just rapidly devolved into

            FOUR FISHY FISH
            THREE FISH FISH
            TWO FISH FISH FISH

            I think my brain went a little too far.

      2. I… might actually sing along to Christmas carols given this fantastic advice.

      3. Oh, man, I’m literally laughing out loud. At work.

        I have a huge collection of Christmas music that I actually like (which, alas, makes me even more intolerant of the dreck my ears are assaulted with this time of year), but even the good stuff could be improved with a “Down in yon forest be a fish.”

      4. Totally unrelated, but I hate the band Motley crew. Spouse loves them. He used to play their music occasionally just to poke fun at me. He stopped when I started singing Squirrels, squirrels, SQUIRRELS every time girls, girls girls cane in the radio. He now says he can NOT hear the word squirrels when the song plays. Mission accomplished!

      5. Beyond the sheer repetition, as a secular person I don’t enjoy the religious aspects of the holiday. Mostly I can just avoid this, but it’s a little inescapable in songs. So sometimes I, quietly and to myself, make a game out of replacing religious words with rhyming ones. My current highest achievement: “O come let us adore him, Chrysler Ford.”

      1. Yeah. There’s a tiny bit of Christmas music from the Reformation or after that I can tolerate, but for the most part if it’s Protestant I don’t want to hear it.

          1. I haven’t heard this in its entirety since I was little; the LP disappeared somewhere along the way, but this is what Christmas sounds like in my head:

          2. There’s a really cool church in my hometown that held an event a few years back called “Blue Christmas,” where they invited anyone who wasn’t looking forward to the holidays to come to the church and eat good food and sing bummer, minor-key Christmas carols and cry together. I keep hoping they’ll do it again.

      2. That’s pretty much where I am. There are fewer than ten total contemporary Christmas songs I like and can’t get enough of, but as for the rest I am not sure how they are even classified as “music.”

        And here’s a clue: if you want to “reinvent” a classic song, don’t bother. You will do a horrible job and I will lose respect for you. It’s inevitable.

        1. I am so with you on people trying to cover the classics. I’m looking at you Michael Buble. And anyone who even thinks about touching “Fairytale of New York”.

          And I absolutely hate “Baby it’s cold outside”.

          I feel so bad for everyone who works in retail at this time of year. I got a Christmas job once in a supermarket and I was so glad when we got past the 25th.

          1. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is mostly an abomination that makes my skin crawl. Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page do a version of it that I like because it sounds like a really sly fuck-you to the usual interpretation of the song.

          2. Oh, yeah, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” AKA “The Date Rape Song.”

            The only version I can fricking stand is the one where the man and the woman trade parts back and forth. The man says, “Say, what’s in this drink?” and after that they keep swapping, turning “He sneak-drunked me, did what he wanted, and now I’m trying to nice my way out of here” into cute banter.

            Don’t get me wrong, I love the Holidays. I just love them better if I’m not in any place that’s playing a 25-hour disc of holiday music!

        2. Would you mind sharing? I tend to love Xmas music, but as an agnostic pagan I prefer the non-religious ones, and I’m hoping you know some I don’t.

          And to return the favor: search YouTube for “Holiday Clusterfuck.” XD

    2. I love maybe 60% of Christmas music, but you get much love from me as a fellow accountant. High five!

      1. I would say 85% because I love Christmas and even go to church for carol singing (I’m not remotely religious). I probably shouldn’t be commenting in this thread at all but I had to for accountant solidarity! Accounts rock!

    3. This time of year bums me out a lot. Christmas music is one of the main problems. My way of dealing with it is avoiding it as much as possible? Music that has helped me avoid feeling like I am perpetually In The Land of The Lawn Santa:

      George Winston – December (hello 1980s piano feelingsmusic)
      Anonymous 4 – On Yoolis Night (medieval and Renaissance polyphony)
      Chanticleer in general
      Boston Camerata – Early American Christmas
      Nowell SingWe Clear in general (they sing a lot of folky songs from England relating to lots of different parts of the Christmas tradition, both Jesus-y and not)

      (I don’t mind the Jesus part of Christmas, though it’s not my cup of tea (pretty easily ignorable), so some of this music contains mention of that stuff.)

      If anyone else has recommendations of How To Create My Own Personal Bubble of Sound, I’m all for it.

      1. Ooh, try this: “Russian Christmas Music” by Alfred Reed. (That’s part 1, the whole thing is 15 minutes long.) There’s nothing overtly Christmas about it, other than being brass and percussion heavy. I was in an orchestra that did this every year, the chimes part is my all-time favorite piece of music to play.

      2. If you’re asking for unusual Christmas music recommendations:

        – Jesus gets nothing for Christmas, by Hank Green
        – There’s no lights on the Christmas tree mother (they’re burning Big Louie tonight), by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band
        – Chiron Beta Prime, by Jonathan Coulton
        – A Christmas Carol, by Tom Lehrer
        – At last, I’m ready for Christmas, by Stan Rogers (also First Christmas, by the same musician)

        Not that I collect them or anything…

          1. Elvis Costello and the Chieftains, “The St. Stephen’s Day Murders”. It sounds lovely and cheery — and when you start paying attention to the lyrics, you realize that it’s about whacking your horrible family members on December 26th. I sing it before making phone calls.

        1. Oh Night Divine – by Steve W Mauldin.

          Starts bad. Gets infinitely worse.

          This is “The Room” of Christmas Carols. Plan 9 from the Bethlehem.


          1. I’ve heard worse. Seriously.

            Three years ago, our excellent (actual professional) visiting soprano was snowed out of her travel plans, Our organist, in a fit of…something…decided that he would do O Holy Night himself. So we were treated to an asthmatic baritone at a “Bells and Smells” service (I.e. with full incense), accompanying himself singing O Holy Night with only two days to get it straight (while also getting the rest of the Christmas service ready). The results were special, in a very special way.

            Several people suggested he have one of the three available competent sopranos (of whom I am one) sing the piece, but alas, nothing doing.

      3. “A Very Random Christmas” by Random (aka Megaran)
        He sampled music from The Peanuts Christmas special. My favorites are Snow Business and A Christmas Prayer.

        Epic Rap Battles of History: Donald Trump vs Ebeneezer Scrooge
        Best line comes from Scrooge: “I don’t believe in ghosts and I don’t believe that hair!”

        Theme from Home Alone
        Personally, I love how creepy the instrumental is before the vocals come in.

        Soundtrack for Nightmare Before Christmas
        I also like Korn’s version of Kidnap the Sandy Claws

        Theme song from The Gremlins
        It’s a Christmas movie; it counts.

        Soundtrack from the first Harry Potter movie
        There’s a chunk of that movie that happens around Christmas; it counts!

      4. In my book, The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” playing in the grocery store is THE only good thing about the Christmas Music Season. Every time this song plays an angel gets its wings.

      1. Years of retail have made me hate Christmas music with the fiery heat of one thousands suns and has taken over parts of my brain to remember lyrics to songs I don’t like by bands I don’t know.

          1. Patton Oswalt has a hilarious and foul bit about how much he hates Christmas Shoes – I won’t link it here, but you can find it on YouTube, complete with animation.

            Seriously foul, but I watch it at least once a year and can’t stop laughing.

          2. My siblings and I have turned it into a game: Thanksgiving to Christmas, as each person hears Christmas Shoes, they are tagged out. Last one standing is the winner, not least in having gone the longest without being forced to listen to Christmas Shoes. And no sneak-attacking each other, i.e. it must be heard in a store, at restaurant, on the radio, etc. You can’t just put in on your ipod and hide that under your brother’s pillow. *grumble*

        1. My company used to play a Christmas playlist in the halls and offices after Thanksgiving.

          60% of that list was the Carpenters.

          I now hate the Carpenters, forever.

        1. They don’t even seem to rotate it much. There is a ton of Christmas music; they don’t need to play the exact same 12 – 15 songs over and over.

          1. The thing about that is… *too many years of retail management* most companies get their music in general from a vendor that only has licenses to distribute X number of songs. And a lot of retailers that are looking to save money will get the smallest package they can, which leads to my last holiday experience. Fifteen songs total (we counted), that “Happy Holidays, Happy Holidays, while the merry bells are ringing…” song (the version that came from the original Holiday Inn movie, which is unintentionally horrifying), five versions of Baby It’s Rapey Inside, two versions of “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, and of course, the holiday classic, The Count from Sesame Street singing “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”. The other six songs, I must have blocked. *shudder*

          2. Or (shudder) FAO Scwhartz, where I did a seasonal stint in college.

            “Welcome to our world, welcome to our world, welcome to our world of toys!” over and over and over again. Forever.

          3. They have to avoid the truly religious stuff, which is a shame, because the best Christmas music is the old stuff, which is no holds-barred religious. Instead, we get schmaltzy tripe. Yay.

            Side note: when I was 7, I was missing all four front teeth around Christmas. I went to a private school, so we wrote letters to Santa in class, and I asked Santa for my two front teeth because I had a sense of humor as a child and also I loved corn on the cob and I couldn’ for months and months while my teeth were gone. anyway, santa wrote back and said that he’d talked with Mrs Claus and she said that it was normal for little girls my age to lose their teeth. But, he said with a wink, he’d also talked with the tooth fairy and she said they’d be growing in soon.

    4. I LOVE some Christmas music and hate so so much of it.

      I liked “Feliz navidad” when I was a kid, and then when I got older, I got hit with some version of a Groundhog Day curse, and that song is on literally every single time I turn on the radio during the holiday season. I cannot listen to the radio on my drive to work without hearing at least a snippet of it. Now that song drives me insane.

      I agree with the older posters that I do tend to like the older stuff.

      1. OH man, I worked at Barnes & Noble one holiday season, and we had a five CD rotation of music for the whole season, one of which was the newest volume of A Very Special Christmas, which had ‘Christmas in Hollis’ on it. The ONLY song I could stand. OF COURSE someone complained about the ‘inappropriate rap’. So they took out that whole disc. Down to four and no more ‘Christmas in Hollis.’ Worst.

    5. Gawd, the Christmas music. I wouldn’t care except that for the past few years, radio stations have begun playing it before Thanksgiving.

      I also got Christmas hold music a week ago.

      1. Yep. A local radio station has already gone all-christmas-all-the-time for the season. Bah, humbug.

    6. I would disagree with you but the cafe I study in in the mornings has decided to replace their usual music with a complement of the single most annoying Christmas songs and now I am tearing my hair out in frustration by lunchtime. I will still defend some of my favourite carols to the death but that one variation of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town needs to GO AWAY AND NEVER COME BACK.


      My boss loves Christmas music, particularly terrible old-timey music that sounds like the Veal family Christmas in Arrested Development. I can tolerate the music of the Christmas season but only if I don’t subject myself to any voluntarily and she is really messing with my groove here.

    8. GAAAAAAHHHHHH the music everywhere. I haven’t heard it in a store yet, but my town has TWO radio stations that switch to Christmas music 24/7 for the holidays. And both of them switched about a week ago. Seriously? Two weeks before Thanksgiving? I have to lose my #1 and #3 radio stations for 6 weeks instead of 4? I just need to invest in a car stereo that takes a USB drive and be done with that crap.

    9. I stoppedoff on the way home last night for a couple things I needed. Not only was the store already becoming wall-to-wall Christmas, but one Christmas display kept playing Bing Crosby’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” on an endless loop. I normally love music of that vintage and thought it was cute the first time. By the third time through I wanted to ask the cashier how he coped with it.

    10. One song that I hear played over and over again is that “Baby it’s cold outside” one which is like…uh, that guy’s being really aggressive, she wants to go home, dude let her…wait, did you put something in her drink? NOT COOL ALARM ALARM CALL THE COPS OR SOMETHING.

      1. Ikr? I actually listened to the song all the way through the other night and I thought “rape culture.” Call me a feminazi buzzkill if you must (and please do because I will totally own that label) but it’s true.

      2. Seriously, I remember hearing that in high school the first time and being all, “This is not romantic. This is creepy. ‘What’s in this drink??!?'”

        1. I know! I have no clue how that song became popular and no one went up to the singer and was like “Um…dude….about this song….is everything okay? I mean…it’s just kind of….concerning.” Did no one else hear those lyrics and think that something wasn’t quite right?! Is that REALLY how people think normal romantic relationships should be? I may be reading too deep into it but that song always made me really uncomfortable.

          1. The song probably BECAME popular because “Hey, what’s in this drink?” was, at the time, a thing people said to get a free pass to do/say inappropriate things (like stay late at your boyfriend’s). It’s assumed that she knows exactly what’s in this drink, and is sort of winking at the guy going “Yeah I totally didn’t mean to get this drunk WHOOPSIE guess I can’t go home yet HOW SAD” *snuggle snuggle*

            …but uh, A) nobody says that anymore and B) WTF the version with the terrifying standby effect background singers and C) how is it STILL popular?

          2. Ran out of nesting, but sort of what runsquidling said – it can be read/sung as the guy giving the woman a socially acceptable excuse to stay with him (because she wants to, but of course, propriety), an the woman in turn making her socially required excuses she doesn’t mean. But it really doesn’t make very much sense now that it’s socially acceptable to bang someone you aren’t married to. I’ve hear modern version that do manage to make it “playful banter” rather than “creepy creepy”, but a lot of people who record it just don’t think about it at ALL.

          3. It got so popular – I think – because it was in “Neptune’s Daughter ” with Esther Williams.

            And that movie takes place in Miami.

            Also it’s done twice in the movie. The first time the wolf is a man and the mouse a woman.

            For the reprise the wolf is a woman and the mouse a man.

    11. I swear to pie if I hear “all I want for christmas is you” one more time I’m won’t be held accountable for my actions. HATE IT. I am so, so far past bitch eating crackers with that fucking song, I wish I could uncompose the goddamn thing and strike its existence from the world.

  2. So at the risk of sounding ridiculously ungrateful, for the first time in three years I will be spending the holidays in proximity of family (and splitting it between mine and my partner’s family for the first time) and I am so not thrilled. Living on the opposite coast from everyone was so excellent because I didn’t have to deal with their holiday bullshit. My mom is one of those people who becomes a completely different person around the holidays because she suddenly decides she has to become Martha Stewart and she is Not Pleasant. I love gifting, and baking, a present wrapping, and decorating and being around over-stressed family sucks all the fun out of the things I love, so the low-key Friendsgivings and Friends-mas I’ve had the past several years have been all of the good and none of the bad.

    Manbeast is thrilled to spend Thanksgiving with his very large, very loud family and has been very insulted by suggestions that I just stay home and hide in a closet while he goes on ahead.

    I am mourning the loss of small, low-key holidays, in addition to mourning the loss of my grandparents (who passed in June).

    1. Oh yeah. We’re visiting my MiL. We’ll have a complete conversation made out of passive aggressive-ness and disappointed stares and my partner won’t catch it. He’s still stumped after several attempts to point it out. So I have that to look forward to.

      We’re probably staying over at her house so I need to be polite and shit for several days. I’m looking at ways to get out of the house and do things, preferably something that can help others and take me out of my angry head.

      1. Movies. Lots of movies come out around Christmas. You can also become the person who runs super-helpful holiday errands/does mysterious last minute gift shopping, and then go sit in a cafe with your book. Good luck!

  3. I don’t mind the holidays, but they were a major stress time for my husband when he was growing up. I’d like to do a few more holiday-ish things than we’re currently doing. Any suggestions for dos or don’ts, for particular things or for talking to him about the topic?

    1. Only he can tell you dos and don’ts. Ask him what was stressful for him and what, if anything he might like to re-invent as a tradition for the two of you.

      1. This. If he’s open to starting a new tradition that wasn’t part of his childhood, he might be able to enjoy the holidays because it would be something you create together. Maybe not, but it’s worth discussing.

    2. My boyfriend doesn’t really like the holidays much either, so this year we decided to try and come up with some positive traditions for us (it’s the first year we’re living together). We decided to adopt an Angel Tree kid (basically, you provide the presents for a child in a low income family). We are really loving the process of picking out gifts, and it’s been a very positive thing for us to do together. It’s nice to have something to do that you can just feel good about amidst all the holiday stress. Maybe you and your husband can do something similar, or find some sort of charitable endeavor that you can do together as a holiday tradition that makes you both feel positive, happy, and satisfied.

      1. I adopted a family for work last year and I had SO MUCH FUN shopping for them. I was sort of sad because they asked for almost all really practical stuff for the kids, so I got them some of that but then I also got a book and a toy for each kid. Because dammit, all kids should get a book and a toy.

        I seriously voluntarily spent hours of my life choosing the JUST RIGHT presents for these people. I think I put more thought into it than I did my gift for my own mother.

    3. Are there things you (you personally) do anyway that you can make more of a shared thing? E.g.: if you have a small holiday decoration that you usually hang in your office, ask if it’d be okay (as opposed to stress-making) to hang it up in your shared kitchen. If you were thinking of making gingerbread for knitting/work/family/local cat-lords anyway, ask if he’d like to help.

      (And the answer may be no. And that happens.)

      In terms of “dos and don’ts”, this is all examples of the “do make it low-pressure” thing, I guess? It’s hard to offer specific advice; I don’t know how many holiday-ish things you currently do, and whether you’re talking about “have an hours-long social event” or “send out cards together”, you know?

    4. Ultimately hangtown is right; only he can tell you what would be comfortable for him. But I suggest if you want to introduce holiday traditions that they be NEW ones for just the two of you, rather than something your family does that you’re bringing into his environment for him to participate in.

    5. If you know what caused the stress… do things other than those things? Like, if gatherings were stressful then maybe you two can watch a movie and eat gingerbread. If gift politics were stressful, don’t do gifts but maybe some decorations are okay.

      I had a partner who didn’t like Christmas and it turned out to be a personal space thing – his mum would put decorations all over the house, including sneaking them into his room, and he would get pressured into going to church despite not being of the same faith as his parents, and have to go to family events despite finding them pretty stressful. Of course, he didn’t tell me any of this. He just ripped down decorations when I put them up during our first Christmas living together, and I had to figure it out from comments and clues and veiled remarks and insight from his family over the holiday season. So I learned to do decorations at work rather than at home, and I invited him to my family events but also made it clear that he could stay away if he wanted. He liked Christmas food, so at least that was an easy thing we could share.

    6. I’ve lived this. My family is big on celebrating and traditions and being sweet and lovey with each other at Christmas (in theory if not ALWAYS in practice). Spouse’s family was big on…yet more excuses based in religion to be abusive towards the kid they were raising.

      Suggestions I have because they worked for us, your mileage may vary:

      1) If you’re both OK with religious elements, does a local church you’re comfortable with do a Blue Christmas service? These are specifically designed for people who find the Christmas season traumatic or otherwise difficult, whatever their reasons, and usually take place sometime a week or so before Christmas. Spouse found this really healing and helpful.

      2) Design a tradition or symbol together that is all about the two of you (or you plus kids) that makes you happy. For us? A gigantic vintage aluminum Christmas tree, complete with color wheel. Because it’s quirky and strange and makes us happy, that’s why.

      3) Do either of you have traditions that weren’t done by immediate family but were done by your culture? In our case, we discovered that Spouse’s birth mother was Polish, as is most of my family. So we’re starting to incorporate more of those traditions (including one that existed in my family but I never realized that it was a culturally Polish tradition). It’s another little piece of reclaiming what he never got to experience.

  4. I like the holidays…if I spend them by myself or with friends. I’m back in the states after living abroad for six years, and am not going to the family Thanksgiving. I exited familial stuff when I left home at 17. I haven’t seen most of my extended family in twenty years or more, my parents in five (since hub’s memorial service). I feel guilty about that still sometimes, but honestly, they don’t like me and never did, and I don’t see the point in my extended family and me subjecting ourselves to each other. I think I’m okay with the situation but that social pressure to be close with people who hate you just because you’re related is SO strong this time of year.

    1. Aww, I hope you can get past the guilt. I see nothing wrong with not spending time with people who don’t like you! I hope you do some great fun things that you enjoy. Part of the problem with the holiday season is people telling you how you are supposed to feel. Here’s to you enjoying your time however you want to! (and I am sorry for your loss).

      1. Thanks. I just moved to a new town, but I think it will be fine regardless. I’m just hoping my parents don’t decide that the awesome thing to do would be to drive out here for Christmas and annoy the fuck out of me. I mean visit me.

    2. I love the Holidays because I spend them with my husband’s extended family–far, far away from my relatives, who are a mixture of You’re Still the Clueless Baby of This Family, Sweetums and Noooo, No, There Was Never Any Dysfunction, You’re Just Screwed Up All By Yourself.

      1. I unfortunately married a guy whose family was as bad as mine. I’ve often said that the only good thing about my husband dying was no longer being related to his family. But I’ve spent my holidays with various friends and such for the last few years and it is fine. I’m glad you have a refuge. 🙂

  5. I am Jewish. Every christmas I spend with a new set of people is basically a month and a half of Traditions I Did Not Know Were Things Until I Trod On Them With My Big Semitic Boots And Everyone Stared In Horror.

    It started when I was 4. I am now 24. I am still coming across Christmas things I didn’t know were things. I don’t know if this will stop, ever.

    1. …which I know should be a whole lot easier to deal with then some of the stuff other posters have going on, but it hits all my anxious buttons.

      1. *jedi hugs*. This sounds really unpleasant. I think there is so much variety in Christmas traditions anyway, all my friends have different traditions even though we all have more-or-less the same religious and cultural background. So it’s very likely you will keep coming across new traditions, but I would side-eye anyone who makes you feel bad about that.

        1. And then you can get pretty huge differences between cultures, even if they’re all Christian, which I don’t think everyone realises! (This is actually my main issue each Christmas: my classically-German traditions are really unusual in many ways in the UK, so it can be hard to celebrate in the way I want to because I can’t source the necessary things or no one else is interested.) Agreed on side-eyeing people who’d shame you for not magically knowing all the world’s Christmas traditions.

      2. I grew in a family of Christians and I had no idea advent calendars were a thing until I was in my mid-30’s. No idea AT ALL.

        1. I’m not Christian, but I only know about advent calendars because of these cheap (yet delicious) chocolate calendar found in dollar store once Christmas is over.

        2. Me either! I was working in a bookstore and was asked where we kept the advent calendars, so I showed her the calendars and she went of like a rocket. Even asked me “who raised you?” Which flipped my bitch switch really hard and I was like “… heretics, wait no heathens. It is the heathens who have never believed and heretics who are backsliding believers right?” I thought she was going to have a heart attack. It was glorious.

          1. I was raised in the well-meaning and earnest tradition of the United Church of Canada, and I didn’t know about chocolate Advent calendars until I was a teenager and could go to the mall by myself. In the liturgical calendar Advent is actually supposed to be a time of optimistic but sober reflection, so my parents believed that it was inappropriate to celebrate it with daily candy. (They also had a pretty good point in that kids get enough goodies on Christmas Day and in the run-up thereto, and there was no need to be adding to that. Admittedly, this year I bought a beer Advent calendar, so you can see how well that lesson stuck.)

          2. A beer advent calendar would be awesome if I liked beer.

            I wonder if I could make one with cider/other drinks. HMMM.

        3. I learned about Advent Calendars from Neopets. Totally not an all-Christans-do-the-thing-thing

      3. I’m afraid we’re in the Cultural Moment of Deeply Affronted Christians, too — the “How dare you wish me a happy holidays!” people.

        You could be very earnest about random imaginary traditions. “Oh, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I hope your children have a wonderful time ducking for trout!”

    2. I think the worst was when I found an adorable lamb-shaped cake like two days after Passover ended. And we were about to have a post-Pesach chametz party! It’s like the anti-korban Pesach! Wonderful! I got to the party and somebody pointed out that this was really an Easter cake and I had effectively brought effigy!Jesus to the party. Apparently, Christians make cakes in the shape of metaphors for their god. Who knew?

    3. I’m Jewish too. I think this is actually one of the situations where you can legitimately pull out the Minority Card – oh, you don’t know xyz carol? “No, I’M JEWISH, that is NOT PART OF OUR FAITH TRADITION.” ::cold, blank expression::

      Okay, mitigate depending on whether it’s your good friends or random acquaintances or strangers. Friends should probably be aware that you’re Jewish and the Little Drummer Boy is not part of that heritage, acquaintances can get the Extra Mild “but actually nope,” but Strangers Giving You Shit can get Given Shit right back. Friends making you feel bad, even if they didn’t mean to… well, I feel like it’s not hard to predict that staring at you in horror for not knowing the thing would make you feel bad. That’s on them, not on you! It’s not your fault.

      Or: I am snarkier than average, so you can take the above with a grain of salt, but unless you live in Israel, Jews are a minority, and you don’t actually have a pair of Big Semitic Boots. If you in your ballet flats step on someone’s steel-toed boots, it would be good to get off their foot but you are probably not doing them serious harm. Vice versa stomping would be a lot worse, and probably happens more.

      tl;dr RAWR, I don’t think you are in the wrong. I think odds are pretty good that they are.

      1. *snicker* People are so ignorant in most of the U.S. that you could spin a whole spiel about how depressing it is that the culture gets the technicolor Holidays all over this solemn high holy day you just made up.

    4. Only my midwest upbringing (as in, was expected in friggin’ kindergarten to explain Hanukkah to my teacher because she hadn’t heard of it before) keeps me from saying “Fuck you” every time someone mentions Christmas. It’s the assumption that *everyone* celebrates That Particular Holiday that bugs the shit out of me. No, I never have celebrated it, I never will celebrate it, so it’s *your* holiday not *our* holiday.

      Darkness plus being a minority plus less exercise due to cold and ice = one cranky vole.

      1. I’m from the east with plenty of other Jews, but my mom still, last year, after telling a colleague that we’re Jewish and that her daughter and son-in-law were both rabbis, was asked if we were coming home for easter!

        As for this time of the year, I get so annoyed by people deciding Hannukah is an important, big deal holiday, because it’s near Christmas- but totally ignore the major holidays in fall and spring.

        1. Sigh. I recommend Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming for those moments of “No. Chanukah is not Christmas. It is something else. It is only one of many Jewish holidays, and not nearly the most important of them. And it is about resisting assimilation, not giving into it, thank you very much.”

          (Hi, Maya! -Andrea)

      2. it’s *your* holiday not *our* holiday.

        Ugh, I feel the same way. No, I don’t want to go caroling. No, I don’t know how many days it is until Christmas. No, I don’t have or want a tree in my house. I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IT’S NOT MY HOLIDAY. I AM NOT OBLIGATED TO CELEBRATE JUST BECAUSE I LIVE IN THE US. And then I feel guilty about how angry I get, because shouldn’t I be happy that people are having a good time? But it’s one of the biggest reminders I get all year that my religious and cultural background is ~weird~ and our society isn’t designed for People Like Me, and I haaaaate that feeling.

      3. Big, warm hugs to you from a Jewish mother. I used to feel the same way you do (grew up as one of three Jewish kids in the entire elementary school — no pressure there), until I realized that 1.) I don’t have to explain myself or my religious practices to anyone, ever, 2.) Christmas is a holiday that celebrates one of MY people as their Lord and Savior (remember that, all you Christian anti-Semites out there!) and 3.) Christmas decorations are really, really pretty. And they’re even prettier when someone else is doing all the work setting them up & taking them down (which hopefully happens sometime before June).
        I also strongly recommend listening to Lewis Black’s “Chanookah” routine for another perspective.

      4. OMG, I *HATED* having to be the teacher’s backup whenever they decided to mention a Jewish holiday. If any teachers are seeing this, PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. Do not make the one student who is X (where X is Jewish, black, etc.) explain X-ness to the rest of the class or be all, “That’s correct, right?” during the class. Just don’t.

        1. Or even better, stand a kid up in front of class because they have a health problem. “Class, T has been gone from class for the past week because she had diabetes. This means she has to take shots three times a day ever day for the rest of her life. T got diabetes because she ate too much sugar. Don’t be like T.”

          I wish I was kidding. T was my best friend in elementary school. T has Type I diabetes, which has NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW MUCH SUGAR SHE ATE MR. WELCH YOU IGNORANT FUCK.

          Well thanks, all! I feel better now! That’s bothered me for the past thirty five years.

      5. I’ve gone through all the phases of being Jewish in the US in December, and I’ve settled at deep exasperation verging towards hatred of everything related to secular Christmas. I actually don’t mind the religious stuff, maybe because no one expects me to participate in the religious stuff! I’ll have a discussion any day about how pretty midnight mass is, but no, I am not going to participate in your goddamn Secret Santa, even if you rename it “Secret Snowflake” like we don’t all know WTF is going on.

        Luckily my partner is also Jewish, so we can gripe to each other and spare the delicate gentile ears. 🙂

        Worst Christmas moment ever: in middle school, the choir went class to class singing carols. To make it theoretically secular enough for public school, they threw in… guess, I dare you….. “The Dreidel Song.” I was so mad!! (I’m still angry and insulted, 15 years later!!!) They could have sung something as beautiful and complex as all the Christmas carols, like “Ma’oz Tzur,” but that would have taken them a slight effort.

        Note to non-Jews everywhere: No one who’s above preschool age wants to hear “The Dreidel Song,” ever. Just don’t go there. That goes triple for anything Adam Sandler wrote. (Though maybe that’s just me… I have a raging hate-on for Adam Sandler.)

      6. If it’s any comfort, I live in a suburb with a very high population of Jews and many Jewish business, schools and Synagogues. Our City Council recognises this and spends very little on Christmas decorations. Some neighbouring City Councils spend millions in decorating local streets for Christmas, so ours seem quite bare in comparison! Our suburb has two spectacular public gardens, excellent social programs, and a newly renovated beach-front, so I guess that’s where the City Council decides to spend its budget.

        I’m very happy with this arrangement, and to be honest, I never really got why we need fake snow, reindeers, candles and a fat man dressed in furs in the middle of the hot Australian summer!

    5. I don’t know who decided that Judaism = Christianity – Jesus (and therefore Jews do and believe just about everything Christians do) but they really need to stop convincing other people of this.

      1. And if they’re going to do something close to that, can they at least do it helpfully? Each of my sisters picked one holiday to be the thing they do and invite large amounts of family to. One took Passover and the other took Chanukah. Which is fine. So, we actually do celebrate Chanukah as a big, family gathering with a gift exchange.

        And there is no commercial support for this. I’m disabled, so I do a lot of my shopping online and get things delivered. If I do not shop really early, I regularly see “order by $date and we guarantee it will arrive by Christmas”. I never see, “order by $date and we guarantee it will arrive by Chanukah”. By Christmas always includes the potential of being way too late. I’d like to get in on the cheaper, guaranteed delivery dates, but there is no support for secular big gift-giving Chanukah that I can find in the US.

        It was especially annoying the year Chanukah was in November, and many of the “holiday sales” started after the holiday was over. If you’re going to pretend to be inclusive, can you at least check some calendars to see when some holidays are? I’m trying to give people money here, and I am not always together enough to get all of my holiday shopping finished in the summer so I can just ignore all of this mess.

  6. I am really not looking forward to any of my options this Christmas. Either we (my partner and I) have to spend it with relatives we don’t like (and not just mildly irritating, more like borderline abusive) or it’s just the two of us, but we have to deal with complaints from the relatives we don’t like that we haven’t gone to see them, and the day is likely to just merge into nothingness, without any nice Christmassy feel (I do have very happy memories of Christmas as a child and I am grieving for them).

    It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s frustrating. I think it’s all harder because of the idea (especially present in mainstream media) that Christmas is so wonderful and all about family. I want to enjoy myself and get into the mood, but I just know I’ll end up disappointed if I try.

    1. I would go with the complaints rather than experiencing abuse up close, but that’s just looking at the two options from a safe distance. Can the two of you do anything to generate the Christmassy feel? Go to a Christmas concert, some restaurants have Christmas dinner, catch up with friends the day before or after (or on the day if they also are free) for presents and catching up and maybe some cartoons.

      I am leaving the country this year so I can avoid family stuff, and I’m trying to find lots of nice stuff to do on the day so I don’t feel too homesick for the holiday. However your holiday season pans out, I wish you and your partner luck and hope you stay safe *jedi hugs*

      1. Oh thank you! That’s a really sweet reply and actually that’s prompted a lot of ideas! I would probably do a roast chicken or something if it was just the two of us and we can still decorate the flat. We don’t give each other presents normally (since we have completely merged finances) but we could perhaps do a stocking for each other and watch a film or play some games together. That might all be very nice!

        1. My husband and I did this last year…made a duck together (our first time!), watched a movie, opened presents, and then in the evening walked down to the one open bar for a cocktail. It was really nice!

        2. Consumable presents are always nice if you like unwrapping things but don’t need stuff – exchange your favorite lotion, candy, scotch, fancy cooking ingredients, and so forth.

          1. My family is really into this tradition – we generally exchange foodstuffs only certain folks in the family are good at making so that everyone gets to enjoy some. It’s generally a lot lower stress than shopping for personalized gifts. Stocking stuffers include things like small packets of different spice mixes so we can all experiment with more seasoning options when we cook.

          2. I am a big fan of consumable presents and we both love food and booze so pretty easy to go down that route. 🙂

        3. Curry and Mythbusters marathon, one year. It was great. The Acorn demanded a repeat performance for years.

        4. We don’t give each other gifts either, but we usually buy some sort of “house gift” that we both can enjoy. For the past couple years it was a Doctor Who DVD set. We didn’t like this past season much, though, so this year we’re probably stocking the bar with The Good Stuff and going out on a few proper dates where we actually do fun things that cost money. This has worked for us and made us happy for many years.

  7. I hate the forced jollity and the emphasis on to-do lists – “Got your shopping done?” “Have you put up your lights yet?” I work with people who LOVE Christmas and are taking off time next week to do Christmas decorating. They’re understanding that I don’t do that, but just listening to them talk amongst themselves about what they still have to do makes me want to throw something.

    Mostly I am just thankful that I get to have small, low-key holidays with my husband and mother, now that she’s infirm enough to need us to visit more often. The holidays with his family with everybody fussing over cooking and political arguments and a scary dog that always had to be included were just awful.

  8. My mother died in October of 2010. My elder sister died in December of 2005. Everything about these three months just has this ongoing thought circle of “They’re not here. They’re not here.” Pass the turkey but mom’s not here to insist on making that weird jello with celery. Trim the tree, but Connie isn’t here to argue about which topper to use.

    1. I’m so sorry. My dad died suddenly the week before Christmas in 2005. I always have a low period around then, and some of the advertising just really exacerbates it because it’s so family-oriented and, well, some family isn’t here any more and some relationships changed due to that event. I hope you do okay this season *jedi hugs*

    2. I’m so sorry. Christmas was my Dad’s favorite holiday, and it just doesn’t seem right to have it without him. He was the driving force behind so many of our family’s traditions, and my mom and brother and I are still figuring out what we’ll do without him. Holiday music is right out — he loved it so much that I can’t even listen to it anymore. I hope you make it through the holidays okay — there’s a big part of me that wishes I could just get to January already.

      1. This is our second Christmas without my mother-in-law, who loved Christmas and would make her condo over with endless Christmas decorations each December. He doesn’t talk that much about it, but I can’t imagine how many times during the Christmas season he will think of her. We’re thinking about unboxing some of the decorations she used and displaying them this Christmas (although in a place where our younger cat can’t get to them and cause mischief).

        1. My own mother-in-law died in September, and I just don’t know how the holidays will look without her. I’m hoping to fill the days with some fun, outside-the-house things so we’re not all just sitting around being sad, but my sister-in-law is sort of an invalid and won’t be able to do much. I love your idea about using some of your MIL’s decorations; I may have to steal that idea.

    3. Oh Madb, I’m so sorry. I came here to say something similar because my sister died last summer. Every gathering just feels like it has a big hole in the middle of it.

      Take care of yourself and I hope you get through it ok (or at least being as ok as is possible).

    4. Madb, I’m so sorry. The Brom’s older brother died last year just before Christmas, and while I’ve got some things in mind I am fully prepared to toss the lot, feed him pad Thai and watch the Bourne movies all day if he can’t deal. I wish you strength and grace (and Jedi hugs, should they be welcome).

  9. I don’t mind the actual holidays, but like a lot of the actual people can make it difficult. My dad and his wife (I suspect more the latter) have always wanted to keep “fixing” me for basically being nerdy. It’s kind of like that “unlikeable girlfriend” post.

  10. I’m spending the holidays alone for the first time. In a way that’s a good thing, because it means I don’t have to find an excuse not to spend it with family.

    I’m worried, though. I have not, historically, done well being alone for more than a few days. Also, I’m dogsitting for my parents, in my childhood home – which brings up so many bad memories. (Oh look, the scales my mother weighed me on every Saturday for a year, oh look, the hallway where my parents shouted abuse at each other while I covered in fear.) It’s also a pretty big house for one person and the last time I dogsat I didn’t get a good night’s sleep the whole time because I kept waking up at every creak, paranoid that something scary was going to happen at any minute.

    The fact that this stay will coincide with a lot of exams – which always wipe me out completely – does not help.

    1. Hoo boy.

      I love my alone time, but a few years ago, through reasons that aren’t worth going into here, my husband and I found out that we had no Christmas day plans maybe 2-3 days before it. Ordinarily a day with no plans would be fine, but knowing that virtually nothing would be open, everyone else had already made their plans, yadda yadda, I really felt the loss of the holiday. And that was with my husband in the house with me!

      I guess jedi hugs is where I’m headed for you.

    2. Ugh, I feel you. I have to head back to my parents’ house to get the rest of my stuff that’s there this weekend, and I’m not looking forward to sleeping in the room that still has the holes my brother punched in the walls, along with some other traumatic stuff I won’t go into here. I might sleep on the couch.

      The “best” part is that my parents don’t really acknowledge that a lot of that stuff happened, ask me why I don’t want to talk to Abusive Brother, etc. etc. But spending holidays apart from my parents also depresses me. There’s often no good option with this stuff.

      Good luck on your exams! I hope the dogs are fun enough you can not feel so bad about some of the other stuff.

  11. My cat, I am trying to find a cat-sitter for the holidays and failing so hard. I could, in theory, take her with me but there is a ton of things about the place I’m going to that could maim or kill her. I’d have to unfuck it up and catify it and that’d be pretty invasive for a house guest.

      1. My cat practically lives in the Christmas tree when it is up. I’m warning you now, they WILL climb it. Just make sure the baubles are on extra securely and you shouldn’t lose too many. 🙂

      2. Just don’t put any ornaments on the lower third of the tree, and you will probably be fine.

        Unless one or both of them are climbers, in which case they may end up knocking the whole thing over. So you may need to, like, guy wire it to the wall. Good luck!

      3. Between my roomates and myself we have 6 cats. Some of my ornaments are bells. I make sure they are free to make noise if the tree is jostled. The bird ornaments go up high, the plastic sturdy ornaments go lower, and I don’t use a tree skirt because at least one cat would burrow under that. I haven’t had the tree knocked over…yet. Usually a few ornaments get pulled off and carried for a few feet.
        Of course my system is probably just magical thinking and luck is probably the only thing keeping disaster at bay. With 6 cats, sometimes the illusion of control is all you get.

      4. Plastic ornaments.

        But if your cats end up eating the tree (like ours did), you might consider giving up on having one, because it can be really bad for them. We got a small ceramic tree that lights up; that’s our Christmas tree now.

    1. Oh god, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine the stress.

      (I hope you find a cat-sitter. I had some luck getting recommendations from the local vet, but then it sadly became a moot point.)

  12. For me, it’s the visual and sound overload. I have a type of synesthesia, which combines proprioception, time, sound, and taste with color and shape. So this makes me QUITE EXCELLENT at my work and certain types of hobbies, but when navigating your average US-ian Shopping Mall at this time of year and coupled with being an Introvert…

    Well, I wouldn’t stretch the truth by admitting that when I can’t get something online or I need to run my usual errands, I am arming myself and planning a war strategy of self-care, the likes of which even Patton would be in awe.

    In addition I am very allergic to ALL THE VARIETIES OF CHRISTMAS TREES. True, in open spaces (i.e. hiking) it is easily managed (because PPB is low enough), but when a live tree is brought into a warm house, guess what it does? And all that pollen in such concentrations in an enclosed space can kill me.

    Lastly, the body policing. Ugh. Yes, I enjoy baked goods and sweet things and Egg Nogg (ZOMG!) and the kinds of hearty foods more commonly available when it starts getting cold outside (I love winter veggies!). Yes, sometimes I will overindulge because I’ve been waiting for some of these treats all year. But dangit, unless I ask for help or specifically volunteer to participate, leave the comments and the fishing for compliments and diet/gym ads at home and/or away from me.

  13. I just find the “but it isn’t religious so why can’t you just join in” to the whole christmas thing so freaking annoying. One thing I have started doing is saying, “Now Christmas, is the one where jesus died or the one where he is born?” People just look at you in shock- but I’ve explained the difference between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur so many times- it feels like fair game to me.

    1. Funny story – my friend grew up thinking it was horrible they killed a baby at Easter time. Jesus was born at Christmas and died at Easter so he was only a couple of months old. Poor little thing.

    2. It’s the one where Pagans celebrated the Winter Solstice and looked forward to spring. The birth of Jesus was moved to coincide with the winter solstice to ease the transition for pagans to Christianity. Apparently Jesus was actually born in June or something.

      1. Or possibly February. Another reason, then, for moving Christmas to December was to avoid cramming the entire cycle of commemorations into 6 to 10 weeks with nothing for the rest of the year.

  14. This is hopefully going to be the holiday season where I set some really firm boundaries around my brother and I am not looking forward to it at all. The outcome should be good, but getting there? It’s going to be so hard. I bookmarked this post ( to remind myself that even though there may be reasons for the way my brother is behaving, he doesn’t get to throw temper tantrums at me and he doesn’t get to treat me badly or treat other people badly in front of me. I don’t have to listen to my parents when they fuss over him and worry about him getting a job (he’s 28, and the fact that he still lives rent free in their house and does nothing is a Them problem, not a Me Problem.) So, thanks Captain. Here’s hoping it works!

    1. Yes, you can do it! This is all true. And may your parents not make it a You problem! Mine do try to make it my problem, think I should be more understanding of “reasons for bad behaving,” but it turns out life is much healthier with out being an audience to pure hate spewing and death threats if I try to politely ask for pure hate not to be spewed during a meal.

  15. My dad passed away one week after Thanksgiving last year. He had been diagnosed with bladder cancer 6 months earlier and had faced countless related and unrelated health complications in between. Last year on Thanksgiving, he was in between hospital bouts and barely felt well enough to stand up- however, he was insistent about making the 45 minute drive to my aunt’s house for our annual thanksgiving tradition. Our family gathered for many precious pictures that day, but never fully believed this would be our last holiday with him. Despite all of his ailments (metastatic cancer,unrelated gall bladder surgery, unrelated stroke that impaired his vision and memory), we all thought we had more time.

    Before his death, my dad had elaborately planned a Christmas holiday that included flying my half sister, her husband, and his 3 grandchildren from MN to spend Christmas with us in CA, then flying all together to Disneyland for 4 days. However, he didn’t make it to enjoy this planned holiday and none of us had the heart to cancel the trip for the sake of the grandchildren.

    Looking back on last year, which included the loss of my sister in September, the loss of my Dad in December, a cross-country move, the end of my 4 year relationship, and a few more horrors, all I can remember is walls of pain.

    I have no idea how I’m going to make it through this holiday season, but I know it will involve lots of crying in public and emotional eating.

    I am thankful every day for my therapist and for the privilege I had to be able to move closer to family to go through all of this.

    But yeah… hugs to everyone who is having a hard time this time of year. I feel you. ❤

  16. The thing that’s stressing me about the Christmas is the expense. My husband is a SAHD and we have two little kids. It’s very important to us to visit family, but it involves flying. It’s going to cost over $1K, then there’s the cost of gifts, cards, clothes. We won’t go over-the-top on anything, and thank goodness my family is mostly understanding that we can’t buy many gifts, but just knowing we are spending all that money is a knot in my stomach.

    1. Oh, god, yes, the expense! I am tired of being scared of the holidays. I want to be able to do nice things for the people I love. I know it’s not about money, and it’s the thought that counts, and people who love you do not need to be bought, but goddammit, I want to show people that I care about them! I want to be kind to people! I’m tired of seeing something and thinking, oh, my friend would love that, but…it costs money. I thought it was going to be better now that I’m working full-time, but I’m severely underpaid, so nope. I used to really like the holidays, but the past five years have been filled with so much stress, loss, and money-fear that I don’t anymore. They feel like every other time of year, because that’s how I have to treat them in some dimensions. I want to give and donate and treat, but nope, here, have an extra-big helping of fear instead!

      1. I finally found a gift for far-away relations that feels gifty without breaking our newly tiny budget (Thanks, Predatory Lenders’ Recession!). I buy locally produced greeting cards that are basically photos of gorgeous local scenery matted onto heavyweight gift cards. They can save the front part and put it up on the wall if they like, and there’s something new every year. 5 bucks each, plus postage.

  17. The shared mythology that Christmas is wonderful and family is ALWAYS loving and brilliant is hitting hard this year, as we gear up to deal with my abusive mother. My grandmother’s had some heart trouble this year, so I want very much to see her, but to do so, I have to go put up with mom’s tantrums and drama. Regardless of what I do, it’ll be wrong, and I have to brace myself for the public humiliation she’ll inflict, and try to come up with some scripts to deal with it – out loud at the time is probably too much to hope for, but at least things to repeat to myself afterwards, when the scenes replay in my head incessantly. I’m bracing myself for the cutting words, for the threats, and for all the ways I’ll be told I’m not good enough. I’m reminding myself that her opinion doesn’t matter one bit, that I get on in life just fine without her (better, in fact). I’m just now coming out of a depressive episode, which I hope continues to go away and not come back, though she’ll do her best to invite it.

    Thankfully, my tremendously understanding husband is going with me, and I’ll keep him by my side at all times she’s in the vicinity, so he can be my sanity barometer and help me with the aftermath, at least, by telling me that she’s way off base (as she invariably will be). We’re putting plans in place to try to mitigate this. Right now, it’s hard dealing with the “Oh, how wonderful, you’re going home* for Christmas. Are you staying with your parents?” comments over and over again. I’ve finally just started answering, “No – Absolutely Not.” Garnered laughs, because people don’t know how to respond when the shared mythology is shattered.

    * I also *abhor* the common idea that this place where I suffer abuse is somehow “home.” Over and over again, I tell them that “the 4 walls I live in every day is my home”, “the 4 walls I’m welcome in is my home”, “the place I lay my head every night is my home”, etc. I’ve finally decided that perhaps others haven’t had to look closely at whether or not they’d be welcome at their parents’ house, and just casually refer to it as “home” without thinking about it. I know full well I’m not welcome to stay in my mother’s house, so it can’t be “home” — but most people don’t have relationships this extreme, I guess. And again, it’s the shared mythology that all parents and children have great or tolerable relationships.

    I really don’t know what to expect of this trip – it could be utter crap, or it could be okay. Hopefully some of the outings and trips we’re planning will be wonderful. We get home on New Year’s Eve; just let us make it, sanity intact, to 2015.

    1. I know your feeling about “home”. Probably not to the extent that you have them, but yeah. My parents house=/=home. It is my parent’s house. It helps to have that sort of distance in the way I think about it, at least.

      (Of course, my current apartment with several people whose mess and passive aggressive notes I will be THRILLED to not have to deal with/think about for several days is also not home. I felt far more at home living out of my car and off some friends’ couch, this summer than I have in the past six years, which is sort of depressing to think about. Even more so when two of those friends are moving far across the country in like a week and despite an open invitation for their couches, I’m probably not seeing them for a real long time.)

      1. *hugs* I feel your pain. I’ve had apartments and roommates like that, too. I do hope you can find something better soon. I don’t know what sort of invitation your friends issued, but if they’d be open to you living with them (instead of just visiting), maybe give it some serious thought? I’m sure there are Reasons, but sometimes closer inspection makes Reasons not so solid as they looked from a bit of a distance. Fingers crossed yours are some of those. *hugs*

      2. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen any place as ‘home’…I’ve been bounced around everywhere my entire life, from children’s homes to foster care to the street to getting fed up with one particularly abusive place and running away and winding up traveling with a group of circus performers, which was a lot of fun and honestly one of the few things I have good memories of. “Home” is just this weird floaty idea that other people hold onto so hard and I just don’t get. Everyone seems so shocked about it though, especially the whole “I have no family” thing.

        1. wow! I have felt this way some years, no family around, between jobs, no friends or connections, hanging with street performers and people who have to work on the holidays……… but your story, incredible. all the best to you! Respect.

        2. For me, home has been people. Right now, home is when my SO is with me, or when I’m laughing with friends. I don’t think home has to be a place.

    2. I find it’s easy and polite to differentiate between where I live and where my parents live, even though I’m very young. My family moved twice while I was in high school, and their house became pretty toxic for me after the second move. Even when I had just left their house, ‘home’ wasn’t the place or state they lived in at the time, and I wasn’t even ‘from’ there. So when people say, “Oh, what are your plans for the holidays? Are you going home?” I say, “No, I’m traveling to my parents’ house”. For those of us who are happiest where we are, “home” is a place you stay, not a place you go. You’re definitely not the only person who doesn’t care to live where their parents are, even if your reasons are much more important. I’m really sorry that the people around you aren’t listening to your assertion of independence. I’ve usually found that when I use the words, “parents’ house” rather than “home” for an entire conversation, people get the point – and this was true even when I was seventeen. But maybe I get this response because I’m so young that it’s immediately seen as unusual.

  18. The holidays used to be so magical for me because it was the one time of year my parents actually tried to be a family. Now we have this whole thing where my mom wants us to act like her new husband has always been here, and my dad is by himself, and I am overwhelmed in guilt and apathy. Last year we put the tree up and that was it. I just wasn’t feeling all the decorating things.

    And we all still have to buy presents for each other.

    My dad’s huge religious family doesn’t understand me, some if whom aren’t speaking to me because I’m an dam librul, so that’s always fun.

    And this is just my side of the family. Hubs has all the issues of a formerly neglectful now passive aggressive mother who tries too hard to love everything we do in the hopes I will love her back. And a father who just stays out it all.

    1. “issues of a formerly neglectful now passive aggressive mother who tries too hard to love everything we do in the hopes I will love her back” This is just so perfectly worded that I need to take a minute to really savor it. This is one of my current issues with my mother, though I’d swap “neglectful” with “abusive.” She’s trying so hard to rewrite our past by drowning it in TOO MUCH “love” now. (like ending every text message with “xoxoxoxoxoxoxo !!!!”
      If anyone tried to kiss/hug me that way they’d end up on the wall.

      1. OMG yes! And typing out things like *giggle* and *big smiles*. I just can’t stop thinking every time “this is the child you allowed to wear a logging chain as punishment as a six year old for three days. You don’t deserve his love and you will certainly never have mine”

      2. Oh this is my mother in law! She will text her 41 year old atheist son (my hubby) in all caps: I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND THANK GOD FOR YOU EVERYDAY! XOXOXOXXOXO!!!!! BIG HUGS!!!! etc etc. When he doesn’t respond, she will text “Are you mad at me?” We are left poking our eyes out with forks! This is the overly Christian woman who told her kids the devil was in the TV, big brother is possessed by the devil, she would literally wash their mouths out with soap, dragged them to church 3 times a week, etc. Oh and she had 4 kids with three husbands plus another kid by an affair while she was married to my husband’s father. Any time we get together with her, she can’t bear to leave. She stands in the doorway repeating “I love you I love you I love you” to everyone with tears in her eyes. Maybe she feels guilty, and at least she’s not spitting venom at everyone, but it makes everyone feel very weird and AWKWARD! (My mother, by comparison, is a proud venom spitter and would describe her as “She wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouthful.” They will never meet, for fear of bloodshed.)

  19. The cold and SAD is making everything hurt and I just want to stay in bed and eat.

    I also work retail and everything has been aggressively Christmas since after Halloween and I wasn’t keen on it to start with for various reasons. Not looking forward to the extra work either, especially on Black Friday.

    1. Just found out it’s not SAD, it’s seasonal changes in my bipolar disorder. I’m not sure how big of a difference it is.

    2. Jedi hugs to you. I feel your pain. SAD gets me every year and I hate it. I would willingly hibernate during winter. I also work in retail and like you, it’s all Peak Sales this and Gift Guide that. Christmas makes or breaks our profits for the year and we have massive website issues resulting in millions of lost sales. Argh!

  20. I’m going home for Thanksgiving, and I’m apprehensive. It could be fine, with good food and a reasonably pleasant time with my mom. Or, it could be another holiday full of weird stuff that feels wrong but I can’t put my finger on exactly why, like when my mom refuses to leave a store and gets increasingly rude and angry until I’ve agreed to let her buy me something that I’ve tried over and over to politely refuse. I end up looking like a stubborn jerk for refusing (and have to put up with the “UGH, YOU’RE RUINING YET ANOTHER VACATION” guilt trip), but at the same time I have this DANGER DANGER DANGER alarm going off in my head over letting her steamroller over my “no”. Thanks to some fabulous advice here and from another corner of the internet I made a therapy appointment (woo!), but it’s not until December, so I’m keeping some choice posts here loaded on my phone and “checking my texts” when I need some help staying in the boundary-setting zone.


      ::glomphs you in as many Jedi hugs as you might care to accept::

      Tastycakes, seriously, I feel your pain. And it’s a difficult pain to describe–at least is has been for me–because when I’ve told some of my close friends about it, the responses I get have ranged from “I wish I had a mom who cared enough to buy me things” to “So your mom wants to buy you things; what’s wrong with that?” This was the plan I came up with a few years ago, in case it’s of any help:

      1. Mom announces she wants to go shopping. I agree! So long, I add, as she promises not to insist on buying me anything, because there is nothing in the world I need right now, nor is there anything I want, and I will be unhappy and not enjoy our time together if she tries to insist on buying me something I do not want or need. (This is a super-important part of the process. Do not leave the house without that promise.)

      2. Mom invariably points out something I should try on at the mall. Possible responses, none of which have to be true:

      “No, I already have a sweater just like that. And we’re not looking for stuff for me anyway, remember?”
      “Oh, I like that color (or neckline/hem length/kind of seaming/material), but I don’t like that neckline (or color/hem length/kind of seaming/material.) And we’re not looking for stuff for me anyway, remember?”
      “That’s really pretty! Would look crap with my skintone, though. And we’re not looking for stuff for me anyway, remember? But you should try it on.”

      3. Mom replies with anything other than, “Oops, sorry! What do you think about this skirt for me?” My response:

      “Mom, you promised not to do this. I don’t want anything, and I’m not going to enjoy this afternoon if you keep trying to buy me things I don’t want. Please stop, because you’re making me really unhappy.”

      4. Mom replies with anything other than, “Oops, sorry! What do you think about this skirt for me?” My response:

      “Okay, you know what? I don’t want to make a scene here, but I’m really upset that you won’t listen to me, so I’m gonna go grab a coffee, and just come find me at Starbucks once you’ve finished shopping, okay? Maybe we can get some lunch when you’re done.”

      And then you have to leave. That worry you have about looking like a stubborn jerk? Not gonna happen if you’re not there to be “stubborn.”

      Mind you, leaving is really really hard. I did not actually get to the Starbucks in the mall for a bit the first time I did this, because I had to stop to throw up in the ladies’ room of JC Penny’s. And my mom was really upset. Because HOW COULD I HAVE DONE THAT? (“Mom, I told you I didn’t want to come shopping if you were going to insist on buying me things I don’t want. I don’t understand why you won’t listen to me.”) SHE JUST WANTED TO DO SOMETHING NICE FOR ME! (“Mom, I know you think that you were doing something nice for me, but I told you I didn’t want to come shopping if you were going to insist on buying me things I don’t want. I don’t understand why you won’t listen to me.”) WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME LETTING HER JUST BUY ME A SKIRT? (“Mom, I didn’t want the skirt. I told you I didn’t want to come shopping if you were going to insist on buying me things I don’t want. I don’t understand why you won’t listen to me.”)

      I had to do this three times over the course of several months, but I haven’t had to progress past the “Mom, you promised not to do this” stage for about two years now. I love my mom, dearly, but there comes a time when the fiction that I am still eleven years old and that she Always Knows Best just has to end.

      1. Ahhh, thank you so much!!!! This advice is amazing. I needed scripts for every single “mom” answer that you gave, and it makes me feel so much better to have them, so I can be calm and kind and firm in the moment. And OMG I feel you SO HARD on having such a deep physical reaction to setting a boundary like that. I’m expecting something like that, too.

        I’m glad that your mom got less pushy about buying you things over time. I hope your holidays turn out to be good, too. *Jedi hugs!!*

  21. Normally I really enjoy the holiday season.
    I mean, its also summer (I’m in New Zealand), so we get to go on an awesome holiday, have BBQ’s, etc.
    But this week my GP told me I 99% likely have Coeliacs disease, and now I’m waiting on an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, but the specialist cant see me till late January.
    So I have to keep eating normally till then, which means a summer holiday of feeling sick from eating foods that are bad for me, just so I can have proof that they are.
    Although, given we are off to a whole pile of small towns, the alternative of trying to go fully gluten free on a summer road trip to small towns with a toddler, is also a nightmare situation.
    Its all too much this year and I want it to all go away.

    1. Yikes, that’s horrible! A friend went though the same thing – getting most of the diagnosis but having to keep eating things that made her feel bad. Are you able to at least not indulge in things? Like, not eating a whole pizza and instead having a slice and then some other food? You have my sympathies – I hope you manage to have fun on your trip.

    2. I don’t know what your doctor recommended, but mine only made me eat gluten for two weeks before the endoscopy and I think the normal recommendation is six weeks, so there may be a chance of going gluten free for a bit this holiday season. Ask if you haven’t!

      Also, going gluten free sucks but it’s not too hard if you pack a cooler for your trip, restock at grocery stores, and just give up on baked goods and fried foods for the time being. (You’ll have time to figure out brands and sensitivity later, but at the beginning it’s easier just to eat a lot of fruits and veggies and nuts if you can.) Best of luck and it does get better!

    3. Oh wow. I’m happy my diagnosis was a surprise, then. I had the endoscopy and THEN they told me about the Celiac diagnosis. I’m not sure I could have continued to eat normally knowing that the wheat and barley was the source of the problems I was having.

  22. I’m one of the folks who feels weird this time of year because I don’t have the Hallmark family (nor even a passably-healthy “normal” one), and that weirds out everybody trying to talk to me about Plans and the like. I didn’t even know other people in situations like mine existed before this blog (so thanks, y’all!), and it’s good to commiserate here. My FOO is abusive and the extended family/less shitty relatives enable the behavior of the shitty ones and want me to come around for holidays “because FAAAAAAAAMILY!” while I would rather spend my holidays with people who are not bad to me. People outside the situation give me the confused head-tilt or awkward silence when they ask about my plans and I explain I’m not into the whole FAAAAAAAMILY! thing.

    1. Also: Fuck people who get personally offended by how much you don’t eat of any given thing. I am eating exactly how much I want to and NOT A BITE MORE.

      1. So much yes! Also: if I don’t want a drink I don’t want a drink! Stop listing your entire pantry for me!

      2. UGH YES! With my family it’s “do you really want to eat more of that, let me concern troll your eating habits!” and with my dude’s family its “why aren’t you eating/drinking more, don’t you want fifths, is something wrong? keep eating!” Keep forcing food and wine into me and I WILL end up under your bed crying into your cat. I am a big kid I can manage my own damn portions

        1. My parents can manage both. On the same day. It’s … special.

          This year I am Going To The Outlaws (They’d be Inlaws but I’m not married); apparently my parents expect me to move myself (and my luggage, never especially light) 150miles (by train, I’ve not got a car) in between Christmas and New Year (when there are fewer trains than normal and a high chance of “line dug up, take a bus”) because “it’s not Christmas without seeing you”.

          When I was wee we *never* went to visit any of my grandparents at Christmas, a few years some of them visited us but not anything like every year. But apparently wanting a Christmas without my parents is terrible of me. At least the Out Laws have nice low-stress Christmasses. Unlike my Mum who seems to think it’s not Christmas without a row about the rules of Trivial Pursuit.

    2. Yeah, it’s a weird situation to navigate for sure. I’ve been working and socializing among new groups of people and as I get to know people well enough, dropping hints that my family is far less than a “passably-healthy ‘normal’ one” (but oh, does mom try to make it look nice and convince herself it could be if we all just share, share in the delusion). I’m hoping to head off the questions about whether I will be traveling to the place they live. I’m pretty sure I’d create a hostile work environment by simply by quoting the insults and threats thrown at me in the house my FOO lives in! FOO thinks I’m oversensitive. Funny how my sound-triggered panic attacks stopped once I stopped going to that house, though.

    3. Definitely feeling this! I’m so tired of being looked at as the weird, dysfuntional or argumentative one when I give people the watered-down version of “I am avoiding these awful people for my own safety.”

    4. I stopped talking to the highly toxic parents 20 yrs ago and since then have found the holidays to be brutal. Much extended family but no invites partly because my dad bullies anyone who tried to help me and drove them off. Hanging with other people’s families proved to be fraught with dangerous assumptions about family traditions and I have grown to loathe pity invites. Being the constant outsider just reinforced my lack of place. I am single and normally xmas is me, movies and chocolate coupled with a couple of weeks of downtime in which everyone I know is off somewhere with family or old friends. I hate the season with the fire of a thousand suns so no, you are not remotely alone in disliking the season. When ppl ask me what I am doing I say not much, and get back the whole “oh how nice just family time” and rarely do they put that together with my single status to realize that it means just me.

      This year I am going on a vacation and and old family friend will join me. She has her toxic qualities too but at least they are a different flavour.

  23. My grandmother died this summer, and Christmas coincides with her birthday. I know it’s going to be really hard on my parents, and I’m torn between wanting to support them and completely dreading spending time with them and my sibling. I’m not sure that I’d describe our house as *full* of bees, but there are enough that I always end up getting stung. I used to escape from the worst of it by visiting my grandmother in the evenings. I’m going to desperately miss her both for her own wonderful self and for the refuge. I don’t think I can skip family Christmas without burning some bridges that I’m not ready to give up on, but I still haven’t been able to make myself buy plane tickets and book the time off from work.

      1. Probably not, unfortunately, since my boss has always given me time off for holidays without issue. Maybe I can invent some issues! Or just come up with a reason why my trip back needs to be very short and give myself a couple days off to spend on just me.

  24. I am in another country to my family. Which, basically, is my dad. Who decided to do “Christmas” when he visited us in October–which was nice, in a way, because he bought us winter coats, and we did need those before late December (I live in Canada; my family is in the U.S.), but also sucks because at Christmas there will be nothing. But this means that the holidays are all about my wife’s family and their traditions, and (a) these are not my traditions or my family; (b) three of her six siblings are horrible, terrible people, in relationships with other horrible people, so that’s six awful people at Christmas/New Year’s Eve/New Year’s; (c) in eight days, there are at least three major family get-togethers that we will have to go to; (d) either there will be a fourth get-together, or my wife is working on Christmas Day and I do not have anywhere to go, so I’ll be sitting in our apartment, alone, on Christmas. And I actually think I’d prefer that to a fourth day spent with her family.

    We will never be able to have our own family traditions because her family swallows up everything and she’s afraid to offend them because [reasons]. And I respect [reasons], but it still sucks for me

  25. I’m just really depressed and would like to spend the rest of 2014 under the covers. I’ve seen my doctor who put me back on anti-depressants and I’ve started going back to Al-Anon meetings and I have friends I can be with. I’m just tired of everything after a year with a layoff and not making any progress.

    1. Congrats on seeing the doctor and getting some stuff happening – that’s a huge achievement. (I’m also depressed and on antidepressants, and I know I need to take another step eventually but… ehhhh…) It’s okay to spend some time under the covers. It sounds like you’ve had a really exhausting year, and probably you could use some quiet time to rest up. If you think that spending the holiday season under the covers might be bad for you, can you find a compromise? Have a lazy day but catch up with a friend for a movie in the evening? (I like going to movies because I don’t have to talk to people for about two hours, and if I can’t handle socialising after I can pull the “Welp, gotta be up early tomorrow!” but it still gets me showered and dressed and out of the house, and gathering momentum and motivation for other things.)

      Idk. Try to focus on your achievements – like I said, getting help can be really hard – and be nice to yourself if you can.

    2. Hey, person, you’re awesome for what you’ve already done! Seriously. I’m another depressive person with a history of drowning my sorrows in the bottle. I know how hard it is to even take that first step! You’re fantastic and you’re being super strong just for choosing to take care of yourself. I’m going to recommend a blanket fort and a nice hot cup of cocoa and your favorite music. Helps for the days when it feels like everything is sitting on your chest.

  26. It’s the year of transition for us. My grandmother passed away in July and then my husband and I got married in September (yeah, August was a lot of fun….) And my grandmother has always been the center of not only our Christmas but also all her siblings and their children. And my mom is an only child…. Well, we’re not sure what we’re going to do but it isn’t Christmas as usual. Until this weekend (thank god) I’m living in my grandmother’s house and all her extended family are my neighbors and there have been a constant stream of “Soooooo what are we doing for Christmas?” and “Soooo what are you doing with your grandmother’s ornaments?” and “Sooooo what are you doing with her dining room table?” And I just want to scream at them.

    I was pushing a cruise or new york or San Fran or something completely different, but my mom’s co-worker’s dad has health problems now and time off has become an asset she can’t afford.

    And we’re moving over Thanksgiving. Hoping it’ll be a good transition. But Thanksgiving was rarely my grandmother’s holiday, because my mom often had to work or be on call over thanksgiving. (When I was 11, I cooked the entire meal by myself because she had to work and my dad was doing something?)

    This isn’t our first Christmas with grief, but it’s just been such a shitty year, I’m super excited for 2015 to be here.

  27. I have a difficult SIL who brings out many of my less attractive characteristics. She is living with my MIL/FIL, and it has changed my relationship with them in ways that make me sad. The three of them are a package deal these days, and I miss the way things used to be when she lived far away. She will probably be at my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I am not looking forward to it. 😦

    Here’s an example: my kids have decided that they like to spread out gift-opening across multiple days. They do this with no pressure from the grownups — my 15yo says, “It’s overwhelming to open everything in a narrow window. I can appreciate things more when it’s slower.” My SIL thinks this is bizarre, and pressures the younger ones to open more presents even when instructed to back off. “Don’t you want to open another present? Don’t you? Don’t you?” Often in those circumstances they say yes, because delaying gratification is hard and saying no to an adult is also hard. Then, after she goes back home, the younger kids are sad that they’re out of things to open. Do not like. Have not managed to address it successfully.

    1. I’m Australian and have no idea how Thanksgiving works… but maybe they can open presents from your in-laws while SIL is there, and then do presents from you and each other once your in-laws have left?

  28. I have cried every Christmas for the last five years, without fail. Christmas is also my birthday, and I usually have to spend it alone because everyone else is off celebrating with their families, and even my girlfriend last year didn’t think to spend the day with me until I asked. I’m not on good terms with my own family, I’m newly estranged from my best friend, and worse, there’s a chance I’ll be breaking up with my girlfriend a week before the 25th (as we agreed). Normally I’m a really happy and upbeat person, but this winter/birthday season is shaping up to be a storm of terrible feelings, and I wish I could fast forward to January already.

    1. That sounds like a tough situation. I’m really sorry to hear you’re dealing with all of that. Jedi hugs if you want them.

      I want to offer something my aunt used to make her Christmas birthday a little easier – she would celebrate it in the summer, as a six-month-iversary. She “borrowed” her aunt’s July birthday and treated it like it was her own: birthday parties, well-wishes, treats and cakes, etc. were all reserved for that time instead of December. I know it wouldn’t help with your other problems, but if your birthday is really rough this year, maybe picking a different “birthday” would help with the sad feelings and maybe give you something to look forward to. (I’ve used this technique myself in less dire circumstances – I wrote an exam on every birthday I had in university. Knowing I had a better birthday to look forward to once the semester was over made it suck a bit less.)

      1. My uncle does that. He just decided January was cold and shitty, and he’d rather do birthday things in the spring.

      2. I second the rescheduled birthday. Half birthdays work well. Simply co opting another day you like better (Spring Equinox?) is perfectly acceptable.

        I have a bunch of personal birthday traditions – self reflection and goal setting, some self care stuff, etc – and during a very bad year where I couldn’t bear to do deep personal soul searching, I just skipped my birthday entirely. (It does mean I sometimes screw up how old I am, though.)

        When there is a lot of suck, can you try to make a self care plan of things you can do that work as comfort and entertainment? Get a book you’re looking forward to reading, some movies you love/haven’t seen yet, a craft project you’ve been meaning to focus on, etc and spend the time being unabashedly, selfishly yourself.

  29. Usually I don’t like Christmas but I’m not that bothered by all the festivities either. This year I wish I could just sleep through all of it. I currently don’t have contact with my parents because they have been incredibly unsupportive. I really needed them when I dealt with my ex’s escalating abusive behaviour but they just made things worse and didn’t want to see how dangerous the situation was. Since I broke contact I feel free and calmer. However it also means I will have to spent all holidays by myself except for new year. I hope I can find someone that is also alone so I can eat a lot of food together with someone else.

    During new year I hope the film in my student flat. There are usually many house parties and last year I had the best new year in a long time. filming everyone was great so I hope it will be the same this year.

    Thinking of sending out cards again but it always costs so much and nobody except my grandma sends me a card back these days. It’s not that I think they should send me a card but it’s just so awesome to receive one. Years back I would get cards from my livejournal friends which was awesome.

    After new year comes January and feb and maybe I’m the only one but those months always seem so depressing and dark.

    1. This is probably not much help for your situation, but could you focus on spending the day doing exactly what you like and nothing else? My sister and I used to loathe Thanksgiving because my family was the sort that expected us, plus my mom who wouldn’t have another day off until New Years and my mostly blind feeble grandmother to do all the cooking and all the cleaning, and nobody (including mom and grandmom) would support splitting duties, or catering it, or any change whatsoever. So we stopped going. And now we spend the day in our pjs watching stupid movies and playing Wii tennis and eating non-Thanksgiving, highly caloric, no-nutrition food, reading, whatever we feel like. Now it’s my favorite day of the year. If my sister moved out of town, it would be less fun, but I’d still have a pretty good day.

      Christmas has a little more pressure on it to be with loved ones, so that may not work for you, and I’m sure you already planned to do something for yourself anyway. But that’s all I got, so I’m throwing it out there. That, and hugs. That really sucks.

      1. Thank you a lot for the reply! We don’t celebrate thanksgiving here and instead of it there’s a holiday that people sometimes celebrate on different days. However I like your idea of spending the day on thinks I like and skipping the rest! I think I’ll try to really organize that (so that if my mood is low on the day itself it’s all right) There’s this Indian takeaway I love and maybe I’ll download some of my favourite films and binge watch them all day.

        I love taking photo’s and was thinking of going to busy areas on Christmas in hope of finding deserted streets!

  30. I’m working Thanksgiving week, not going to see any family & probably not any friends for that holiday. Working from home too, which means seasonal depression & loneliness is probably going to bite. Gotta get some ice cream in the fridge & sappy movies queued up on Netflix, I guess. At least I get to see my family for Hannukah/Christmas (didn’t get to go to the Hannukah party last year which sucked but I’ll get latkes this year, hurrah), but then it’s back to working on New Years as well.

  31. I’m another person for whom this time of year has come with a lot of loss attached. My maternal grandfather died December of 2000, my maternal grandmother died November of 2012, and now my paternal grandfather has just died… four weeks ago tomorrow. There are a lot of things I like about this time of year, but for now I just hurt.

  32. My favourite cousin died a few years ago but xmas is right around her birthday and I’m always a very sad thing. :/ I’m really glad that this year we aren’t seeing my fiance’s incredibly abusive mom (FUCK BEES SHE IS HORNETS) and annoying dogs, largely because fiance’s brother has reproduced and his family have all gone to san francisco to see the babbin. So this year will be the first holiday since my grandfather’s death, and a shitstorm of “so when exactly is the wedding?” “when will you be done school” and “when babbins”. It’s also the first family holiday since I became vegan and I’m sure it’s going to be a shitstorm of “BUT U ATE CHEESE LAST YEAR” and just. Ugh. Also one cat has severe separation problems so I’m taking him to my parents’ house with the other cat and my fiance because that will be less stressful than a caretaker but cats + trees + parent parties = glitterstorm

    I really hope the holidays pass in as low-stress a manner as possible for all of you guys.

  33. For me Thanksgiving is worse. I used to visit my grandparents in AZ every Thanksgiving – and warm, yay, but my grandma is a champion fat-shamer. And last Thanksgiving my grandfather was in the hospital and died a week later.I’m glad I was there, but there are so many intense &/or traumatic memories.

    I’m heading back in a few days, and I am so stressed out. I have no idea how it will go. It’s going to be hard to be helpful AND to keep my boundaries intact.

  34. I’m not going to have the money to buy gifts this year. It’s been a rough few months, and it’s just…depressing. I love getting presents for my family and friends. For Friendmas (LOVE that term), we tend to get each other things we need but won’t buy for ourselves, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m still kinda hoping that things will work out, but I’m trying not to set myself up for disappointment at the same time.

  35. Heh, wow, I feel like maybe I shouldn’t comment now because my holiday “problems” are so insignificant compared to everyone else’s. Jedi hugs and good thoughts to anyone who wants them.

    I really just wanted a place to say, I’m in an LDR of going on eight months and I wish I could spend Christmas with my girlfriend. I can’t tell my parents because I suspect they’d kick me out (I’m hopefully going to be moving out within the next couple years but right now I basically have to pretend like I’m going to see my “friend” in the next state over every few months, and it sucks), and most of my IRL friends can’t know either because they’re mostly from a religious background and varying degrees of homophobic. She’ll hopefully be able to come visit for a weekend sometime in the next couple months, but I’m basically just aching for our life together to start already. My family has a shitton of Christmas traditions, some of them more Christian than others, and I’m excited for most of those because I actually am a giant sap and love Christmas, but it would be better if I could also have her here. (I’ve also never been in a relationship before, so I’m adjusting to that feeling of “oh wow I have a person I could theoretically kiss under mistletoe, if she was here.”)

    1. I’m sorry your parents would likely be so unsupportive. I hope you get to see your girlfriend soon, and that things work out well in the longer term. But mainly, I want to say, your problems deserve sympathy and compassion regardless of other people who have worse problems. Those people also deserve sympathy and compassion. Sympathy and compassion, in an ideal world, would be unlimited resources. But even though an individual person’s reserves may be limited, it doesn’t make your problems any less true or any less deserving. And when you do get to see your girlfriend next, I hope you have a great time together.

    2. Ugh, that does suck. My sympathies to you; LDRs can be hard as-is and especially so when you have all of the messages about ‘people you love’ reminding you how far away some of your loved ones are.

  36. Okay so I’m usually super stoked about the holidays but this year… ehhhhh. Spending Christmas Eve/Day at my grandparents’ house is our big family tradition, but it’s the second Christmas since my uncle died, and his death unleashed a veritable swarm of bees that has left my extended family broken in a way I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fix. And some other awful shit went down at around the same time that means that I now feel actively unsafe around my grandfather, and I don’t trust him around my younger siblings or cousins either, so I’m essentially going to be on guard for the whole 24-48 hour period. And there’s also the fact that my best friend is going to be alone over Christmas, and their abusive brother was being intensely threatening towards them this point last year, and I’m worried about that happening again, and yeah. Wooooooooo Christmas.

  37. Oh yay, a thread for me! It’s hard to rant about the holidays without sounding like a major grinch, sooooo….

    1) I have decided to not return “home” for Christmas for the FIRST TIME EVER. I am really excited. First of all, tickets are hella ‘spensive and I hate flying cross country. Second, my family lives in that part of New York that just got a metric holyfuckton of snow dumped on it. I moved to California for a reason, people!

    This year has been really rough. Spending my five days off around my bitchy sister and narcissistic mother and way too much snow are not how I want to close it out. Therefore, I have decided to wait until January and fly to FLORIDAAAA with my dad, stepfamily, and grandma. For much cheaper. BEST IDEA EVER.

    2) My mom is a hoarder-in-training. She likes to spend her money and time on kitschy things, one-time-use crafts that she saves when they’re done, and all manner of decorative pointless objects. She always gives me a list of things she wants because it’s easier than me having to get to know her. This year she gave me FOUR separate online wishlists (all filled with pointless crap, nothing useful or enriching) and also asked to have her Netflix sub renewed. I said, “Okay, I can get you Netflix and one or two SMALL things, or I can get you a bunch of stuff you can unwrap.” She, unsurprisingly, asked for the STUFF. I’ll get her what she wants, but sigh. I feel like I’m just throwing my money away.

  38. I don’t hate the holidays, but I do work retail. So I can choose whether to work Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, and should expect to work more days than not while family is visiting at Christmas.

    And I’m single. And so sometimes lonely.

    And, lucky me, I’ve got Jury Duty for the Entire Month of December– thanks to the way things are handled around here.

    So at Orientation, the court administrators and the Judge assured us we wouldn’t be needed after the third week of December, because “lawyers have family and holiday commitments, too”.

    Arrgh! Scream!!!

    I get where you are coming from– and I know you are trying to be “funny”, (and my Boss will be happy that she only has to worry about me calling in for part of the month) but, some of us don’t get to spend much holiday time with loved ones, and Jury Duty doesn’t complicate things much.

  39. Oh man I am glad to see this posted. There was a brief period in my youth where Christmas was great, but mostly it was, “What am I allowed to want? How come parents are so stressed? Is this celebration good enough for those relatives? Are these gifts good enough? Are we doing Christianity well enough? Am I displaying my gratitude for gifts adequately? How do I fake liking this thing that I will literally never use or want in my life?”

    Aaaand… this year I finally gave myself permission not to spend holidays with family. And I think that is a good Life Step to take but it is also scary. As though this is the precipice where I am disowned by (or “really” disowning) my family, because that is A Thing, and, well. I dunno.

    But the circumstances for giving myself that permission had to do with getting married and wanting to start “our own” family traditions in New Hometown. And then Abuse, abuse that I could point to and finally stop excusing as “red flags but we’re working on it!”, and, well, the timing might work out so that my Christmas gift to myself is a divorce, but either way it is shitty and scary and stressful. And I sort of thought about whether I want to go back “home” for the holidays and just… no. Loneliness is better than evil bees, and, you know, I might be able to cobble together a Friendsgiving or Friendsmas or whatever.

    Soooo uhhh does anyone have any advice for Solo Holiday Celebrations? I think maybe I’d feel better about holidays if I at least have those as a backup plan. Or to supplement Friends-plans, because my favorite parts of the holidays of my youth always involved people whenever I wanted them and food and children underfoot and so much time in the kitchen with the occasional (okay, frequent) retreat into parks or books when I needed to recharge, and I don’t think I can recreate that this year.

    1. Oh bud, I feel you on Christmas being stressful even as a kid. My list of questions is a lot more like “What reaction to this present am I supposed to have? Which is the Wrong Face/Sound to Make that will set dad off? How did I ‘ruin Christmas’ this year? What do I do with the rest of today now that it has been Officially Ruined? How am I supposed to feel about all these yet-unopened presents that are now just symbols of how ungrateful and terrible a child I am? Am I even allowed to open them now?” and also later “What face am I supposed to make at dad’s flat and predictable apology that will not repeat this cycle?”, but I feel you. It was fun until I was old enough to start understanding what was happening.

      It’s great that you’re allowing yourself that distance!! It was a huge relief to me. I have no contact with my family and this will be my second christmas where that is the case. Last year was very difficult, a lot of shutting my eyes and oversleeping and crying and waiting for time to pass while everyone in my life was having the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but this year doesn’t seem so hard. Loneliness is DEFINITELY better than abuse. Infinitely. If you’re alone this year, you’re safe.

      I tend toward “pass the time” rather than “make it special,” but if it’s just you, then make it for You. Give yourself all the things you like. Decorate if you like having decorations up, and do them in a way that YOU like even if it’s not what your previous homes may have looked like (halloween decorations for xmas? go nuts). Take some time to think about the non-material gifts you’re giving yourself. (Freedom seems to be on that list.) Bake something, do crafts, wear festive pyjamas and watch crap that your ex or your family wouldn’t like. Keep busy with things you enjoy.

      1. Christmas-ruiners unite! I’ll never forget the time I ruined the entire holiday because I wanted to wait to take a bath until the afternoon, instead of that morning.

        1. I am a member of your club! i am almost never a member of any club so this is exciting!

          I ruined Christmas on a regular basis by not being perfect. My parents expected all their kids to sit in one place for hours, tidily opening one present after another, displaying appropriate gratitude to the never-off video camera, and looking like perfectly coiffed angels in our xmas pajamas. Sometimes I wanted to not sit in the same place for hours, not allowed to play with any of the presents I actually liked. Sometimes my gratitude for whatever puff-paint monstrosity my gramma (my mom’s mom) had made that year was NOT GRATITUDE ENOUGH. And my favorite part was listening to my dad call his parents and yell at them for forgetting to send us anything. We were supposed to wait by the phone for our turn to talk to them. Shockingly I wasn’t very good at that last bit when I was young.

          1. Oh yes, I hear you. Welcome to the horrible, horrible club.

            My brother and I were well-trained at sitting still and quietly (and not crying no matter how many hours we’d been sitting still and quiet while being screamed at), so Christmas was difficult for us, as dad seemed to expect Childlike Wonder and Excitement, something we were never allowed to express. And, even if we DID express it, we were not supposed to make a mess (like by unwrapping gifts?) or too much noise. But also not too little noise. You had to be excited enough to jump quickly into opening your presents but also go slowly in order to appreciate them… frankly, it was a convoluted set of conflicting expectations that I STILL havent figured out (since, of course, there was no way to win.)

            UNSUPRISINGLY, I no longer enjoy opening presents in front of other people, which sometimes causes friction now as an adult.

    2. No advice, but I’ll likely be alone for essentially every winter holiday this year (from Thanksgiving to my birthday in mid-January), so I could use some Solo Holiday Celebration tips as well.

      1. I guess it depends how much you like Christmas. My brother once opted out of family Christmas – he chose to eat pizza and play computer games.

      2. So these are things I didn’t do and wish I had when I spent a solo Thanksgiving or New Year’s.
        – Stock up on yummy food (including ingredients to make something homecooked if that’s your jam). I ate leftover rice and whipped cream because everything was closed on Thanksgiving.
        – Make a phone date or videochat date with someone you love. Maybe you can have a good night call or a good morning call, but set something up in advance. I, instead, sent really pitiful emails because I didn’t want to bother anyone.
        – Have an excursion to a park or an Asian grocery store (the biggest in your area) so that even if a lot of stores are closed, you can go someplace where there is hustle and bustle.

        1. Ooh those are definitely good ideas.

          Planning ahead and picking up plenty of food is pretty much essential in the UK since shopping on Christmas Day and Boxing Day is basically impossible, and shopping on Christmas Eve should be considered an extreme sport!

          I love the idea of planning a skype or phone call with a friend or loved one too.

        2. Really appreciate the suggestions! Looking into prepared Thanksgiving dinners (because I have no oven in my apartment). Thinking maybe some daylight park time and a movie or two in theatres. Some time for sads, just aiming not to be oppressed by the sads.

          1. BF & I have an Xmas tradition of movies and takeout/delivery cuisine, and there is a fun nonverbal camaraderie with the other people waiting in line for the movie on a big family holiday. (I am not a talk-to-strangers-in-queues person but if I were, that would be a good one.)

  40. One year the two biggest fans of Christmas music bracketed my cube in such a way that I heard them but they couldn’t hear each other.

    One day both of them put What Child is this and The Little Drummer boy on endless play.

    They were not synchronized.

    Yes. I threw a fit.

    1. That’s terrible! I am a shameless Christmas Music Person but the first rule of Christmas Music Club is HEADPHONES. They’re just cruisin’ for a bruisin’ playing that stuff so others can hear it. Oh man. I am so sorry.

  41. Flashing lights. They are evil and must be destroyed. They cause me pain (how much depends on the specifics of how they flash and how I am exposed). But tis the season when some people decorate with flashing lights. Why can’t people just put up pretty solid lights as decorations? They can look quite lovely. And many people do. But there’s just no knowing when I’ll suddenly encounter flashing lights. And sure, this happens the rest of the year too, but with much lower frequency. I don’t like most of the music. And I’m not a fan of being wished a merry Christmas when I don’t celebrate it (it feels like somebody else going to a movie and telling you to enjoy the show when they have no reason to think you’re going to see that movie too or somebody else going on vacation and wishing you a good trip). But those are little annoyances. But mix them in with flashing lights and I tend to get very irritable at this time of year.

    1. SOLIDARITY. While flashing lights don’t trigger a seizure, they’re still painful. Halloween is bad too, but at least it’s mostly avoidable so long as I don’t go to haunted houses.

    2. Solidarity fistbump for… everything? I’m glad you put it into words because so few people understand

    3. There’s one business where I live that’s located on a major street. Every year they go all out with this HUGE light display that’s set to music that you can’t hear unless you turn your radio to a certain station. It bothers me, mostly because the patterns of the flashing make no sense if you don’t have the music with it.

      I really feel for people like you who have a sensitivity to flashing lights, or are susceptible to seizures. You’d have to spend two months avoiding this major street so it doesn’t trigger anything.

  42. I am all in dread.
    So two Christmases back was the Christmas eve where Dad was still slowly dying, Mom was quite drunk, I was pregnant and my brothers decided to be the worst assholes (including a “hilarious” miscarriage skit with props, and stripping down to their underwear to jump into our bed around 3am). Last Christmas Dad had died recently, we avoided seeing the brothers at all, spent Christmas evening with (less drunk but still bees) Mom and Granny, and it was stiff and awkward. This Christmas we may be seeing brothers again, and I’m pregnant again so I’m feeling veeeery uncomfortable with the likelihood of a repeat.
    On the husband’s side I’ve been noticing the BIL has an intricate net of manipulation spread over the family. Nothing terribly overt and no one else seems to see it. Recent example: when husband contacted him to discuss Christmas plans BIL just announced that we would have supper at location and time. Husband said that the plan worked for us but that it would have been nice to be part of the discussion. BIL responded that since my family was so complicated to plan for that we had worked out a plan of alternating Christmas day and Boxing day last year and that we had all agree to it. Husband couldn’t remember that but is very careful not to upset BIL. My family is not complicated (they meet every year on Christmas Eve and have done since I was 16). None of us ever discussed any such thing, let alone agreed to it. But BIL has everyone too worried about upsetting him, no one will object to what he says. So basically he makes up shit to make it sound like -I- am the one making things hard, tells us that we have discussed things we never have, tell us we agreed to things we haven’t and then everyone is too scared to say anything about it. I mentioned it to husband (carefully) and when I pointed things out husband saw it all clearly and got mad, but still isn’t willing to say anything to BIL. In his words he’s “more nervous about upsetting or dissapointing [BIL] than [he] ever was with [parents]” which seems really fucked up to me.
    So I’m somewhat unthrilled about spending time with him. Also the body-shaming, the Christian supremacy, the uber Conservative politics, the ARGH.

    1. “makes up shit and makes it sound like I am the one making things hard” Are your BIL and my parents clones?????

  43. I am happier to be sad to be probably alone, far away in a new place, than full of the usual anxiety, dread, and nausea at having to try to safely navigate a family gathering, hoping it won’t be a year of one family member or another’s epic holiday rage (which may or may not be personally directed at me, but awful regardless). I’ve started to find some wonderful people here, and I am so very touched by their warmth and welcoming vibes, but I don’t really have a Team Me here yet. Friends spread out across the country have decent families they visit and/or have partners with decent families they visit, so a friend gathering is not likely, but maybe I will be able to catch one or two for a meal sometime during the holiday week, if they visit the families who live within a few hours of me. I do find comfort in the memory that one my happiest Christmases was one where I had no vacation so didn’t plan to travel and then got the flu and had a high fever. I was alone and very ill, but it was truly blissful. I definitely cherish the little comforts and joys and peace in the abodes!

  44. First time I write a comment here to say that I’m going to be admitted to a Psyquiatric clinic for (probably) all December and my birthday. So looking forward to it because I’m on my limit, but I’m more excited to ruin my family’s year with this oh so tragic news and hear about it for the rest of my life.

    1. I’m sorry that things have got to the point where you need to be admitted. BUT, at the same time, I’m pleased and proud for you that you’re getting the help you need. Letting go of “no, it’s ok, I can manage” is scary and hard. This is a time when you need to be selfish. The next steps will probably be difficult, but you’ve taken the hardest one. All the best. x

      1. Thank you, I really appreciate your words. I actually knew that things weren’t working for me (therapy, support group) but I kept pushing and pushing while saying “it’s okay, it’ll work out in he end” but it turns out that it didn’t because it was never enough in the first place. I should be scared but I’m just so glad and happy that I’m finally gonna get the help I need.

        Happy 24hrs!

  45. My mum loves having everyone around for Christmas. Given that we are four mostly adult sibilings living in different parts of the country/world it’s nice to catch up in small doses. Last year we went to a tiny house in the middle of the bush in the blistering heat (over 40 degrees celcius/104F most days) with nothing to but play board games. It culminated in a 3 day fight between my dad and brothers and lots of general unpleasantness. I also found out the guy I was kinda seeing was going to spend christmas with the girlfriend I didn’t know he had. A bad time all around. This year I’m only going home for 5 days, we’re staying a place where there is air conditioning and other distractions. After that I’m going hiking with a friend for a week. But I just wish this time of year didn’t have to happen.

  46. My mother died last year and dealing with her absence is a bit difficult, but it pales next to the reason why I will probably always hate Thanksgiving & Christmas. My mother’s brother – whom we only saw on these holidays, when my mother would schlepp my brother & me out to her mother’s for a week for each holiday – molested me repeatedly the night after Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve when I was four. It happened a few more times until I was 5, then it stopped. Apparently it was thought that a small child sleeping with a grown man known to have violent tendencies against his female relatives (he beat my mother when she was a teenager, and he beat their parents when they were in their late 80s) was A Good Idea. I have had trouble sleeping since I was four, but I seem to NEVER sleep – AT ALL – on Christmas Eve. This so-called holiday is just hell to me. Thanksgiving is bad because I’d have to face my abuser across the table each year. My grandmother knew what he’d done, but she told me to hush. To be fair, when my mother’s uncle raped her as an 8-year-old child, my grandmother told her to hush then, too. Yep, my mother would bring me to Thanksgiving dinner where she’d have to face her molester, and I’d have to face mine.

    I wish she were still alive, just so I could tell her to go to Hell for that.

    1. I’m so sorry – you are strong and amazing. A stranger across the vastness of the internet can sense that in so few words, so know that it’s true.

  47. So I love love love the holidays. Except this time, I’m apart from my best friend (only the second thanksgiving we spent apart in 12 years), I moved to a new city where I only know my family in law- who are lovely people, which does make this much less awful- and I just had a miscarriage at 17 weeks and my sister in law is gloriously, beautifully massively pregnant. And I love her, and I have two beautiful children already, it’s just… all around shitty and I can’t. stop. crying. when I’m alone. And my husband keeps talking about just having another one and have I mentioned about the can’t stop crying? At least twice a week. I keep missing my exit on the freeway because I’m distracted because I’m freaking crying again.

    Usually crying makes me feel better. I mostly just stop because I’m three minutes from work and I need to keep it together, not because I’m done crying.

    And the holidays are coming up and I love them, but I’m working all the damn time. Ugh. Just. I want it to be 2015 so bad, I’ve been repeating it in my head.

    1. I’ve had 2 miscarriages this year, and the world seems to be full of happily pregnant women and gorgeous babies. It is shit, and nothing can stop it being shit. You’re allowed to be angry and sad and irrational. It’s ok. xx

  48. When I was 15 I had a really traumatic six months starts a couple of weeks before Christmas that started with finding out I was pregnant, having a really really traumatic ultrasound, having the actual abortion a week after that, and some minor complications that lead to me having a nervous breakdown and trying to end an emotionally abusive relationship for four months before I stopped giving a shit if that partner killed himself if I left him.

    I then worked four years in a row in retail and worked every christmas those years.

    My family refuses to understand why I HATE Christmas and constantly tease me about it. My grandmothers are both emotionally abusive, my paternal grandmother can’t STAND me (or I her) and abuses me and my mother and sister and my dad refuses to see that. My mother is a total control freak who had to have everything perfect at Christmas time and is a ticking time bomb from the end of November until January, with regular blow ups and freak outs that usually get taken out on me, as the closest emotional punching bag.

    I suffer from severe depression and GAD and I’m newly diagnosed with fibromyalgia and I’ve been suffering severely from all three this year and it’s getting worse the more stressed I am

    This is the first year that I have a partner that I would like to spend Christmas with, and my mother has decided that I shouldn’t come out to my extended family as bisexual, which means I can’t bring my girlfriend with me for support at our extended family celebrations and my mother will REFUSE to accept that I am not well enough to go. She’ll bully me until I agree to go and then accuse me of forcing her to feel guilty when I spend a week in bed recovering after.

    Christmas really fucking sucks.

  49. I’m actually dreading this xmas season less than last year, which is a pleasant surprise. I am another person who has historically spent xmas crying alone, whether because I lived in an abusive home or because I was dragged to an event with people who do not support or like me. This is my second year having xmas alone, and if I had a large enough group of friends who did not have Families to go see I would arrange a small get-together for us. I’m starting to appreciate that this year, I will be alone, and that being alone is VASTLY PREFERABLE to being around any of the people I have the option to be near.

    But my work closes for a week on the holidays, which I hate, because I get cagey when I don’t have work to do and I like to have something to focus on that isn’t the pity of all the people who have families and feasts to go to. I’m already trying to plan activities and projects to keep me occupied. Christmas: It might not be good, but it may be productive?

    I’m worried I’ll be contacted by some abusers – holidays are about FAAAAAMILY after all, or about “reconciling” with those you “loved” – but I’m starting to feel more secure in the fact that they can’t actually threaten me. As long as I can shut my doors to the revelry, and to all my friends and acquaintances posting photos and stories about how much they love their pretty hallmark families I should be alright.

  50. I am not really looking forwards to the holidays. On one hand, I am very, very excited to spend an exorbitant amount of time with my best friend and see some other friends I haven’t seen in a VERY long time and I LOVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC.

    On the other hand. Well. First, we have my mother who wishes to discuss my gender and how it impacts “the family”. Which, I was responsible for processing MY feelings about being trans by myself. I don’t want to help you process YOUR feelings about me being trans (therapists are lovely with that, or also talk to my BFF’s mom about your feelings about having kids who are trans and she will commiserate with you). All things considering though, things seem to be going better than expected. But, we’ll see. And this is on top of my mother’s usual emotional manipulative bullshit that I hesitate to call abusive (but probably wouldn’t hesitate if someone else were describing this to me).

    Second, I’m currently in the process of seeing what insurance will do for surgery and if docs will take insurance and all that jazz to possibly doing that between semesters since it’s a rather long recovery. Which this is also stressful (because surgery and insurance policies in legalese) and it might also place me being relatively immobile/unable to drive bc of meds in my parents house for long periods of time which I’m not thrilled with. BUT surgery. Less dysphoria. Not having to take time off of work to do this. I’m all about those things.

    Third, I’m also dealing with as-yet-undetermined mental illness brain weasels and my family is one who oscillates from thinking that Mental Illnesses Are Fake and Pills Automatically Cure Mental Illness (and often hit both points in a single statement), so it’s not really fun to be around them when mental illness comes up (and it always comes up).

    Fourth, there is my parents issues with each other. It’s just not fun to be around people who take every excuse to pick a fight with each other but look at you like you’ve grown a third head if you point this out to them, but who also whenever possible try to get you on their side. This has been an ongoing situation since I was in junior high/high school when I had several “YOU ARE ADULTS PLEASE ACT LIKE THEM” moments (which, with the notable exception of one dinner where 13ish year old me stormed off and refused to finish the meal until they stopped fighting, never worked). I’m still trying to figure out what the best way to suggest counseling is to them without them turning on me. I have not yet figured out a way that would not unleash shit my way.

    Fifth, there is the weird (read:shitty) pressuring that pours out around Christmas when my family rediscover that I’m not religious (guys, it’s not news. It’s been this way for like 7 years now, and before that any religiosity came from reluctant obligation). My parents have mostly accepted it (but not 100% because there’s no way I’m picking the “I’m not attending Mass on Christmas” fight that would be inevitable if I did, in fact, attempt to say that I wasn’t going to attend Mass on Christmas, and I don’t mind Christmas mass because I like the music and I like seeing a ton of friends/people I grew up with/half the town at church).

    And then there is the situation that is overflowing with bees. Part of me is very glad that I’m not really involved. Part of me is terrified that by saying anything wrong I’ll unleash the bees onto me (though part of me thinks that instead of bees I’ll be coldly cut out of these peoples’ lives, and at this point I’m not sure that’d be a bad thing). A larger part of me is horrified that my 94 year old grandmother is dealing with the worst case of bees I’ve seen in my life, and her health issues prevent her from doing anything about it. Two of my uncles are “taking care” of her, by which I mean they stop by like once a day to talk to her for 5 minutes and make sure she has food and maybe eat dinner with her. They then proceed to berate her for not taking care of herself and also for being sad and are just generally awful and also gaslight-ey (especially a problem considering her memory is not doing well and it’s frighteningly easy to convince her that things either did or did not happen that are different than reality) and FULL OF BEES. Of course, they also control all information that she receives about family and anything beyond what basic cable and newspaper can give her (and go ballistic on anyone who shares things that Grandma Isn’t To Know). And they also think that she’s incapable of doing anything for herself, that she can’t go anywhere or do anything and so they don’t let her (which is easy since she’s not capable of driving), so she never leaves the house except for like doctor’s visits and things like Thanksgiving, and sees three other people that are not the bee uncles on a regular basis. And on top of this horrible situation of bees, my grandmother is just not doing well. Watching her go downhill like this is awful and hard to watch. It’s really hard to give her the occasional call and be called by four of my cousin’s names over the course of a 5 minute phone call*.

    *Which this+the situation of bees=I actually can’t come out to extended family. Or I mean, I can, but since this is something that will fall under the heading of “Things Grandma Can’t Know”, I know my name and pronouns won’t be respected at any family event (probably in general) AT LEAST until my grandmother dies. Which is terrible. I kind of agree with not coming out to Grandma though, because if Grandma has issues remembering who I am and my birth name already (and short term memory problems), there’s no way in hell that she’d be able to remember my name, and she already feels awful about calling me by various cousins’ names and neither her or I could deal with the pain of me getting called by my birth name simply because she couldn’t remember.

    1. Nesting my comment under yours because UGH. I’m in the process of stalling about whether to go back to my hometown forvChristmas. I’m not out as trans to my family – the closest I’ve come was telling my mom I’d changed my name this summer, which she theoretically was supportive of, but the last time I saw her she didn’t get it right once and didn’t seem like she was even trying, not even a notice-and-apologize.

      She doesn’t know the reasons for it, and I just don’t. want. to. deal with telling anyone else, about the name or the trans stuff. My role in the family is to be the person who ruins everything because I am crazy, and I’m afraid they’ll all think coming out and changing my name is just my newest way to be troublesome. But getting mispronouned and being called my birth name is so intensely dysphoric for me that I dissociate every time it happens, and then I DO end up being unpleasant to be around because I’m on the verge of a panic attack the whole time. I’m out in pretty much every other facet of my life, which makes it even more difficult to deal with when it happens.

      I also have a similar situation with my grandma who has dementia – there’s NO way she would be able to wrap her head around this.

      So I don’t want to go back and deal with it all, but I also feel like I’m racing the clock because I started testosterone six months ago, and this might be the last time I can do the holidays without having the super noticeable physical changes that will mean I HAVE to start telling people.

      I’m just not sure what to do. Part of me wants to just stay home, but doing so feels like taking the first step towards not having a relationship with my family at all, and I am afraid I’ll wake up Christmas morning and feel so completely alone that I’ll regret having not gone. I wish my family didn’t live halfway across the country so I could just drive there for a couple of days and grit my teeth through it, instead of dealing with the fuckery of flying and then having to stay long enough that it’s torture.

      Man, I don’t know. Thanks for this thread Captain, I had some venting to do.

      1. “My role in my family is to be the person who ruins everything because I am crazy” Oh hey yeah. That is my role too! It’s great.

        Jedi hugs of solidarity, man.

      2. Jedi hugs if you want them. That sounds an awful lot like the last few times I’ve had to spend with my family. They definitely considered my name and pronoun change as a way to be “quirky” or a Special Snowflake. That’s the role I was assigned: to make all kinds of reckless, controversial decisions just to differentiate myself, even though that’s not a habit I’ve ever had.

        I’m no longer in contact with them, so if that is how it pans out for you, I just want you to know that it’s not the worst thing that could happen! Frankly, the worst thing would have been keeping things as-is.

    2. You have described why the holidays with family are love/hate for me. I enjoy the time together, enjoy seeing relatives and so on (and my mother puts out an incredible array of goodies during the holiday get-togethers), but I do so knowing they have not accepted my transition and insist on *their* definition of me. This in spite of me coming out to them in 1997-98, having completed transition and built a great life and being damned good at what I do for a living, having married (funny thing is, they love my husband and have happily accepted him into the family). Sometimes it’s merely annoying and other times I know it’s done with intent (the “you’re not like us, so we poke fun at you and maybe you’ll change your ways” thing – and with me being trans, having college degrees, not going to church, having a white-collar job, having lived in other places and having gone out and seen the world, all in an otherwise churchgoing blue-collar family that stayed in the same town and has never traveled far from it, there’s a lot for them to pick at).

      The one that hurt the most was two or three years ago, when both my husband and I were given all-but-identical gift packages including a men’s jacket, men’s bedroom slippers and various men’s grooming items. I know for certain it was done at my father’s insistence, because it’s one of several things that he’s done to tell himself I never transitioned and that I’m still “his son” (and I also know he’s embarrassed by my transition because he worries about what other people will say about him). My mother’s more okay with my transition than she publicly admits but is one of those “don’t rock the boat” types; my brother’s live-and-let-live, while his wife vacillates between being okay with it and thinking it’s an eccentricity. The part that really makes me grieve is that the family’s insistence on its version, not my version, of my life means my two nieces – who were born during the years of my transition – have been conditioned to see me as their uncle and not what I actually am. Maybe someday I can have a conversation with each of them, but for now it’s one of those things I try not to think about because it hurts too much.

      The one thing that has helped is learning how to stand up for myself when need be, gathering the courage to say “that’s not cool” when they go too far. I know my family loves me, and I love them. But I also yearn for the day when the crap finally gets cut out of our relationship. They can keep whatever material gifts they’ve accumulated for me, whatever books and calendars and trinkets and anything else. What I’m most wanting, and yet least likely to get, are these words from my parents: “We may not completely understand what you’ve been through, but we accept you and love you as you are. We’re sorry we’ve treated you the way we have for this long. We’re going to do better.” Followed by the actions to back that up. It’s what I want more than just about anything, and yet, knowing my family, it’s not going to happen.

    3. This may be inappropriate, but when my family refused to accept my atheism at the age of 12 and onwards, I resorted to some pretty juvenile bullshit to protest being dragged to church. Like the time I dressed like a cone-head and pretended not to speak English for THE ENTIRE TIME we were in the church building – I was 19. Or the time I wore a Halloween tshirt and growled at people every time they looked at me – 18. I was HILARIOUS. In my opinion, anyway. Whatever, by the time I was 20 no one even fucking ASKED if I was coming to midnight service. They all just got ready and left me gloriously alone. Maybe you could be me at least in your head? Giggling inappropriately all through service is another of my trademarks. You have to wear a pig snout though, or it just isn’t the same. (16)

      NOTE – Yes, this was disrespectful of me. I (probably) (might not) wouldn’t do it now, in my late 30s. But I felt cornered, disrespected and bullied. More so as time went on, thus the escalation of costuming and non-communication. IT WAS STILL FUNNY. Also I went to a Lutheran – read: chill as fuck – church where the pastor wore had a full beard, Birkenstocks and played the acoustic guitar and didn’t give one single fuck that I was an atheist. He was the only adult who even supported me exploring belief systems outside the church and thought my parents were behaving like assholes. He regularly invited Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, etc, to give services at that church. So I wasn’t going to get my parents kicked out or shamed or whatever by my actions. So it wasn’t as bad as all that.

      1. Honestly, I really don’t mind the midnight service. What annoys me is the brief period of “maybe we can convince them to go to Church on Sundays now too!”. The thing that really gets my goat, though, is when my uncle the Baptist minister is in town and says very disapproving graces about being thankful for having God in our lives that are accompanied by pointed glances at me. I mean, some of the disapproval is directed at the rest of the family too because they’re Catholic, so they’re still going to Hell*, but unlike me they have the decency to at least believe in something.

        *He has actually said that to various family members’ faces. Of course, it wasn’t about the individuals present. It was about their Dad, who died when they all were teens/young twenties, which I think makes that already terrible comment worse.

  51. Slowly moving step-by-step away from one of my parents, and this set of holidays the step is not staying at their house at all while I’m in town (my other parent also lives in Town and I have a much better relationship with them). It’s going to be a Thing. I know it’s going to be a Thing. Preemptively I have contacted Sibling about this, and Sibling says they support me but also has undertones of “but family!” and “but Parent did so much for us as kids!” I am firmly of the belief that emotional blackmail is wrong when other people do it to you, so it’s also wrong to do it to yourself. Not sure how much Sibling is going to listen or understand; not sure how everything will go down. There is a part of me that is afraid I will take One Step Too Far To Tolerate away from Parent, and they will become the dragon that lurks behind their hurtful words (that of course they didn’t mean that way).

  52. Can we have a finals/exams sympathy thread? I will hopefully be done on December 17th, which leaves me exactly a week to get into the holiday spirit and stop snarling at other people for interrupting me. However, university professors in my country are threatening to go on strike, so it’s entirely possible that exams will be a total circus.

    My issue is this whole demand that one be pleasant and happy. I am stressed as fuck, I’m not going to be cheerful and pleasant until the stress is over. I don’t care if it’s Christmas, the anxiety train is rolling into town and I don’t care if you want to have a holiday party, I have 1200 pages to read before next Tuesday. I’ll get back to you.

    1. My thesis is due on December 12 and I doubt I’m going to feel calm or well-rested before then. My partner is similarly swamped with work, so while we’ve been able to commiserate a bit neither of us is in a good place to offer very much direct support to the other because we have very little energy to spare. I’m looking forward to the break because hopefully she’ll get to come home with me and won’t be stuck with her stressful relatives, but we’ll also both be starting the process of figuring out post-grad job options, so that is scary in a different way. It feels like there is always something stressful going on.

  53. Last year I was able to see my long-distance boyfriend from between Boxing Day to after New Year’s, but long trips like that aren’t feasible anymore and I probably won’t see him until maybe February at the earliest. Negotiating holiday time with him is tricky and sometimes kind of fraught, so this is kind of an added sad-making thing on top of it. I have other people I love who I will see during the holidays, and I hope we will be able to spend time together during big holidays like this in the future, but it will be really difficult and sad to make it through the holidays this year and maybe next without getting to be with him in person.

  54. So, this is my first official “alone” Thanksgiving. I used to love Thanksgiving – it was “our” holiday, the only one we didn’t have to travel somewhere for, and we’d have friends and other “orphans” over. We had plans for last year’s Thanksgiving when all of a sudden it was over, no discussion, just over, and Thanksgiving turned from a day of celebration to a chore of calling people in tears a week before the event to explain, “Sorry, you don’t have Thanksgiving plans anymore, no, it’s okay, don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either, how were you to know when no one did?”

    I’m hoping this year goes better, but I’m going as the lonely-only to my parents’ friends’ house, and while everyone will be completely lovely, it isn’t even close to the same.

    And I guess last year in all the pain, I told myself, “It will be so much better next year; it will hurt less, and you will be okay, you will get through this, dear brave self,” and I move forward, but I’m still not completely better and it is so heart-achingly frustrating to be sad at the stupidest of little things. Those tiny memories that lurk behind you, waiting until you are alone in the dark (or the Target soup aisle) to pounce. I have been told by my therapists that the holidays are always trying, and you just need to let time take its course. I hope and believe so (because it is better than last year, but it isn’t good either).

  55. Tomorrow, I fly back to my hometown for the weekend. Saturday is my mother’s birthday. Next week is my boyfriend’s birthday, my father’s birthday, and my boyfriend is Taking Me Home To Meet The Family in Florida (also Disneyworld). My mother has been sick for a very long time, but her health began rapidly deteriorating during the past month. It was confirmed today that she has very little time left, maybe a week. She’s sleeping most of the time, and not really in touch with reality for some of the time she is awake. Both of my parents were emotionally abusive to me and each other through my childhood, but mellowed as they got older and dropped out of their substance use. My mom and I were never going to be really close, but things got better after I moved away from home. I’m afraid she won’t really be there for me to say goodbye to. I’m sad for all the things she’ll never see me do, and that my boyfriend will never get to meet her. I graduate with my Masters degree in May. Even though I know there was no really feasible way for things to be different, I wish our relationship could have been better.

    My maternal grandmother and a cousin on that side will also be there this weekend. My cousin’s mother, who was also my mother’s only sister, died suddenly around the holidays in 2008. My grandma was also recently diagnosed with an obnoxious, but benign, brain tumor. In the past decade, my grandma has had to bury two of her own children, a stepchild, her brother-in-law, her second husband (first died in the 70’s), and my mother will be next.

    Oh, and I’m only 24. I feel too fucking young for all of my family to be dying. My mother won’t even be 60 years old. I can’t imagine what Christmas will be like.

    I had been pretty detached for most of this, but it started to hit me today. I’ve cried a few times. I have Huge Final Projects to complete between now and December 5, though, so I have to keep moving. I generally love the holidays, but this year… Fuck.

  56. this thanksgiving i get to do two four hour drives practically back to back with newly diagnosed fibromyalgia, to spend thanksgiving pretending like my abusive dad isn’t abusive (mainly to my mom) so he doesn’t cut us off financially and leave my mom and college-age sister in the lurch.

    college-age sister is also ill with mysterious life-threatening autoimmune symptoms that are freaking everyone (especially her) absolutely the hell out.

    everyone is putting on this weird chill front like “as long as we face everything with kindness it will be fine~” and “dad’s been very stable lately, i don’t think anything will happen” but i’m not as convinced. and i don’t know if i can listen to dad say grace with his usual near-teary sincerity because it’s just so far from the truth.

    at least everyone agreed with me to put the rudiments of a safety plan in place. and it is important to me to spend time with my mom and sister and show them support in ~stressful times~, and i know they have my back in return. but willingly and deliberately subjecting my anxiety disordered self to this level of stress feels like stepping in front of a train.

    so uh my feelings are mixed.

  57. I’ve gone from absolutely hating everything about Christmas to being more tolerant and now even somewhat enjoying some things, entirely thanks to the fact that my (LDR) boyfriend is one of those people that *loves* everything about Christmas. It was a combination of starting to feel bad for crushing his joy and his happiness about things being infectious. So this year, I’ve been really excited about how we finally have enough money to spend on plane tickets and he’d be coming to spend a couple months with me, including the holidays. Which we had talked about (I thought) at great length. But then when i started talking about getting him here for Thanksgiving, it was ‘too short notice’, and I sadly put away the little visions of a shared Thanksgiving I’d been building up, thinking, well at least there will be Christmas.

    Fast forward to this week, where he’s come up with half a dozen ‘reasons’ why he’d rather wait until … some other undefined time in the future. Reasons that are all flimsy as hell, so it basically boils down to the fact that he doesn’t want to spend Christmas with, or possibly even visit at all, it’s looking like. And of course I foolishly let myself start imagining what Christmas here with him would be like, so I’m full of crushed hopes now. I don’t feel like doing anything at all for the holidays now. And i feel so angry that even though I dropped everything to go spend Christmas with him previously, he couldn’t possibly do the same for me.

    On top of that is the usual stuff I hate – ridiculously premature decorations, constant horrible music, working in retail, trying to think of presents people (who never will say anything about what they’d like) will actually like that they never actually do and stressing about not being appreciative enough for the presents I get that I don’t want when I was careful to ask for a few cheap easily available things I knew they could get. >.<

    1. Oh no! That’s a really shitty thing to have happen. I’m so sorry for you. I’m visiting my girlfriend this Christmas (we’re also LDR) and it was kind of similar? I was getting mixed messages about whether she really wanted me to come, and I was becoming more and more aware of the things I’d miss out on here if I did go. But we managed to sit down and have an honest talk about our reservations and our thoughts and what we actually wanted (instead of trying to guess what the other wanted). It was stressful though. I guess if I want to be generous I could suggest that he’s trying to pull back to make it easier if you don’t want him to come? But, it’s a weird and annoying situation to be put through. You have my full sympathies 😦

      1. Yeah, first I was all, are you sure you want to do Christmas because he’s super close with his family and I thought he’d miss being there for Christmas. He insisted that he’d rather spend it with me, and I’ve made it very clear since then I’m really excited to have him here for Christmas. And then I guess he’s started thinking more about what he’ll be missing and changed his mind.

        Part of the issue is that it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, only because we didn’t have enough money (I make min wage, he was doing school and then wasn’t employed). But I recently got a big check from legal stuff and so the only thing that’s been holding up a trip is gone … except not really? Sigh. And I feel like, if the driving force isn’t ‘as soon as we have the money’ and it isn’t ‘so we can spend the holidays together’, then pretty soon it’s going to start being ‘well maybe when winter is over, well maybe when he’s had a job for x amount of time, well maybe…’ and it’ll drag on until we just give up on seeing each other at all.

        Thanks for sympathies though!

  58. Every new year lately I think the next year everything that I want to improve is going to get better. But it seems like it keeps getting worse. My anxiety/depression got really bad at the end of last year (and it might have elements of ADHD) and I’m on meds for that now because I couldn’t study for anything or get work done, and I still kind of can’t although it feels better now. My parents also separated for the third and final time that year. Then this summer I got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and last month I had another one of the vertigo-and-vomiting episodes I’d had over the summer right before my diagnosis and I had to go to the hospital and also shit myself because I couldn’t get up and walk to the bathroom, so now I’m terrified every few minutes that the room’s going to start spinning again. Also, my primary RP partner doesn’t want to rp with me anymore because he just can’t feel any of our threads, he says, and I tried to ask someone out and they never even responded. All the people I ever like turn out to already be involved with someone. Also my control of my diabetes is terrible and it’s been hard to balance that on top of everything else. I want my college degree, but simultaneously wish I could drop out.

    I guess this isn’t holiday-specific, because I’m actually looking forward to going and being home, even though I have issues with my parents due to lots of things. But it’s been a really shitty year, so yeah.

    I’m actually not nearly as suicidal as I sound in this. I actually feel optimistic about the future at times now, which is different from a year ago and I think is due to my meds kicking in. Also, weirdly, getting diagnosed with a fairly serious chronic illness has had some good points, because it led to me getting some new accommodations that have helped, and it’s led to my parents putting less pressure on me, and me finally having an excuse to cut myself some slack with all my other issues (aside from the mood stuff, I’m autistic and as a psych student, I think I might have BPD), which I needed. It’s also been kind of a relief having my dad not live with us on a daily basis, since he has worse anger/meltdown issues than me.

    I don’t even know where this post is going, so I think I’ll end it here.

  59. Christmas has had a weird vibe in my family for a long time. We wake up, do presents, do our own thing for a few hours, have lunch, ignore one another after lunch and then usually feed ourselves for dinner and go to bed. Now my brother lives interstate and comes home for the holiday, bringing his partner with him (who I don’t actively dislike, but I do dislike having a person I don’t know well in the house for a week at a time. I’m introverted and grumpy, so it’s not a good mix). I don’t have a good relationship with my brother, and I’m not that interested in becoming close to his partner… Except she is pregnant and my brother is proposing to her at Christmas.

    I’ve responded to this by buying tickets to visit my girlfriend for Christmas. I had let my family know this months in advance, but I guess they assumed that I’d change the date of the trip or something. Mum has commented that it will be sad that I won’t be around, and my brother kind of awkwardly had feelings at me about it. I expect I’ll get a passive-aggressive message from him about it on the day (he sends me one every time I go on holiday). I think I will miss my mum on Christmas day, and miss my friends who will also have come home for the holiday. But I’m really looking forward to spending the time with my girlfriend, and seeing new places. It’s an important thing for me, emotionally, and I’m happy and nervous and scared all at once.

  60. My year began with my dad dying, 8 months after being diagnosed with kidney cancer. Exactly two months later, one of his close friends, a man I’ve known since I was 3, died suddenly after complications from a surgery. In September, my dad’s youngest brother died from the same form of kidney cancer, after struggling with it for two and a half years. It’s been a shitty year.

    Basically, I have no idea how the next couple of months will go. My mom, sister, and I are running away to Disney World for Thanksgiving, a decision we made back in summer. We never had cast-iron traditions anyway, and it’s a place we love. Now, if only the three of us could get over our colds, I’m sure we’ll have a fun enough time.

    But Christmas…might be a bitch. Dad’s friend was the one that threw the holiday party for that group of friends, and it was always awesome. He cooked like a gourmet chef for a hobby, and would start planning the menu by August. Each family performs an embarrassing skit for the amusement of the others. It was always a highlight of the season. We’re still having it, but I’m afraid that for the first time there will be more tears than laughter there. Two really important faces will be gone, and I don’t know how we’ll deal with that.

    My aunt and cousins decided that they want to take off over Christmas. Honestly, I don’t blame them, we’re doing the same thing in a few days. But I’m sorry they won’t be there. My dad’s middle brother will be hosting, as he has for years, but I’m worried we’ll feel overwhelmed by those who should be there, and aren’t.

    Finally, I’m worried about Mom. She’s lost interest in so many things, and become so negative. Dad used to complain about her Pollyanna attitudes, well, they’re sure as hell gone now. She barely sounds interested in even getting a tree, which was something that only she and I did most years. I know I’m going to miss my Dad like crazy. I’m worried that I’ll end up missing my Mom, too.

    tl;dr: Fuck 2014.

    1. I am so sorry for all the loss you have had this year. I wish I could offer more than jedi hugs.

    2. Everyone’s grieving varies, so I don’t know if this would work for you BUT – would it be possible to look at this big holiday party that will be filled with sadness this year as a sort of gift? It sounds like you will be surrounded by people who loved these men that you loved, and you will all be getting through this loss together. It may serve as a bit of a wake, and allow you to grieve together. And it sounds like no one would expect you not to be sad, which is so helpful when you’re grieving.

      (of course if it still just seems like a hug stressful thing that is also totally legitimate! just wanted to offer a perspective that may help?)

  61. Reeeeaaallly not looking forward to the family this year. It’s just such an ordeal every single year to have to deal with everyone. My grandmother is an evil beehive, my aunt is her loving beekeeper, my mom hates the bees but puts up with them anyway, and then me and my sister just have to try to stay away from the bees we’re allergic too. And god forbid anyone suggest we have a low key holiday where everyone just kinda does their own thing. ohhhh no, if we don’t have turkey and ham and casarole then we are worthless shits and how dare we blah blah blah.

    Just once I’d like to have a Christmas that doesn’t end with either screaming or the cops being called.

  62. This thread. I am so incredibly grateful for this thread. Thank you, Captain.

    I am someone that loves the holidays. My birthday is on Boxing Day, and after my parents split up and my grandpa died when I was a teenager we worked out all our various Mom holidays and Dad holidays and Grandma holidays. My brother and I are real close, and we do plenty of Orphan Family Of Choice holiday stuff too.

    But my amazing, wonderful Partner of a year and a half hates Thanksgiving. His 2nd-oldest brother (there’s six siblings, they’re very Irish) died in an awful way around Thanksgiving when Partner was a teenager. Now Partner is older than Brother has ever been. And I love holidays and cheeriness and brightness and carols and gratitude and subversive pagan christmas stuff and celebration and friends, but it is all A Bit Much for grieving partner. We’re great at talking, and I know that there will be some Please Just Let Me Stay Here And Be Sad time, and some Please Can We Just Get Stoned And Watch Adventure Time time, and some Can I Tell You Memories And Cry time. He knows I am here for him. It just hurts to see him hurting, and to know that all of the things that I love are tiny pinpricks of pain for him, reminding him of what he doesn’t have anymore. This is our first big Holiday Season together, since we kept it pretty casual last year.

    Any advice from people who have lost family members, or partners of those people as to how I can best be supportive would be lovely.

    Cheers and Jedi Hugs to everyone in this thread. You are all so brave and so strong.

    1. Has your partner been to/considered going to grief counselling? My dad died just before Christmas a number of years ago, and Christmas and Easter (which was more of a family time) were really hard for me until I managed to get past an emotional roadblock. Grief is very much a “your mileage may vary” kind of thing, but I had really positive experiences with grief counselling and I wish I’d done it earlier.

      I think your partner can probably tell you best how to be supportive. I do recommend talking about it before the emotions start flowing, if you can. I remember that “together me” knew that going out sometimes and having fun would be a helpful thing, but “overcome with grief me” was reduced to LEAVE ME ALONE I HAVE TOO MANY SADS. And I did have some friends and family who got me out of the house anyway, and it did help, but it wasn’t something I could ask for while I was being hit by a grief wave. I think I felt too guilty at the idea of going out and having a good time when I should be mourning and crying, rather than being unable to handle being social for other reasons.

      So yes. Talk to your partner. Ask them if there are things they want to do, things they want to avoid. Agree that it’s okay for him to leave an event if he can’t deal any more. Agree that it’s okay for you two to handle events and feelings differently. Accept that he’s going to have hurts and that his grief doesn’t have to hurt you (sympathy is fine and good, and support is great. But don’t forget to look after yourself).

  63. I’m honestly not sure which thread to post to because I *want* to love Christmas, but most of my family has hated it for years and I kind of don’t have anyone else to celebrate with.

    1. Do you have friends you keep in touch with online? Back when I was in high school some fandom friends and I would watch Christmas movies in our own homes and talk over them in a chatroom. So that was a nice mix of [christmassy thing] + [sense of closeness].

      1. Maybe I’ll look into that. I guess I just miss the way Christmas used to be, but, well… “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

  64. Christmas is a big anticlimax for my family. We are fairly close but we lost my dad 10 years ago this year and Christmas has had to change for us in that time. My dad LOVED Christmas and would decorate the tree and hang decorations on the ceiling and paint snowflakes and put up lights in the windows every year without fail. When we tried to do it without him it felt empty and awful. Our extended family would descend on us for Boxing day and we would have a whale of a time with movies and games and laughter. Now its just my mum and half of us kids because the other half have their own families. Christmas is just another family night to us. Small, quiet, low key. I miss the magical excitement of my youth but fear it is gone for good.

  65. I actually really do like the holidays – not really so much the music or decorations, but the whole idea of being together with family is nice. It’s just that I’m doing the same thing for Christmas this year that I do every year and it is so completely exhausting, the thought of going through it again is overwhelming.

    I am from the Midwest, although I now live on the West Coast with Partner. My parents are divorced and my mom (and nearly all of my extended family) live on the East Coast, while my dad and stepmom still live in the Midwest. Partner’s parents live just a few hours away from us, so every year we drive up to see them for a few days, then I fly out to the East Coast to see my mom and extended family, then fly to the Midwest to see my dad and stepmom, then finally fly home. So it’s just a ton of “run here see these people run to the airport then run here” and I’m so tired this year I feel like I can’t do it. I miss my family a ton though, and I know I would regret it if I didn’t go out to see them during the holidays, especially my extended family.

    Going to the Midwest is usually the hardest part, because by then I’m pretty exhausted. I have been thinking about just skipping that part, but I know my dad and stepmom would have a huge tantrum over it. It’s so irritating because they clearly see this trip as something I’m obligated to do and don’t really think it “counts” – they routinely tell me over the phone that I never come home. I have lived on the West Coast for six years, and they have come out to visit me only one time. It’s all very frustrating, and I super don’t feel prepared to deal with it this year.

    1. I’ve tried to explain this to my dad before (on a much smaller scale, because it involves trains or a drive rather than a plane ride):

      Yes it’s so much easier for me to visit you than it is for you to visit me, I acknowledge that. But when the ratio starts to be something like me coming down 4-5 times a year and you visiting me once in 4 years it just makes me feel that you don’t actually really give a shit.

      1. Yeah, I get you. It’s a kind of weird dynamic with my dad and stepmom, because they actually do travel a lot, just not to see me. They always want me to come back in the summer “for a few days”, but summers are especially busy for me work-wise. I always say, “you could come see me” but there are a million reasons why they can’t (last summer it was because they went to New Zealand and then “didn’t have the money” for another trip.) So if I didn’t go back over Christmas I would literally never see them.

        1. If they insist on wanting to see you, but refuse to do so except under a specific set of circumstances, then what they’re telling you is that it’s not seeing you that they want so much as the specific set of circumstances.

          It might be worth examining how much of this is a control dynamic. If parental figures come to visit you, then you’re all adults on more or less equal standing. If you go to visit the parental home, then you’re reduced to a semi-child state which makes them feel more powerful.

          1. That…. is an excellent way of putting it. Boyfriend and I do not travel to see any family during the holidays and that’s really been wonderful. But, Boyfriend’s father categorically refuses to ever come visit us up here. I don’t mind this, because the one time he came here to The Big Scary City to visit, the entire weekend was one long racist/homophobic diatribe. He was loudly using racist slurs as we were walking around downtown and it was just awful. (When we ask him to stop he says the First Amendment applies to him just like everyone else and we have no right to tell him to stop using racist language.)

            Nevertheless, he expects Boyfriend to come down to visit regularly, which is difficult because we do not have a car and no way in hell is he taking public transport down there and thus making it impossible for him to leave for the friend’s house he stays at once the racist slurs and “why aren’t you Christian?” arguments start. And…. you are right, it is absolutely a control thing. This explains SO MUCH.

      2. My mom unfortunately goes through this with her sister, not just at the holidays, but…always. They live about a three hour drive from each other, but my aunt and uncle steadfastly REFUSE to come to City where my parents live, even though my parents have a very spacious apartment with 2 full bathrooms and an extra bedroom for them to stay in. My mom is always the one who has to go visit them. They are very generous and always let her & my dad (and myself and my brother) stay with them whenever we want, but I think it’s so, so, so rude for them to never bother to make the modicum of effort to go see my parents. (For the record, neither of them have disabilities that prevent them from traveling, and go OTHER places regularly; and if they didn’t want to drive, there’s a train! That goes right into City!) It’s the lopsidedness that really bugs my mom.

  66. I have become really jaded to the holidays over the years (and especially the music) as a result of working in retail. Though I’ll confess, “Last Christmas” is my jam. But all other songs (especially Santa Baby xinfinity) can go BURRRNNN.
    This year is looking pretty unappetizing for SO many reasons…. List time
    1)Finals right after Turkey week and my birthday falls right in there too
    2)I work in the mall and if that’s not enough to turn you into a misanthrope idk what is. Also, working Black Friday.
    3)I’m dirt poor and feeling the sadness of not being able to do much for loved ones in a material sense because basic survival takes most of my money
    5)My therapist and I have decided it’s in my small family’s best interest to stay away from the usual Super Fake Family Gathering(s) that happen but once a year and are just… toxic. But it’s all I know… I won’t know what to do with myself sadly. Hopefully we’ll make it work and everyone will be better off for it and I will learn to forgive myself for setting boundaries that should have been set long ago
    6)SAD and vitamin D deficiency (that Pacific NW life!) and on an antidepressant that makes me seriously just wanna sleep all day.

    Also, my computer has as random “countdown to Black Friday” widget built right into Google and it is literally counting down the seconds for me. w00t

  67. I love the movies and music associated with Christmas, I love the change to get people gifts. I don’t like how it makes me feel alone, because I don’t like my family, and don’t have enough offline friends to turn to instead. Sooo… I volunteered to work for 8 hours, instead of 3 this christmas, to reduce the time I have to spend around them (and if this means I can’t participate in the family gift exchange or what have you. that’s all the better)

  68. I informed my parents about a month ago that I am not “coming home”* for Thanksgiving and I’m instead looking forward to an amazing Friendsgiving at school. However, winter break is going to Drag On – a month of my parents realizing that this is (fingers crossed) the last time I will live with them, and pushing back by trying to control me and treat me like a kid again. I plan on coping with this by spending lots of time at the public library applying for jobs, a pastime they can’t possibly take issue with, and surreptitiously packing up the few things in the house that are important to me.

    *Isn’t it ridiculous when other people decide what “home” is to you?

  69. Ugh, christmas.

    I’ve never been a big fan of christmas (I’m not religious, I have a small family that I get to see fairly often anyway, and the expectations around gifts/behaviour always stress me out). This year is going to be a special slice of hell though (tw: suicide).

    My dad committed suicide this past September – everything since then has been fraught with the grief of that. My birthday was a month ago and I spent the whole day crying and raging. I can’t even imagine how bad christmas is going to be, especially since christmas has always been a Thing for my mom and it’ll be the first time since we flew home to bury him that what’s left of the family has been together

    On top of that my mom decided that she wanted us to go travelling over christmas rather than have a traditional holiday. For me this meant getting a passport, and with the loss of my dad plus working 65 hours a week at a stressful job with awful co-workers my anxiety and depression have been off the hook. So by the time I wrangled my brain weasels enough to finish the passport application the isolated northern community I’m living in went fly-in/fly-out only for the winter – which makes mail super unreliable.Long story short; if I receive my passport it’ll be a miracle, so the trip my mom wanted to take probably won’t happen.

    There’s already a bit of “SacherTorte is ruining the holidays” floating around in my family because of this so I expect the actual holidays to be full of guilt, probably with a dash of arguing since we’re all the type that react to grief by getting angry.

    Basically I want to build a blanket fort and not come out until January.

    1. I am so, so sorry about your dad. My dad committed suicide when I was 23, years ago. It gets better! But it does change things forever. It’s great that you want to support your mom, but you can only do what you can do. You get to have needs and feelings, too. Anger and guilt are valid feelings, just like all feelings are valid ones. Passport issues are valid reasons, too. I’m sending you some virtual blankets for your blanket fort. I have whatever color you like. All the colors are fuzzy and warm.

  70. I could post in both the threads. I live on the opposite side of the world to my family, and recently married where I live. I love my spouse deeply and was looking forward to spending our Christmas together, but in the last few months i’ve been gripped by homesickness & missing my family in a really new & unexpected way (i’ve lived far away for 8 years). After a few weeks of crying jags, I scraped together everything in my bank account, banked all my possible vacation days, & bought a ridiculously unaffordable ticket to fly back to my country of origin to see my family for the holidays. There was no way i could have paid for a ticket for my spouse too, and they couldn’t afford it either, so I am going alone. I am so relieved that i will see my parents & (ailing) grandparents & siblings, but i feel so much guilt about leaving my spouse behind at Christmas, to be with their family without me. On top of everything, I feel a lot of guilt & shame about somehow invalidating our queer marriage by deciding to do this even if I couldn’t include them in the trip. They are being very understanding about it but I know they would have loved to join me, and my family would have loved to have them there. It’s a very unsettling feeling, to be feeling so selfish about putting my energy & resources into seeing my family. I guess now I am trying to put energy into making a special pre-Christmas time for us, but I have no money to spoil them because it all went on the ticket & no time cos I’m working to be able to take the vacation days. So, that’s a whole lot of mixed emotions, all round.

  71. My complaints are mainly minor complaints, but they’re the kind of complaints that I have throughout the year and for some reason feel worse over the Christmas period…

    1) My stepmother doesn’t like to cook. That’s fine, not everyone enjoys it. My stepmother also doesn’t like anyone else to cook in HER HOME (which of course I lived in with my dad before they got married and technically helped pay off, but since I’m an adult I’m a guest). So we end up with her being resentful and stressed and making terrible food when I’d be more than happy to do the whole thing, tidy it all and not take any credit -_-

    2) My dad likes the occasional port/whiskey and selfishly, getting him a 25 year old bottle of whiskey which will last him the year is a really easy present that I know he’ll appreciate. Except my stepmother is the type of teetotal where you can almost feel her start vibrating with anxiety whenever anyone in the family drinks so I don’t want to give gifts that make her unhappy.

    and there’s just all sorts of niggly, petty little things that just build up into: You can never go ‘home’ for the holidays, because that’s your dad, new wife and child’s home and not yours.

    The worst part is that I love my dad and brother and like my stepmother too much to bring this stuff up, because it would upset them and my dad carries enough guilt around about my childhood that I don’t really feel like adding to it (bad situation, he did the best he could, but it was still a very bad situation for a child to be in).

    The holidays just magnify every minor thing into one big mess and can’t I just stay under a duvet until I have to to back to work on the 29th?

    1. I think I’d probably say something along the lines of
      *happy voice* “I really love to cook, and it would make me happy to do some of my share of the familys housework this year by cooking the dinners this Christmas. You won’t even have to clean up after me!”

      Shes’ unhappy too cook anyway, so changing it for another unhappiness about someone else is cooking in “her” kitchen (aka the family kitchen) would kinda just be a switch so she’s unhappy about something else, with the added benefit that you all get good instead of crappy food.
      Maybe she even feels she have to do the cooking to be the Mom, and would be secretly relieved to get coaxed out of it.
      I guess I’m saying try to make it sound more like a gift to the family, to help her out and not “please let me make the food, so we won’t have to eat crap” 😉

      I’d stay away from the alcohol-gift (at least in front of stepmom) tho, but perhaps another year when/if the food-issue is resolved you could publicly give him a scarf or something and then quietly tell him there is a bottle of port/whiskey in that you wanted him to have, but didn’t wanna upset stepmom.

  72. This is the second “Holidays” since my parents split. Last Christmas Mom had just left and dad was still drinking, so it was raw. But, my brother was home on leave from the Air Force, we all sucked it up and put on a happy face. This year is the first year we won’t all be “home:” AF brother is on a six-month deployment to Qatar. My sister will be home, but she blames mom for Dad’s drinking (?) and they don’t really talk. I’m literally in the process of trying to move out. And two weeks ago Dad got his first DUI by driving his car into the tree in the front yard. Fortunately, I think that’s had him hit rock bottom– he’s in counseling for the first time EVER– but I don’t know what to expect and I’m dreading it. Thank EVERY POWER THERE IS that my boyfriend comes thus far from a relatively Hallmark family where everyone genuinely enjoys each other’s company because if I couldn’t escape there for part of the day I’d explode. Still, I’m grieving for the Christmases I grew up with, when it actually was my favorite day of the year.

  73. Seeing my family over Thanksgiving for the first time in about a year and dreading it.

    I finally started taking a hard look at the neglect and crappiness and mental health issues in my family about two years ago and I stopped speaking to everyone for six months earlier this year because I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I was angry and didn’t want to have to pretend to not be angry.

    I’m talking to them again, but mostly because of the guilt I was feeling and the desire to be in touch with them when upcoming big life changes happen. But getting to this point, and the conversations that went along with that, were really ugly and I can’t forget them. I wish I wasn’t going to visit. It makes me so uncomfortable. I would have been 100% okay without seeing any of them over the holidays.

  74. Here’s another (Jewish) religious minority who finds “the holidays” pretty annoying. “The holidays” were over in October (and my observance of one of them was quite limited, as my baby was born the day before). This is Thanksgiving (which I do love- it’s the one holiday I can spend, relatively easily, with my non-observant family). Then I just have to hear lots of people treat Hannukah, a minor holiday, as major and significant, because it happens to be near Christmas on the calendar, while they ignore the major holidays that are in the fall or spring. It must be even worse for smaller/less vocal religious minorities. At least these days, I live in an area where there are lots of other Jews, and so the impact is less.

    1. Indeed, although I do celebrate the new year, and that is still coming up. It was just especially weird the year Chanukah and Thanksgiving overlapped, and then everyone was still going on and on about “the holidays”, and I was like… the only one left is new year’s eve. Done and finished with all other holidays before December started, which made greetings even weirder. But yes, I do find it irritating to have people make a big deal about Chanukah if they ignore Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Also, Sukkot, because Sukkot is the best holiday in any religion ever, and I can prove it: fort building holiday – case closed.

      1. Yeah, I’ve never understood why secular Judaism hasn’t embraced Sukkot more — it’s like Christmas-tree decorating but *even more so*! And involves mystically significant giant lemons! 😉

        1. Ah, yes. Not that many years ago, I learned that an etrog is a citron in English. And I had this rather unproductive conversation with someone who is not Jewish.
          Me: I just learned what a citron is!
          Him: Oh?
          Me: It’s an etrog.
          Him: What’s an etrog?
          Me: Well, umm, in English, it’s a citron.

          And then explained the lulav and the etrog of Sukkot. So, they are not just weird lemony like citrus fruits but citrons.

          I think a secular Sukkot has not been embraced, because it’s a fair bit of work. Plus, not everyone has a space in which to build a sukkah. But I think if we gave it more publicity and were more lenient on the sukkah building rules, the idea of a secular build a fort, decorate a fort, and then spend several nights camping out in a fort holiday could really catch on. Don’t have a backyard? That’s okay, build a small fort for the kids in your dwelling. You can appropriate Sukkot and be lax about the rules. This is way too awesome a holiday to keep just to ourselves. (Personally, Sukkot and Purim are my favorite holiday celebrations although I’m getting pretty big into secular Halloween now that I just stay home and give stuff to kids, which turns out to be a lot more fun than going trick-or-treating. Yes, I am totally appropriating Halloween, which is in no way culturally my holiday, to give stuff to random neighborhood kids. I am okay with this. Although I still feel weird putting up decorations so that I can lure kids to my house so that I can give them toys. All during the rest of the year, this would be deemed kind of creepy.)

          1. I’ve never heard of Sukkot but I am now in love with it. How do the lemons fit in?

            And yes, giving out candy is great fun!! This year, my younger one came home early from trick-or-treating so was put in charge of handing out candy and ended up basically chasing kids down to dump candy in their bags (not at all weird in my neighborhood).

          2. It won’t let me nest further to reply, but here’s a basic explanation of Sukkot. A quick caveat, I’m not a religion expert or a scholar of Judaism, this is just what I remember being taught in Hebrew school as a kid. Bur it should cover the gist of things.

            Long ago our forefathers wandered in the desert for forty years. To remember and honor this, once a year we build a temporary dwelling and take our meals in it and sometimes sleep in it, because while they were wandering they could not set up permanent houses and had to live in temporary dwellings. It’s also a bit of a harvest festival (the Jewish calendar being lunar is weird and moves around a lot with the solar calendar, every so often doing the entire second month twice to correct for drift, but usually Sukkot ends up in late September). The lulav (a long green vegatable thing) and the etrog (a citron, which is a yellow citrus fruit like a large lemon that I actually have no idea what it tastes like) are traditionally held together and brought into the sukkah (the temporary dwelling aka fort!) to represent the harvest… I think there’s kind of a Thanksgivingesque feel to the holiday of being grateful for the bounty of the harvest. The lulav and etrog were chosen, because they are both things that grow in Israel, which is also why they are things that most Americans have very little familiarity with, since the climate is quite different.

            Anyhow, you build a sukkah in your back yard, if you are able to (or just visit the temple’s sukkah if your family is too lazy to build a sukkah and you get cheated out of the best holiday there is), but I would totally be cool with people improvising whatever forts they can manage with what they have. As I said, I think indoor forts for people who live in apartments or otherwise don’t have back yards is great too. Then you decorate it, generally with a planty/harvesty theme, but feel free to get more creative. Then you take the lulav and etrog together and shake them around or wave them around in the sukkah, but this really isn’t that important. Then eat meals in it and camp in it, weather permitting. Somehow pretend this is a hardship and you respect what ancestors went through, even though you still have access to indoor plumbing whenever you want it, and can go back inside whenever being out in a fort gets to you. Just like the charoset during Passover represents the bricks that our ancestors were forced to work with as slaves, and we are not supposed to draw the conclusion that our slavery was delicious. Tasty, tasty brick representations.

  75. This is my first set of holidays home in two years, and it will be MY first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my grandma even though the rest of the family had that marker two years ago (she died while I lived out of state and I never made it home for holidays because I didn’t have the money). I miss my best friend in Texas, and would honestly rather fly out to Austin to sit around at her work and do ride-alongs in the ambulance with her if it meant I could avoid having it be real that my grandma won’t ever ask me to make the Christmas ham again.
    My mom likes to start listening to Christmas carols the day after Thanksgiving, which makes me want to puncture my eardrums with a sharpened candy cane after working retail for so long.
    Worst of all, my dad is an even-more-abusive-than-normal asshole during the holidays, and dealing with him gives me PTSD-related nightmares.

  76. I don’t even know if I should be on the love Christmas or hate Christmas thread because actually I love Christmas itself, most of it, and it’s great for crafting. But I’m in a fragile place at the moment with severe depression and anxiety, and my biological family (especially my mum) have a way of pushing buttons and making everything worse. So I’m dreading the forced family aspect of it. I’m dreading the fact that my brother and his wife will not say a word of thanks for any gifts I give them or their children, because they never do – gifts disappear to their house and are never spoken of again. Anything my brother says will be geared towards reminding me that he considers me a little bit of a failure in life. I’m dreading my mum trying to make everything about her, and any gifts from her coming with an assumed caveat that she is a saint and angel of giving. And no thanks from her for any gifts either – it’ll be “oh, I see. Hmm.” *grimaces, and puts gift into pile.* My dad will get something really functional which I didn’t want but he is a sweetie who doesn’t really want to be there either, I suspect. My parents will have a huge row at some point when something doesn’t go the way my mum imagined it and she has a massive shouty tantrum. My sort-of sister (long story) will give everyone gifts that are really expensive and completely wrong for the people receiving them and I will be crushed with guilt for not loving the thing she’s spent a huge amount of money on. And there will be a ton of really unhelpful advice about how they think I should deal with my mental health problems, and a load of nagging from my mum about how I should really join a gym (which she’ll try and pretend is because it’s good for my mental health, but is actually because I’m fat – she’s really not that interested in my mental health). There’ll be a lot of pressure to say that I’m getting much better. I am actually getting better, but it’s a longer process than they want it to be.

    Therapy, while helpful, has only reinforced the idea that much of how my family interacts is bad for me. So I’m feeling particularly vulnerable right now about it. I want it to go away. I don’t have the energy to deal with this.

    But everything else about Christmas is exciting. My lovely inlaws will get me lovely things that they saw and thought of me, and I will love them, and they will thank me for the presents I get them, and there will be unconditional love and support. My work colleagues and friends will be similarly awesome. I’m currently telling my parents that I don’t want to do Christmas and I feel really guilty because the fact is that I do want to do Christmas. I just don’t want to give my family the opportunity to fuck it up.

  77. I am meeting my boyfriend’s parents Thanksgiving weekend (going after the holiday) and I am not especially looking forward to it. I’m reaping the results of my own preference for people with tense parental relationships (they understand my relationship with my mom better than people from healthy families) – his folks are quite Christian and quite conservative. We are staying with a friend because we wouldn’t be allowed to share a room in their home even though we’re both FUCKING 30. Oh, and they LOVED the Cosby Show so that should be fun.

    And then it got way, way worse yesterday – apparently bf’s mom found a lump in her breast and is getting it biopsied on Wednesday. She’s has had cancer before, when bf was 13, and he has many unhappy memories and emotions surrounding it. He was really upset last night and that was very hard to see. And even though I know it’s not at all related, I feel like an ass for telling people earlier this week that I was really hoping for something to come up to distract us from politics.

  78. Christmas isn’t as hard on me as it used to be, mostly because I refuse to celebrate it and spend the day totawwy awwone, to quote Moulin Rouge, but back when I worked retail and it SUCKED SO HARD because I was exhausted from college and my father was deployed and my mother was being her awful, special time ruining self, I started checking myself into a hotel instead of going home and spending Christmas day drunk in the tub.

    The hotel bar would always be empty except for one bored bartender and it was delightful. I highly recommend this.

  79. I am overall very much a denizen of the love winter holidays thread, but here’s something that’s starting to nag at me…

    Christmas this year will involve an even greater amount of family than usual, because it’s my aunt’s 70th birthday on the 30th and we will be going to her party. As it happens, I am lucky enough to be on pretty good terms with my family and have no toxic relatives (that I know of) so this is not really an issue and I am in fact in many ways looking forward to it… but, well…

    I have a speech disorder (I stutter), a fact which has always worried my parents more than it bothers me. About six years ago, they paid for me to do an intensive speech therapy course, which succeeded on the “making Kaz more fluent” front but was an absolute unqualified disaster on the “keep Kaz a happy confident person who is not ashamed of eir speech” front. I have basically spent the last six years trying to dismantle as much of it as I can in order to fix the damage to my psyche and trying to just stutter normally again without the massive stress and anxiety caused by speech therapy. Of late, there has been a cascade of success in this area and I’m stuttering quite noticeably again – especially in German, for some reason, which is what I speak with my family.

    I am deeply, deeply worried that I will end up being guilted about this by various relatives. My main worry is my parents, since I am still feeling super-guilty that I in effect wasted their money (I plan to offer to pay it back at some point, but it’ll have to wait until I’m no longer financially dependent on them). But I know that e.g. my aunt whose birthday it is was absolutely delighted!! by how fluent I was when she saw me at a family event right after I did the therapy. I have been mostly fluent for the past six years since, so the degree I’m most likely going to be stuttering when I’m there will come as a shock and I’m afraid that they’ll end up treating it as a relapse and pressure me about it. I have had a remarkably hard time getting through to people that fluency due to speech therapy might sound nice for people listening to me but came at such a high price in terms of my emotional wellbeing that I’m not willing to pay it anymore and just… I hope no one will comment on it but I can see this going badly and really denting the confidence about my speech I’ve finally managed to rebuild and I’m worried. 😦

    Also, annual issues to do with “where do I get the things I need for celebrating Christmas when I live in a country that does not celebrate Christmas the way I do?” Chances are I’m going to have to make some compromises and not have things that are important to me because I don’t have the time and energy to chase them up, which is always frustrating. At least I’m heading home early enough that I’ll get a full week of the full-blown Kaz Christmas experience there.

    1. I’m sorry you have to go through that.

      You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I’m trying to imagine what it’s like — is it sort of analogous, “I could be thin for Christmas, but only if I spent all my time acting out my hatred of my body every waking hour, so it’s better for me to be fat”?

      1. I think that works!

        Like, on the one hand, doing it properly requires a huge amount of effort both in terms of daily practice and constant monitoring of your speech during all conversation and in fact the resulting speech often sounds quite unnatural – in weight terms, that could be seen as analogous to a massive lifestyle change which entails a lot of dietary restrictions that mean every meal becomes a chore and you can’t eat most of the foods you like, possibly. And since this is so unpleasant and exhausting to do and since the *only* point to doing it is not to stutter, then logically if I do it despite all that stuttering (the alternative) must be really bad, right? Which means that this speech therapy led straight to feeling ashamed of my stutter, and since the stutter is an inseparable part of me and will come to the fore on occasions no matter *what* I do (much like weight coming back, stutter are extremely persistent!) that turns into a lot of terrible feelings about it and about myself, viewing stuttering as a failure on my part instead of a natural thing my brain happens to do, developing avoidance habits like substituting words you can say fluently for words you’ll stutter on, etc. All of which is way, way worse for me than stuttering openly ever was.

        1. Wow. I can imagine thinking, “I wanted to talk because I had something I wanted to communicate, but I’m not doing that because all I’m doing is listening to make sure I’m talking correctly.” How annoying that must be.

          1. … though now that I think of it, it’s possible to see what you did as an achievement on the level of mastering another language, so now you can speak two.

    2. I’m a little puzzled by your family’s attitude. Since you said your stutter wasn’t bothering you all that much, then it must not have been preventing you from saying what you needed to say. I knew a university professor that stuttered a lot but it didn’t actually prevent him from saying what he need to say, so none of us students paid any attention to it. For purposes of listening to him, it wasn’t any different someone having a strong accent.

      1. I get the impression that my mother in particular was pretty concerned that I was being naive that my stutter would cause no problems and would have an unpleasant awakening once I entered the adult world and started to look for jobs, especially because back then I wanted to become a lecturer myself. Like, when she was trying to get me into speech therapy she talked about employment discrimination and said that she wasn’t sure I realised how frustrating my stuttering was for the listener… which, wow, sounds pretty bad when I write it out like that, but I’m pretty sure it was a kind of “not sure Kaz realises eir speech is *at all* annoying to the listener” thing. Good intentions and in some ways I see what she was getting at, but… if I’m discriminated against in job interviews, eh. It will be frustrating but everyone’s got to play the hand they’re dealt and I’m working on ways to try and mitigate the first impression people might come away with (e.g. highlight my public speaking experience, address the issue frankly). And I actually do believe it’s more frustrating to listen to me than it is for me to actually stutter in quite a few ways but I don’t care. 😛 I’m the one who has to talk like this 24/7, I get to prioritise my own comfort over other people’s.

        As for the rest of the family, I think they have a tendency to just see the surface behaviour – speech that now outwardly resembles theirs – and assume that I only have to put in the same amount of effort they do to keep it up (i.e. none). When actually anytime I use technique to sound fluent it’s a Sisyphean task that consumes a lot of mental energy and willpower, but because that’s not apparent and very alien to their experience they just don’t get it even when I try to explain. (This is pretty generally true. First year after speech therapy was sooooo frustrating bc I was sinking so much energy into trying to keep this working and basically no one acknowledged this in favour of comments like “oh, I think you’re exaggerating about your speech, it’s not that bad, don’t put yourself down” or “I know what that’s like, I stutter sometimes too!” See also: endless endless endless magical cure storylines whenever you meet a character who stutters. People are *invested* in the idea that stutters can just up and vanish if you try hard enough/gain self-esteem/confront your traumatic past/realise that because you can sing fluently you must be able to speak fluently too/a thousand rage-inducing tropes go here. It’s creepy!)

    3. If you felt comfortable doing so, I think you would get a lot of mileage out of “The techniques I was using to control my stuttering were making me really, really anxious and were very draining on my concentration, and I wasn’t able to function properly. And then my stuttering started to return, so I went to my doctor. He/she recommended that I don’t go back to speech therapy because of the anxiety and other issues, and to just speak in my natural tone for the time being.” (The time being … forever).

  80. I’m going to be all over the Love The Holidays thread, but … my (not-unproblematic but deeply beloved) father died in August. So Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be bittersweet without him. I just miss him so much.

  81. See, I like Thanksgiving. Aaaand that’s about it. The thing I like about Thanksgiving is 1. the food and drink, and 2. I’m a hunter, so there’s a lot of that going on. We head Up North to the bf’s family’s place. It’s mostly an OK time, IF I can avoid listening to any of his exceptionally Tea Party Conservative family members wax on about how evil the President/government at large is. When I do have to listen to it, they’re generally perplexed that I am capable of both being an outdoorsperson and also being a wild hippie socialist. Bf doesn’t stick up for me because he agrees with them, and generally thinks I’m always wrong anyway. And then they just go right back to thinking I’m one of them. So it could be worse, I suppose. But it’s still not cool to be in “suffer silently, or fight a losing Words Battle every 40 minutes” mode for days at a time.

    Though I could do away with all the praying over food, since I am also an atheist. This year, I hope to avoid his family’s Christmas, and just go see my own family down in good ol’ IL. Drink beers, chase toddlers, and be around people who don’t think me and everyone like me deserves to be simultaneously kicked out of the country and burned in Hell. Also there is no praying/religious anything with my family, which is a wonderful relief. When I’m around bf’s family, I feel like I’m on eggshells. It’s exhausting.

    I loved the Holidays when I didn’t have to navigate bf’s ridiculous family. There’s a rising chance we won’t be going up there at all this year, what with bf’s job being bananas right now. I’m sad to miss the fun hunting and pretty scenery, but also feeling intense relief to not have to deal with it, especially with how the election went earlier this month. So much “and then we WON AND IT’S FOREVER SUCK IT LIBERALS” and general worshipping of Scott Walker. Ugh.

  82. Normally I’m all about Christmas/Holidays…but there’s just been a development in my family that seriously has me trying to decide if I should go home at all…and if it’s safe for me to go home. My mother quit her job a few days ago. Which shouldn’t be a big deal (though the loss of cash flow is going to put the pinch on my folks), except that not having a job makes her very unhappy. And when she gets unhappy….she gets very abusive. Specifically, she gets abusive towards me. We’ve put so much time and energy into rebuilding our relationship after the hell she put me through as a child (growing up with a parent who made no bones about how much she hated you did a number on me) but there’s still a part of me that is absolutely terrified of her and what she might do to me if I show up for Thanksgiving/Christmas. I want to see my family, I desperately want to be able to go home and hug my little brother and bullshit with my sister, but I’m so afraid.

    When I found out that she quit I walked out of class, locked myself in a bathroom, and sobbed and stress vomited for three hours. I have to decide before next Tuesday where I’m going to do for Thanksgiving and I still have no idea what I should do.

    1. Wow, that sounds like a lose-lose for you. What a tough call to make. I wish you safety & strength & peace & pleasant interactions with your siblings. Any chance of going home but staying elsewhere, where you can see your brother and sister on neutral ground?

  83. So, right, every year I spend Christmas with a small group of friends, which is the best ever. Except that one of them (who I’ve known for twenty years) died unexpectedly at the start of October. And then I had an exam five days later that I couldn’t reschedule for a course I can’t retake (I am not expecting good results on that), and then I finally had the mini breakdown that I’ve been due for months on the grounds that at work I’ve been doing the job of at least three for over a year, and now I’m stressing about Christmas presents even though I know everyone will understand, and…

    And Christmas will be great, but my friend won’t be there.

  84. I either got depressed, or got significantly MORE depressed for each of the last five winters. This winter, so far, I haven’t. There have been points when I thought it was closing in on me again, but I’ve managed to slip free. And that makes sense, because my life is going much better. There are exciting work opportunities, I might, finally, perhaps, have a decent roof over my head very soon, and I’ve been kissing boys.

    So this is much better. But it still sometimes feels like I’m scaling a sheer cliff face I’ve fallen down five times, and though I’ve got better equipment and climbing skills this time, the drop is still there, again, and I still COULD fall.

    I DON’T want the year to end. I don’t want it to be 2015. Because 2014 was pretty good and in 2015 I’ll turn 36 and (unless things pan out with some of these people I’ve been kissing, which is possible, after all) still the perpetually single childless one and I’d just like to not be having conversations with myself about that any more. And this Christmas NEITHER of my brothers will be home because they’ll be with their wives so my insecurities in that area feel slightly … underlined.

    I want it to go back to, say, July 2014 and stay there.

    So, I’m not dreading it, exactly. But I’m bracing myself a bit.

  85. Just a reminder that in addition to this site, you can celebrate Dysfunctional Families Day all year round at Making Light ( The current DFD thread is titled “Witnessing.”

  86. Not strictly holiday related, I guess, but my job isn’t paying me enough and while I’m pretty sure I can make rent this month if I spend literally no money, I’m already worried about next month and don’t even talk to me about buying Christmas presents for ANYONE. My boyfriend seems to want to fight with me about everything and while I’m also pretty sure if I am short on rent he’ll cover me (we live together after all) he’ll probably give me no end of heck for being short and not finding a new job (although I have been trying my ass off) and yesterday I got a call from my dad that he’s in the hospital (he’s fine, he’ll be fine) and I’m supposed to go visit him today and my anxiety is so high that I’m 99% sure I can’t do it by myself but I don’t really have anyone (other than boyfriend) to call up and ask to drive me there. Also the very vast majority of my family lives outside of the state and I have seen them one time in the past five years because I work in retail and we don’t get holidays. And I’m sad about that too, even though my gramma drives me a little nuts. And my granddad has Alzheimers and I’m scared to death he won’t remember me. I guess that’s enough, right?

  87. My dad’s relatives don’t like us (and mostly vice versa), so after he died we don’t hear from them any more. That’s fine. My mom’s side….well, my mom desperately wants to be close to her sister and her sister does NOT want to be close to her. My aunt’s family is…they are their own little group and nobody else can get in. They still invite us over at Thanksgiving, but refuse to for Christmas (now that we aren’t obligated to go to dad’s side), and they generally ignore us while we’re there, and in the last few years they don’t want to let Mom help out in the kitchen, which makes her hysterically sobbing sad for the next 3 days after Thanksgiving. Basically, we’re tolerated, but they make it clear that we’re third tier (at best) with them. We’re not the sort of people they would choose to associate with if we weren’t related, basically.

    On the one hand, tolerated is better than the alternative. On the other hand, I hate having to potentially deal with Mom’s hurt feelings drama for the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend. And as for Christmas, we are holiday orphans that nobody wants and seven years later, we still haven’t really figured out how to handle the situation. Going to some other random person’s family dinner? Ugh. Any other friends who will take us on a regular basis? Nope. Hung out with a Jewish friend of mine one year and that was the best, but then she moved to the other coast. I have to come up with some way to entertain and distract her from Teh Lonely, but I pretty much can’t do it alone and I have to.

    Ugh. I like pre-Christmas just fine, but actual Christmas on the 24th and 25th is…ugh.

  88. Sigh. Last Christmas, my husband was recovering from extensive but successful cancer surgery. A few weeks ago we were told it’s back. Every time I think of how happy and hopeful we were last year, I just want to howl. Plus chemo to look forward to after Xmas. I’m so tired of all the pain and fear of this disease and I don’t think I can bear all the Xmas crap this year. I’ve never really liked it but this year is the worst.

    1. All my sympathies. We’re mid-chemo ourselves right now. I hope he tolerates his treatment well, and that it does everything it’s supposed to and more.

  89. My mom has decided that, yet again, despite the fact that they are repeatedly awful to her (and everyone else) my two completely horrible aunts are yet again invited to Thanksgiving because faaaaaamily. And I have to decide between the lesser of two evils and figure out if it’s worse that I go and watch my mom run headlong, yet again, into their resentment of my mother’s being well-off and not-divorced-five-times at them, be terrible to everyone else, and then watch her be more okay with that than deciding she (and we) is worth more than putting up with that. Or, conversely, I let their shitty behavior drive me from spending the holidays with the family I love. Either way, I resent the fuck out of them.

  90. I don’t look forward to the holidays that much any more. Haven’t had a Christmas with my own family for more than fifteen years, and the loss of the childhood family traditions wears on me. Even if I went back to the ‘States for Christmas, it wouldn’t be the same because half the people I used to celebrate it with have been gone for years, and I haven’t even really come to terms with the idea that my grandparents aren’t in their house any more. So the holidays since I emigrated have been spent with the family of my ex-husband when “ex” was not the operative term and with my Fiance’s family.

    Partner’s family is large, and has some young children, which means lots of presents must be obtained and wrapped and presented at family gatherings which are too many people and too many stampeding small-and-screamings that have no concept of ‘Please don’t climb on Auntie Bluething’. I just wish it weren’t all so expensive, and I’d be thrilled to be able to bow out of the whole extended not-quite-inlaws-yet present giving thing entirely if I could – to be able to say “Partner and I can exchange gifts, but we are not obligated to give gifts to anyone else, and will not be expecting gifts from anyone else either.” And to be able to say “Hey, this year, we’re not driving down for the holidays, we’re going to have our own days off at home with the critters, make our own Christmas dinner and just be able to relax for once.”

    On the other hand, going down to visit the notinlaws this year may be a distraction from the brainweasels that are still running around shrieking about how my long-distance partner was going to visit last year for Christmas, a very much anticipated event, especially after I’d gone to the expense of visiting him the previous January. Didn’t happen, and he cut off all contact just after New Year’s. Still feeling pretty crappy about all of that and yeah, it’d be nice just to fast-forward to February or something. Skip the whole situation.

    1. My experience with buying presents for quantities of small children I don’t know well was like this: Oriental trading company, paper gift bags, 5 or 6 toys that come in quantities (like, a dozen kazoos) and then present the children with a gift bag full of little toys each. I am an evil person so I made sure to put a noisemaker in the bag so you get a bunch of 7 year olds running around with horns or kazoos and that gives me pleasure.

  91. 2014 so far:

    Found out that I needed to go another semester to finish up my bachelor’s degree, which meant graduating this winter. I quit my job to focus on my studies, my first time unemployed in six years… and it wasn’t enough, as my executive functioning issues screwed me yet again and I had to drop a couple classes to keep up with the rest. One semester turned into two. I’ll be turning 26 this coming May… my peers are starting families, finishing graduate school, etc. and I’m still in school.

    Last May, my dad learned his cancer from a couple years ago is coming back (still too small to detect), and not ten minutes later my mom found out the lump in her breast was Stage 1. Radiation’s only 30% effective for my dad’s, so he’s waiting until it shows up on scans before they target it.

    My cousin graduated medical school top of his class, got engaged, and got his residency at Walter Reed (fiance’s is John Hopkins). During a vacation in the jungle, he had a ziplining accident and broke his femur in three places. A week before his residency started, he goes into Walter Reed as a patient, and it’s taking multiple surgeries to get him back to somewhat normal functioning.

    In July, my dad checks into the ER for severe abdominal pain. While my mom is getting her last radiation treatment, they find he has a ruptured bowel–complications from similar conditions killed both of his parents. I took night shifts at the hospital to watch him, and had to help my extremely exhausted mom at home, at least until my sister, brother in law, and an uncle could come in to help. Cue a week of hoping the hole will seal by itself, and when it doesn’t, he has to have emergency surgery to drain the infection and exteriorize the colon.

    The day of the surgery, the closest uncle to our family on my mom’s side called to offer support, and to say as soon as he was done driving his youngest daughter around to colleges out east, he’d fly in and help take shifts. The next day, he had a massive heart attack while driving and passed away; my cousin was able to keep the car from veering into oncoming traffic and only had minor injuries from the crash. Family that was helping or preparing to help had to shift to my aunt and two cousins. I’ve lost extended family before, but this was the first time I’d experienced such a close loss.

    We weren’t able to attend the funeral, because my dad was still in recovery. He was in the hospital for 18 days, and it took nearly two months before he’d healed enough to resume semi-normal activity.

    A few days after he got home, we get word that his uncle (my great-uncle) had passed away. I only remember meeting him a few times, but he’d send those Re: Fwd: Re: Re: Fwd: emails a couple times a week, and some of them were pretty funny. I regretted not staying in better contact with him… until a couple days ago, when my dad’s older brother was going through his effects and found basically soft-core pornography of boys on his laptop, including pictures of my dad’s younger brother’s two kids (from wife’s previous, likely also abusive, marriage). Said uncle’s response was basically, “Well, they don’t show signs of abuse, so there’s nothing wrong.” and is content to stick his head in the sand and pretend his family is happy and perfect. We’re suspecting there may be abuse going on in their home, but we don’t have any leads or evidence.

    So, yeah. I don’t know how I’m still functional. I really don’t, but I am, and I’m trying to keep going forward. After I take a few of the pluses, 2014 can go die in a fucking fire and piss off for all time.

    Next crisis?

    1. Wow – what a shitteous, horrifying year for you. I am so sorry for the pain and grief you and your family have gone through. Jedi Hugs if you’d like them, from this corner of the internet. 2014 can fuck right off and I hope 2015 holds better times for you.

  92. Mer. I could also post on the other thread because I tend to revel in the holiday season, but Thanksgiving next week is shaping up to be really Not Fun. My mother-in-law and her family experienced a devastating family tragedy about 50 years ago when one of her sisters was found brutally murdered, and despite years of dragging it out they have still not solved the case. Apparently, authorities recently exhumed the body and contacted my husband’s aunt about it, who failed to tell her other sisters because hubby & I got married recently and she didn’t want to be a bummer during wedding time, or whatever. So apparently my MIL found out about the exhumation ON THE INTERNET and is shocked and traumatized all over again, plus all kinds of grossed out at how she found out about it. Just horrible. We are supposed to attend Thanksgiving at the aunt’s house next week and I am sure it will be lots of hurt feelings, and sad feels all over again at having this be re-brought up…just awful and heartbreaking and even though I’m officially part of the family now, I still feel like an intruder to their grief.

    Any recommendations on a good red wine to go with family tragedy?

    1. A mostly-dry Syrah goes best with quiet contemplation and regret, I think. Or get a box of the cheap stuff and play Drama Bingo, depending on which way the family tends.

      Seriously, though, I’m sorry to hear it. What a terrible situation.

  93. I am relatively holiday-season neutral; now that I’m out of retail I don’t have to hear forty thousand versions of Santa Baby, so that’s fine, and I mostly enjoy horrifying people by telling them I don’t celebrate Christmas. The thing that stresses me out more than just about anything is *present buying*. I am awful at it. Seriously terrible. I always manage to get something that’s too much or not enough or is just entirely the wrong thing. Even with how little I celebrate anything with anyone I still feel like I have to do reciprocal gifts and it stresses me out so badly. I usually just give my boyfriend money and tell him to buy something because he’s much better at it than me, but it doesn’t work with people he doesn’t know…

    I still have nightmarish visions of my best friends turning on me forever because I got them the wrong thing. It’s not helped *at all* by people telling stories about worst gift ever and how it sends ‘a message’ if it’s the wrong thing and aaaaah.

    1. That sounds really stressful, and I was wondering, if you don’t have one of those weird ‘you have to magically intuit what I want for a present or we’re not actually friends’ situations going on – which I feel a lot of pressure for, even though my family does ask for lists, but. Gift politics, they are the worst – would it be too awkward to ask your friends what they want? It does ruin some of the surprise, but at least then you wouldn’t have to deal with the brainweasels of terrible friend-dom in picking a gift at random and shoving it at them. I’ve been in that situation on both sides and honestly the pressure is terrible no matter which side it is.

  94. This year might actually be easier than most years for me, since I’m going to be going in for surgery (or surgeries, they’re not sure yet and won’t be able to tell until I’m opened up because the scans keep being inconclusive) so I’ll be spending the holiday season unconscious, in surgery, or on strict bed rest so I don’t tear my stitches and have my guts fall out. Mostly I’ll just be glad to get it over and done with and have the constant pain go away, even if I am going to have a huge scar and probably be stuck in bed for two months or so recovering.

    Of course some of my friends think they’re being helpful sending me stuff like statistics on surgical errors that caused severe damages to the patient or death, talking about how much it’d hurt if I woke up during surgery and how often that happens, ect., but I mostly don’t listen to them anyway. At least this year it’s not so much “What do you mean you’re not going to visit your family? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE A FAMILY?! EVERYONE DOES! EVEN IF THEY’RE MONSTROUS ASSHATS THAT ABANDONED YOU AFTER HORRIFICALLY ABUSING YOU THEY’RE STILL FAAAAAAAMILY!” Ugh. I hate that. Plus, I can’t stand a lot of holiday music, it gets grating. Especially that one song ‘baby it’s cold outside’ or whatever, I HATE that one! It’s like, that guy is clearly a predator, RUN. RUN AND DON’T STOP RUNNING.

    1. Something that might be of minor comfort: Waking up during surgery wouldn’t necessarily hurt. I woke up during mine and didn’t feel a thing, because even though the general anaesthesia was wearing off, the regional anaesthesia was still in effect, so my entire lower body (it was a hip surgery) was still numb and paralyzed (and I’m pretty sure the doctors were a lot more careful to keep that one going than they were keeping me asleep). Waking up was actually quite funny, because I was woozy and high on meds; I remember trying to sit up so I could see what the surgeon was doing down there (even though I could barely even move my head and there was a curtain in front of my face blocking my view) and asking the nurse watching over me a bunch of nonsensical questions.

      1. Thank you for the encouragement! I imagine I’ll probably have some interesting things to say when I’m on pain meds or just waking up or something….I am curious as to what kind of stuff I would say, but at the same time hope that no one has a camera on me at the time because I know that someone would probably use that as blackmail material. XD

  95. I had my holiday plans figured out, but now I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I am comforted by reading everyone else’s stories and realize that if you have an abusive family your holidays are invariably complicated.

    For Christmas I’m not going to see my maternal grandparents as usual. I refuse to be near my Mom right now because it doesn’t feel safe and she’s going to there house so I won’t be there. That was softened because I was going to spend Christmas meeting my partners family, but now he can’t travel because of work.

    I have a plane ticket for next week to go to spend time with both sets of grandparents (they live in the same small town), my Dad (divorced from my Mom), my 6 and 9 year old half siblings, my cousins, and my aunts and uncles. Its a flexible plane ticket, though, and I’m thinking about not going. I’ve been working on college admissions essays (yay going back to school in my twenties!) and doing intense therapy around being abused by my Mom. I don’t want to see my Mom’s side of the family right now because my main impulse is to scream at them about how abusive my Mom is and how could they have let this happen ?!?!?!?!?!? Really I don’t feel like I can talk about the abuse to either side of my extended family, really just my Dad.

    The cherry on top is that I’m not out as genderqueer to anyone except my Dad, and he’s still really bad about calling me by my proper name. So I’d have to put up with an entire week of being called by my birth name and being mis-gendered. That’s stressful enough, but combined with feelings about abuse its just becoming a giant pile of NOPE.

  96. As a goth teen (and non-Christian) I always liked singing “We Three Kings”, as I have a deep enough voice to get Balthazar’s part.
    “Myrrh is mine; it’s bitter perfume;
    Breathes a life of gathering gloom: —
    Sorrowing, sighing,
    Bleeding, dying,
    Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”
    Very Christmssy.

    1. I remember looking up that verse in the library because that song was in the Claymation Christmas special, BUT they left out the myrrh verse, and to lil’ me it was glaringly obvious. So I figured it must be forbidden somehow and looked it up. And then I was bummed that they’d left out the sad verse.

  97. I feel like I should be in the other thread because: 1. my family likes me, I like them, and we get on well (sub-note to 1.: my parents and I have been developing a set of boundaries that work okay without a great deal of fighting, so yay) 2. I like Thanksgiving food 3. I get to see my two-year-old niece, who is p. cool 4. I am one of those sort-of horrible people who can make fairly significant mistakes and still be supported financially.

    But . . . every holiday I have been back for over the past three to five years has just felt like . . . sort of a referendum on all the ways I failed that year. This year it’s that I’m taking an extra semester to finish my master’s degree, something that I am incredibly burnt out on. I’m back in the town where I grew up, and everyone I run into seems to want to know what I’m doing next, but


    Right now I’m just babbling out some things about the next two months, but I want a way of saying, “Hey, I know you mean well, but that’s not something I feel like discussing.” It’s hard for me not to hear judgment in any question on my future plans, when all I can think about right now is all the plans I fucked up in the last couple months. I just want people to leave me alone until I’m not so raw. ((And it seems like everyone has a weirdly loaded way of asking stuff — “So when are you going to get a REAL job?” “Can’t you stay in one place for a while?” NEVER AND NO ARRRRRGH FUCK OFF WITH YOUR SWELL INTENTIONS. ))

    When I’m home for the holidays I get this enormous feeling pressing down on me: like I owe an apology to everyone who supported me while I was growing up, because they believed I would be fulfilling a certain kind of dream. Then I get into the reflexive cycle of: I’m stupid for feeling this way, but I do feel this way, so I feel stupider for feeling this way, but it doesn’t make me feel less this way. . .

    Trying to make the most of it until spring, I guess.

    1. Word. I visit my in-laws during the holidays, who are fantastic, but we are surrounded by hometown friends who made the safer career choices that brought financial stability, who bought a home, who have babies and have checked all the boxes for adulthood. We have none, and it definitely generates anxiety for me.

    2. Jedi hugs. Feeling like you’re a failure/being made to feel like you’re a failure because you’re not living up to others’ expectations of you is the WORST.

      You are not stupid for taking the weirdly loaded “what are you doing next year?” questions poorly. (Because on one hand, people are interested because they want to know what’s happening in your life. On the other hand, that’s not the only reason they’re interested and like, we all know that and that context makes things weird. That’s not your fault that people are being weird about things. It is squarely their fault that they’re asking probing loaded questions that they know are probing and loaded.)

      I’ve found it helpful to get in touch with people who aren’t as “respectable” and/or don’t have their 5, 10, and 20 year life plans planned out. It’s a nice reminder that you’re not the only one who doesn’t know what’s happening and that also, even if you have some setbacks, you will survive and it’s not the end of the world. These less-respectable people are probably also people who are not being weirdly passive-aggressively about judging your life which is refreshing.

      I also think that if you’re the type of person to embrace the weird, it’s a good way to get those probing, judgey people to shut up.

    3. I can relate to a good amount of this. I have a lot that looks good on the outside, and although I have mental health disorders and such, I do have a great support system for the most part, especially financially and all of that. I should probably be on a different thread too, even though there is still some dread for the holidays. (that almost rhymed)

      I can relate to what you said about the whole plans thing: right now, I’m working at my mom’s company and doing a lot of self-reflecting/therapy/life coaching work, and I get the “REAL job” question all of the time, as well as feeling guilty that I am 25 and “still” living at home. (I moved back to my hometown too, almost 2 years ago after I finished undergrad). I was about to get an apartment but I backed out because it was WAY too much money and I don’t have a true reason to moving out other than unnecessary pressure I was putting on myself. I always feel constantly pressured like you mentioned to have all of the answers. I graduated nearly 2 years ago and feel a lot of pressure to grow up and move on. I really hate how people downplay my job as not being “real” because it is not an 8-5 corporate job. I also had a lot of creative ideas that I was going to involve people in, such as a photoshoot, but then depression and anxiety (and especially my ADHD) got in the way of me actually planning and executing it all out. “So how’s your photoshoot going?” I feel like I am constantly making up excuses for trying to keep up with others’ expectations as well; even something that is not even required of me.

      Something I tell people is “just focusing on myself and working” or “just trying to figure things out” / “pushing the pause button” – and that kind of covers it. Still sounds like a lame answer but I don’t know what else to say. Not sure if something like that could work for you. I feel so lame and behind all of the time. Just remind yourself – if you can – that you are doing things at your own pace. I am not in grad school yet, but from what I hear, I would probably be just as burned out as you are. It seems like one of those things that people can’t understand without being in it. I think it’s great that you are taking things at your own pace – that way, you get more out of it – and that moving back was the right decision for you at this point in time. I am terrible at backing up my reasons for doing things, but I think keeping your answers simple and then maybe changing the subject or something could be helpful.

  98. I have been no contact with my birth family for almost twenty years, due to them being abusive. And it’s going to stay that way.

    And I’m 3000 miles away from them and feeling a pain so deep I can’t stand it – I wish I had a family. And I don’t. And that’s just how it is. My grandparents are all dead. My uncles are dead. My siblings are – broken in ways that aren’t safe for me to be in contact with. I never got to know my cousins back when I lived on the other coast.

    Family of choice is a great idea, but I moved from City A to City B about four years ago and still haven’t rebuilt that. And that feels overwhelming and awful when I think about it.

    I hate the holidays. I hate gatherings. I hate every single additional reminder that no, I don’t get to have a family like other folks, and no I never will, and I can’t bring that up with luckier folks, because it brings them down, and this is just what my life is going to be. I feel so isolated I can’t bear it.

    I hate this time a lot.

    1. I hear you about rebuilding your family of choice. I moved across country for grad school many years ago, and because I’d had so many wonderful friends back home I thought I’d easily build up that chosen family here, too. That didn’t happen. I spent a long time feeling horribly lonely and isolated here. I did build that chosen family, and I have it now, but it definitely takes time–more time than you think it will.

      I’m sorry you feel so isolated. I hope you’ll at least spend some time during the holidays doing nice things for yourself.

      1. Thank you for such a kind and thoughtful response. I have sympathy for your move and for grad school – been there, done that too, and it’s really challenging to get through that.

        I’m glad you did get there eventually. That’s awesome.

    2. My sympathies. I’m likely much younger than you – there isn’t much of anything I could have done 20 years ago – but I agree that building a “chosen family” also involves a lot of luck. (I’m not a huge fan of the term – my family was so awful, and they ARE my family. Why would I sign myself up for another one when “friends” has always been a positive group for me?) There are a handful of people I’d love to have a small gathering with, but they each have varying circumstances that mean that isn’t possible. Whether it’s personal health issues or other families/chosen families requiring their time, there always seem to be… other priorities, I suppose, or places to be.

      I often feel like this strong Team You group is a myth, especially when your life has been dramatically different from most others.

  99. I’m just hoping I can survive this Thanksgiving without my parents trying to (1) get me to prove how Christian I am or (2) trying to convert me to Christianity.

    I hope I don’t have to use the power of, “I have a rental car. If you’re mean to me, I will leave. Possibly the state.”

  100. My mom died in June and I’m not looking forward to the holidays. I went home to visit my step-dad a few weeks ago for the first time since the funeral and it was … surreal. My brother and sister and I have to all be there at the same time so we can go through some of Mom’s things and knowing that is ahead of me, I feel like curling up and hibernating until it all goes away. But I know that won’t help, no matter how tempting it seems. I just don’t want to have to deal with adjusting to the new shape of my world; especially knowing that the new bits of the shape are permanent. The adjusting has been happening in the background, as it does, but I miss her so much. We didn’t have a perfect relationship, but it was generally good. I’ve also got the whole depression and SAD thing going on and that makes me particularly anxious/worried about how I’m going to handle things and what the emotional things are even going to be.

  101. I’m both looking forward to and dreading December – looking forward to because doing holiday traditions with my family is nice and comforting and nostalgic, but dreading because I’m struggling with an eating disorder and in a lot of cases Christmas stuff involves food stuff. I was dealing with the ED last December as well, and that went alright, but I’m not in the same stage of recovery as I was last year. Right now I’m doing fairly well at eating normal food and eating just to keep hunger away, but doing so requires all my spoons and there aren’t any left to eat extra stuff like cakes and sweets (whereas last year I employed the strategy of eating too little real food to make room in my Calorie Finances for the sweets, which is obviously not a good idea).

    An option is of course to do all the holiday stuff and just not eat the food I don’t feel like I can eat, but that’s not really satisfactory, since I do LIKE those foods a lot and the healthy part of me WANTS to eat them – the ED just doesn’t. And just the knowledge of the food being there (or having the potential of being there) is distressing, so I’ll have a hard time either way.

    (I’m especially nervous because a common holiday tradition here is having a countdown-to-Christmas-Eve-calendar with a piece of chocolate on each day until the 24th, and my family already got one for each of us – right now, eating a piece of chocolate makes me feel like I can’t eat more than the absolute minimum I need to survive for the next two weeks; I can’t even imagine how I’ll react to eating a piece every single day for 3+ weeks)

  102. I’ve needed this thread. Thank you Captain!

    My parents are divorced, so once I moved out, I had to pick one parent over the other for Christmas day. A few years ago, I spent it with my Dad. He dragged me to his (new) girlfriend’s house for a Christmas party. I had refused to go, saying that I wanted to spend a low key Christmas at home with him, but he didn’t care. Everyone at this party was around retirement age. I was a college student at the time.

    My Dad spent most of the time showing me off to these complete strangers. When we all sat down for dinner, he told blatant lies about our family, shared details about my mother’s cancer treatment, and ranted about my irresponsible brother. I spent the rest of the party in a separate room, humiliated.

    I haven’t been back home in a year and a half. I’m spending Christmas with my mother (we once went out for curry on Christmas-whatever she and I do, it will be fun and to our liking). I haven’t told my Dad that I’ll be back in the area (my parents live a few towns away from one another). I’d like to spend some time with him before New Years, but I’m worried. I want to be able to see him on my own terms, but he makes it very difficult (even when it’s not Christmas-he has “surprised” me by inviting his “girlfriends” to dinner, when it was supposed to be a dinner for the two of us,etc.). Any ideas for how to approach this situation?

    1. “surprise” him maybe so he doesn’t have time to counter-surprise with some weird social thing you didn’t sign up for? that’s all i got =(

  103. Hooboy. I guess I should be counting my blessings because I’m lucky compared to a lot of people here, but the last few sets of holidays (at cousins’ houses, alternating) have been a bit stressful. I am often glad our family is dying out.
    Me, retired, eking along on a disability pension; Mom, almost 90 and in better shape than anyone; annoying aunt, centenarian, who can be nice but sometimes criticizes anything in sight, and thinks I’m a diseased and defective freak because I’m more into things and ideas than people–I argued her to a standstill about it in 1990 and she imitated an armadillo; older and richer cousin #1, who can suddenly turn snarky and tyrannical to anyone in sight and sometimes it’s me although I do manage to deal some pushback sometimes, and older and richer cousin #2 who is all right but is busy taking care of centenarian aunt. Said cousins must have Egyptian blood in them, because when they cook a turkey it is mummified. They drink, play games, buy each other all manner of silly useless crap with piles of wasted paper higher than the local mountains, and titter like subordinate hyenas when anything unfortunate is discussed, which is a major cognitive dissonance for me. However, they give me gift cards so I go and try to be nice while still not letting anyone get away with crap. [I give them artwork I make and also serendipitously found books from thrift stores; it seems to go over well.] The really abusive ones are dead now, and their badness has been acknowledged. Also, each cousin has a cat.
    I don’t have enough friends to go visit. If I was rich, no, I wouldn’t discard the relatives. But I wonder what someone is going to spring on me this time, and how I can be ready for it.
    Still, this is my favorite part of the year, partly because I have personal holidays [anniversaries that are hard to explain] coming up as well.
    I just wish there was a movement for defending “thing-oriented” introverts–we aren’t all materialist jerks–and by defending I do NOT mean lumping us in with the autistics, which isn’t fair to them either.

  104. Mine is not nearly as bad as some people’s, it’s more just the annoyance of, “WTF will my in-laws come up with this time?” They have this weird thing where my husband is the black sheep, the butt of jokes, the one poked on like the lowest chicken in the chicken coop, but it’s subtle and random enough that he doesn’t want to stop doing holidays with them. Individually, for the most part, they’re all fine with him one-on-one, but get them together into a pack and they turn into that – a pack. For years, growing up, he was told that he fucked up buying gifts every year, but he’s actually a very good gift giver – they had just slotted him into that role, regardless of reality. Once I came along, it turned into a referendum on the fact that we weren’t having kids. One year, they were so awful about it that I started getting upset during dinner. He asked them to stop, they didn’t, so he told them to stop, they didn’t, so he told me to get my coat and we left in the middle of dinner. I couldn’t believe we did that, but I so enjoyed the elation of “We JUST DID THAT” driving all the way home. Last year, for some reason, no one got him any gifts. They got ME gifts, they got everyone else gifts, but they didn’t get him any gifts. It was so awkward and awful, and everyone acted like there was nothing going on. It was like he was invisible. So this year, he asked his family if we could skip gifts, except for his sister’s kids. His parents (retired, fixed income) were very happy. His brother said, “I already bought you something, but if you want to give me $20 to cover it, you can have it”, and his sister is sulking that he’s ruined Christmas.

    This is already on top of the fact that during a visit home this summer, his brother went off on a rant on how my husband didn’t deserve to have a wife when his brother did not have one (see Vending Machine Theory of Woman Distribution) and ended by saying – in front of me – that he’s never liked me and that he finds me obnoxious and the fact that I love his brother is ridiculous. This will be the first time since the Rant that I’ll see him, and I’m not sure how I’m going to handle it. Right now I’m going for Polite Facade of Politeness, which results in a lot of “Hmm, interesting” and “ok” and “that may be true” responses. But still. The years where we both got to work the holidays for double time and a half were awesome, and I miss those days.

    1. Ugh, these people sound awful! I’m sorry that you and your husband have to deal with them, and hope that whatever they come up with this year isn’t too horrible.

  105. I dislike Christmas because of a really stupid reason that I’m embarrassed to admit. But the whole Christmas season makes me desperately miss an ex of mine. It just reminds me of all the stuff we did and how much I liked being with them and the little traditions we had. It’s been 3 years since we broke up and something about the holidays really brings this out every year. It’s so stupid because it was so long ago but I still have really painful moments. I wish I could fall asleep after Halloween and wake up sometime in March. That would be great.

    I just miss them so much.

  106. I live almost across the street from the Walgreens, which is normally almost *too* delightfully convenient in terms of the near-instant availability of more chocolate. But for the next month, I will be able to hear the Salvation Army bell-ringers every time I leave the house. It’s just lucky it’s locked-window weather because otherwise I suspect I would be able to hear them in the house as well. The annoyance factor of the noise is compounded by the anger at the Salvation Army existing in the first place.

  107. I’d love some Christmas/family advice right now, just in case anyone is feeling generous.

    I have a fraught history with my parents; I remember them as being very emotionally abusive, they are certain that they were excellent parents dealing with a very problematic child. (Which is definitely true. I am unpleasant, socially inept, rude, self-centred, and have achieved very little in my life, whereas my parents have sacrificed a great deal for me, especially since they didn’t even want to keep me). Everyone around them sees them as lovely, charming people and excellent parents. They probably are. But every time I have to see or speak with them I feel horrible about myself and my life and I want to distance myself from that feeling. They insist that any bad feelings on my behalf are both false and manipulative (they’re probably right) and I can’t convince them otherwise (and have trouble trying, since on top of all my bad qualities, I am a chronic people-pleaser and innantely adverse to conflict. I’m basically a human-shaped pile of flaws and failings).

    Despite multiple attempts to evict me from the house when I was younger, now that I’ve moved to another state my parents want to see and talk to me an awful lot. Their yearly visits are exhausting and demoralising to me, even though I have No Good Reason for why I feel this way.

    I just told my parents that I wasn’t coming home for Christmas this year and they burst into tears. They are genuinely so sad and upset and broken-hearted, and I have never felt so worthless.

    So, what do you do when enforcing your boundaries hurt good people who don’t deserve it? I feel like ‘don’t enforce the boundary’ is the obvious answer.

    1. Jedi hug and virtual big fluffy comforter, first of all.

      Second, social ineptitude is a curse, fellow member of the club, but–who tells you you’re unpleasant? Who tells you you’re rude? Who tells you you’re self-centered? How do you know this about yourself? Is it a case of you noticing yourself doing something wrong and saying to the person, “I’m sorry, that was rude,” and then finding yourself doing the same thing again? Because that’s human. Or is it a tape running in your head? If so, who put it there? You or someone else? And why? Depression is one possible cause. So is manipulation by an abuser.

      Third, you don’t need a Good Reason to feel like crap after associating with anybody. No, not even if they’re family. No, not even if they cry because they can’t be with you at Christmas. They are grown-ups. They can put on their grown-up underwear and deal with life. You do not have to produce a Good Reason for not doing what they want. “No” is a complete sentence.

      Fourth, the people who know best how to push your buttons are the people who installed them.

      So I guess my answer to “What do you do when enforcing your boundaries hurts good people who don’t deserve it?” is “Are they your little children or otherwise completely dependent on you (and not because they dismissed all other sources of help)? No? Then their reactions are their problem, not yours.”

    2. Oh hon. Oh, SWEETHEART. All the Jedi hugs in the world for you.

      1) “I remember them as being very emotionally abusive, they are certain that they were excellent parents dealing with a very problematic child.” Even if you were a ‘problematic’ child, that doesn’t mean they automatically weren’t abusive. If you remember them doing abusive stuff, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, abuse probably happened. Oh, and you know what? Even if they weren’t ‘actually’ abusive, even if it was just a difficult household with personality conflicts all around, your parents telling you that ANY NEGATIVE FEELINGS you have about them “are both false and manipulative” is gaslight-y and gross.

      2) You call yourself “unpleasant, socially inept, rude, self-centred” but also say that you’re “a chronic people-pleaser and innantely adverse to conflict”. Also, you have spent this entire comment beating yourself up and worrying over your parents’ feelings. I think this script you have running through your head, that you’re rude and self-centered and unpleasant, is a false script that someone has given you.

      3) “especially since they didn’t even want to keep me” and “Despite multiple attempts to evict me from the house when I was younger” made my hackles raise. Possibly, angler, you were somewhat of a hellion when you were younger who your parents truly could not manage? But this reminds me vividly of how my father treated my sister: by telling her she was the cause of his and my mom’s relationship problems, and she was a terrible person who ought to be given up to the state. *Starting when she was 6*.

      4) You know what? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe your parents really are good people and never abused you and didn’t inculcate in you a deeply rooted sense of inferiority. But even if that’s the case, you deserve to spend your time with people whose company you enjoy and who make you feel happy and energized, not exhausted and demoralized.

    3. “…my parents have sacrificed a great deal for me, especially since they didn’t even want to keep me…”

      Just saying, a family narrative that instills this belief seems to me to be closer to being emotionally abusive than to being excellent parents dealing with a problematic child.

      Go, you, for not going “home” for Christmas. I recommend you do your best to let go of the guilt and enjoy the time away from them.

    4. Your parents burst into tears when you said you were not coming for christmas? That is a very childish and/or manipulative response. My mother always complained about her own mother started to cry if my mother didn’t drag the whole family to her house for Sunday dinner — every Sunday! She would *sniff* over the phone, so mom would know how sad she was. That is straight out manipulation and is designed to make you feel guilty and get you to do what they want. They probably know you are a “people pleaser” and figure (probably subconsciously) that this is the easiest way to get their way. And honestly, if your parents complain to you about how much they sacrificed for you, then they are shitty parents. Parents are supposed to make sacrifices. How could you possible raise kids without sacrificing something? Telling you that was again designed to give you a huge guilt trip. I think you could use a long time away from them.

      By the way, your letter does NOT sound rude, unpleasant, inept, or anything of the kind. Best wishes to you — you are better than you think!!

    5. Thank you so much to the people who have responded here. It makes me feel a lot better that other people are seeing things from my point of view.

      I don’t really know how to process things right now and I’m sure the fight with my parents isn’t over but I’m grateful for your kind words and perspective.

    6. I don’t know if you’ll see this, as I’m a bit late to rereading the thread, but I have a great deal of sympathy for you. Even though I am not feeling very kindly toward your parents right now, I would like to point out that there is an extent to which it doesn’t actually matter if your narrative is right or theirs is, because either way, I think you should significantly reduce contact with them. You have to decide if that’s right for you, but here’s my reasoning. Either they treated you badly (and I’d like to point out that every child starts out self-centered, rude, and incompetent. It is the job of parents to help to teach children to act better than that, while not making them feel that those actions define their character. Children do also start off naturally caring about others and with good traits, and parents should encourage those and not damage them, but being a selfish and immature child is pretty much being a child) or they didn’t want you, kept you anyway, think you’re full of faults, don’t really value you, but for some unfathomable reason want to spend time with you anyway. And either way, I think you should limit contact, because someone who thinks you are a bad person who is full of faults is someone you are not good for. You can try to figure out if it’s you, them, or something about the way you interact with each other, but unless you have problems with nearly everyone, it’s generally just best to write off the people who think you are terrible and not worry too much about whether they have some serious issues, you made some mistake, or you just rub each other the wrong way. Anyhow, they tried to get rid of you, they show few signs of valuing you, so why would you spend time with them? Until and unless they consistently showed signs of wanting to spend time with you because you are so awesome that it’s a treat and a pleasure to spend time with, then what’s the point for either of you? And it doesn’t sound like you want to spend time with them. So, whatever their motive is for wanting to spend time with you, it certainly doesn’t sound healthy in any way. Maybe they should get therapy to figure out why they want to spend time with someone they think so little of, but I don’t see how you feeding into their unhealthy behavior helps either of you.

      Also, they totally do sound full of bees. But that’s me taking sides. Even without taking sides or assuming their view is the only correct one, my advice is the same. And I hope you have some good friends who do appreciate you.

    7. I’m going to try not to completely hulk out here, but I am *so* angry at your parents.

      especially since they didn’t even want to keep me

      THEY WHAT?! I can’t even describe how utterly unacceptable it is to let your own child know you didn’t want to keep them. Even if you actually were a difficult child (which I sincerely doubt) there is literally nothing you could possibly have done that would ever, EVER make it okay for your parents to tell you or even let you figure out on your own that they didn’t want to keep you.

      I remember them as being very emotionally abusive, they are certain that they were excellent parents dealing with a very problematic child.

      I believe you. If you remember abuse, it happened. And of course they’re convinced they were good parents. If they were the sort of people who reflected on their actions or ever questioned whether they were doing the right thing, they would have treated you better.

      They insist that any bad feelings on my behalf are both false and manipulative

      Like another commenter said, that is gaslighting and it’s gross. A decent human being would try to change the behaviour that made you feel so bad so that you would be able to be around them.

      I am unpleasant, socially inept, rude, self-centred

      For someone who is supposedly self-centered, you spend a lot of time worrying about other people’s feelings. To quote you again:

      They are genuinely so sad and upset and broken-hearted, and I have never felt so worthless.

      I think if you were truly self-centered, you wouldn’t feel so terrible about having disappointed your parents. For someone who is supposedly rude, you’ve been very diplomatic about people who have clearly treated you terribly. You might be socially inept, which is far from rare, but it could just as easily be a tape running in your head that some jerks put there (hint: the jerks are your parents).

      I am a chronic people-pleaser and innantely adverse to conflict

      Pretty much anyone who had been treated the way you were would end up a conflict averse people-pleaser. It is not your fault. Also, I’m confused about how you can simultaneously be self-centered and a people pleaser, conflict averse and rude. Self-centered people are the opposite of people-pleasers, and needing to avoid conflict is a very strong motivator not to be rude (or perceived as rude).

      The closer I look at your comment, the less I believe that you’re actually self-centered or rude. I think those are buttons your parents push to make you do what they want.

      Despite multiple attempts to evict me from the house when I was younger, now that I’ve moved to another state my parents want to see and talk to me an awful lot.

      Oh, angler. All the jedi hugs. Please see that for the manipulative jerkitude it is. I’m sure there’s a tape running in your head about how you were *the worst* and of course your parents needed you out of the house, but that’s just not true. If you were really that awful, wouldn’t your parents be happy you moved away? I think they just miss having you around to feel superior to.

      even though I have No Good Reason for why I feel this way.

      Yes you do. Not that you need one, your feelings count even if you never find the perfect justification for them.

  108. I actually normally love the holidays, and I’m torn between threads. My Dad loved Christmas too, but he died last month, and so I think it’s actually comforting to just accept that this holiday season will bring many sad feelings with it. Knowing that going in seems to help – that way I think if I manage to still enjoy some of it, that’s just a bonus.

  109. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do this holiday season. My parents have invited themselves up, which is fairly normal. I think we invited them up once, and then they’ve taken that as a forever invitation. Normally this is not more than middling awkward. Politics are avoided as much as possible and endured where not possible. Food policing, parenting policing, and pontificating are ignored as much as possible, and so on, but basically we just endure for a week, and then they go home.

    This year? Well, this is the year my father has noticed that a) my Mom’s memory loss is getting beyond annoying and into alarming, and pursuant to ‘a’, has also discovered that b) my Mom hates him. He thinks this is because of dementia-induced paranoia and is talking about putting her in an Alzheimer’s program. Except that it isn’t the dementia, Mom has hated him for at least the last 40 years of their 56 year marriage. It’s just that her memory is getting bad enough that she can’t cover it up the way she used to.

    So he’s talking about institutionalizing her. She’s still more than competent enough to see that as a threat and organize a response to it (I suspect under better circumstances, we’d be talking an institution in 2-3 more years.) She wants me to be her partisan in this fight, and help her fight institutionalization in favor of her moving in with us. We, under no circumstances whatsoever, want her to move in with us. Her brother, who is a lawyer, is putting pressure on us to help with the “defend Mom from Dad’s unjust persecution” plans.

    All of this has happened within the last week. But they’re still planning on coming up for Christmas. You know the holidays are going to suck when the out-of-town trip for the infusion treatment for my husband’s metastasized cancer is likely to be the most relaxing and enjoyable part of the whole thing.

  110. I’m stressed out. Holidays were a bad time for my mom for 40+ years, thanks to one of her siblings, so she “doesn’t do” them now. That’s great. It’s good for her. But it means I’m cooking and making all of our plans.

    Also, I am honestly lonely – I don’t usually admit that – and the holidays aren’t helping. Everyone I know has someone to be with. Feels like shit. It’s like my birthday, which I generally ignore, but twice in one month.

  111. I usually enjoy Christmas (Thanksgiving not so much — my family’s Thanksgiving traditions and food aren’t as good as the Christmas ones) but this one is going to be tense, because I will be wondering the whole time whether this is the last one I’ll have with any of my family at all. (My sister doesn’t do family holidays, my parents — particularly my mother — have failing health and have moved to another state, and all my other relatives are either unable to travel or not in close contact.) Time for lots of pictures, I guess, although I never look at pictures anyway.

    But there’s a more immediate issue as well. A close friend of mine, who suffers from depression much of the time, has SAD and seems to be having trouble functioning at all. History suggests that December will be the hardest part, which is scary as she has already basically bowed out of everyday life almost completely this week and we aren’t even in Thanksgiving week yet. I know the basics: don’t pressure her to do anything she doesn’t want to do (but don’t stop offering), don’t be judgmental or try to “fix” things (not that I do anyway, having been depressed myself), help if asked, but I really wish there was something I could do in a more positive way. This friend is one of the nicest people — in fact I would say THE nicest person — I have ever met.

    Any suggestions from anyone?

    1. *jedi hugs* I really wish I had more suggestions. In the past what has sometimes helped is someone just being present. Would it be possible to go over to your friend’s house just to be there?

      1. Unfortunately, no; my friend doesn’t like to deal with people when in deep depression — she tends to retreat, and doesn’t enjoy the experience, and I think she would view it as an uncomfortable intrusion. (I don’t want to be all “I brought you a gift! It’s bees!”, so to speak.) I’m going to keep inviting her to do low-key stuff, both at my house and in various neutral other locations.

    2. Gentle contact that doesn’t require any live interaction from her – loving voicemails, etc. A friend once slipped a card under my door (without knocking) just saying they loved me during a time that I couldn’t leave my room very much. It was awesome:). Depending on your relationship, maybe some soup or other comforting food left on her doorstop? It can be hard to feed yourself.

    3. Gentle contact that doesn’t require live interaction from her – loving voicemails, etc. A friend once slipped a card under my door (without knocking) just saying they loved me, during a time where I couldn’t leave my room very much. It was awesome:). Also, depending on your relationship, maybe soup or some comforting food left on her doorstep? It can be hard to feed yourself.

  112. My brother died not long after last Christmas, which was kind of the kick-off for a whole yearful of deaths and disease and assorted nastiness. His birthday’s coming up this Wednesday, and I’ve been thinking about how he used to put up the tree and all the lights and decorations the day after Thanksgiving, with It’s a Wonderful Life playing over and over all day and night long to keep him company and drive certain other members of the family out of our everloving skulls. This year in his honor I plan on jumping the gun and putting up the tree up a day early, accompanied by every last Wonderful Life pastiche/deconstruction/crossover* that comes to mind.

    *Because, goddammit, when a “wonderful” life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make that wonderful life take the lemons back! Get mad! Make Potter rue the day he thought he could give George Bailey lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the one who’s gonna burn down your Building and Loan! WITH THE LEMONS!!

    1. You are a beautiful human and life is gonna regret so many of it’s lemon-flavoured gifts.

  113. I broke up with my mom last Thursday. Or she broke up with me, I’m not sure. It was oddly amiable? But I’m not seeing her in person anymore, and I’ve asked her to not contact me except through email.

    I’m sad, but I’m also relieved, especially because I won’t have to spend the holidays with her.

  114. I’ve never liked Christmas and neither do any of my family except my younger sister: but because my sister is the one with the excess energy and in-your-faceness, we have Christmas whether we like it or not. She is The Enforcer Of Christmas, and parades her role in it to the extended family as How Wonderful She Is And How Her Ingrate Parents And Siblings Fail To Appreciate Her. Our parents enable it for the sake of a quiet life and the rest of us have coping mechanisms. But this year is going to be a classic.

    One sibling broke up with their partner early in the year and didn’t tell any of us. I found out by accident when emailing their partner about what to get one of their kids for her birthday, and I chose to postpone breaking it to my mother for a couple of weeks until I could do it face-to-face (because I knew she’d take it badly and need hugged). Younger sister is now not speaking to me because a) I was the first to find out and how DARE I, that’s HER job and b) I didn’t immediately rush to the phone to text her so she could start haranguing the involved parties and broadcasting the details to the aunts and cousins.

    Not being spoken to by this sister is actually not the punishment she imagines. I’ve been in this doghouse before and it’s nice and cosy and peaceful. But over Christmas she will find it necessary to bring it to everyone’s attention, repeatedly, that she’s not speaking to me, and I expect this to become tiresome fairly quickly.

    My usual coping mechanism is to play shamelessly on the family stereotype of me as the daydreamer who doesn’t hear anything you say to her when she’s got her nose in a book: I take a big thick intimidating-looking book with me and when the trouble starts I’m sitting there with Chapman’s Homer or whatever, going “La-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you-I’ve-got-my-nose-in-a-book”. But I think this year I am going to need the Encyclopedia Britannica.

  115. Lights–it isn’t stupid to still be hurting. However far back in the past something was. Talking it out with someone–a friend or a professional–might help. Virtual purrs and head-rubs from me, to you and the rest here.

  116. I forgot to relate my comment to the holiday season but not only is it the season to celebrate with food, I’m not looking forward to the reactions of family who haven’t seen me since I gained the weight back. I don’t know how big a deal they’ll make about it but it’s too much to hope that they won’t say anything.

    1. OMG, I’m so, so sorry! I did not remember the rule about weight talk when I posted this and the original comment. I should have double-checked first.

      It will not happen again.

  117. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder in high school and the fall and winter were the hardest part of recovery for me. I love Christmas and love my family and I’m thrilled to be visiting them for both thanksgiving and Christmas, but these months at my moms house have a lot of anxiety producing memories for me and can be a little triggering too. Especially having food shopping and making being out of my hands, which is simultaneously an awesome thing about the holidays that I want to enjoy-lots of yummy family recipes and treats that I don’t have to pay for or make! I want to enjoy all the stuff I love about the holidays but am already feeling panicky about the unpleasant feelings it always brings up. I don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone because I don’t want my family thinking I’m still struggling with this or worrying about me or tiptoeing around happy times. I feel like I need some kind of gameplan for managing this, but I have no idea what that looks like.

  118. There are parts about the holidays I really enjoy (like the food, and seeing a few family members I rarely get to see), but recently I feel like those fun things have become more and more diminished until they are nonexistent and all that’s left is terribleness. I like to cook for the holidays, but the neurotically Kosher aunt who runs Thanksgiving refuses to even let me bring a dessert or help cook even though 1) I know how to cook Kosher food and 2) plenty of other people bring desserts/help so I don’t know why I can’t. I used to be able to help cook for Christmas too but my grandma was diagnosed with severe Alzheimer’s which slowly sapped her happiness and left her angry and confused most of the time. So my family could no longer stay with her or cook or really be together lest we freak her out.

    And she recently passed away of cancer, without my family (the only ones who live outside of the state) being notified that she was dying until she was in hospice. I was on my way to the airport to visit her when she passed and I never got to say goodbye. And my other grandma also passed this year, so it’ll just be a terrible holiday season where both their absences are greatly felt. Add to this all my cool cousins either becoming drug addicts, distracted parents, or career military folks and the only family left are the emotionally stunted alcoholics, those I barely see or like, and my racist, terrible grandpa who I literally only still talk to because he’s giving me a ton of money when he dies. Oh and apparently his new girlfriend who is my parents’ age will be there too so this will be the least fun holiday gathering I’ve ever been to.

    I am also On A Break with my SO of 3 years, so I don’t even have much of a Team Me anymore. I cannot wait for my chance to start going to Friendsgivings and Friendmases so that I no longer have to deal with any of this family bull.

  119. Last year was the worst xmas I can ever recall. After reading some of the comments above, I feel it really wasn’t that bad. No one died, no one got cancer, no one split up. In fact, near as I can tell, it was bad because I had a bad time of it. So I guess I should count my blessings. But, over the year, as I have read Captain Awkward, I can’t help but think there must be something I can do to make things better this year. You see, while I enjoyed xmas as a child, it seems I have grown out of the “buy things for family, its customary.” As an adult, I can’t get into the mode of buying my adult siblings “things”. I prefer to spend time with them throughout the year, but they seem hung up on exchanging gifts. The thing is, I don’t spend even two days with some of them throughout the year, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to get them on xmas. I am trying to convey this information to them, but so far have not had any success. It’s all “lollipops and rainbows” at xmas time – I just can’t seem to get into that mode.

  120. I am going to hate Thanksgiving this year due to bodyshaming from mom about weight. [specific weight/size stuff redacted by moderator, per site policies]

    I’m not even sure I’ll be able to eat this year, because she always seats me in the seat directly to the right of her, and is the master of glaring, asking “Should you be eating that?” etc. When I was losing weight and on 900 calories or less a day, she actually berated me for “loading up” on food at dinner (that was the only meal I’d eat)!

    Also, she sent me an email two days before my wedding saying that I shouldn’t get married, because my (wonderful) wife was an abusive freeloader. This is just based on a loud, assertive, and honest personality that my wife has (and yes, we’re doing marriage counseling, and no, she has never hit me, and I’m learning to speak up more, and we’re both learning to fight less), and the fact that I supported her for about a month until she could find a job after she moved in while we were engaged. My mom also really judges my wife because she’s plus-sized (even though she’s now losing weight), and because we’re both ladies. My mom will bend over backwards to say that she’s so liberal and not homophobic and loves her kids, but she’s really concerned with having a good “face” to the world, and so I think she never wanted a gay daughter. I think she hopes we’ll split up, and then in a few years, after grad school, I’ll marry a guy.

    Finally, my beloved Oma is in a nursing home, unable to feed herself. This June, she was welcoming my dad and I into her house and fixing us food- but everything went way downhill way fast. My Oma is my favorite person in my family. She never made me feel like her love was conditional, never favored me over my brother, and never yelled. When I talked, she’d listen, without an agenda of criticism or telling me what to do. When I came out, she was the only person in my family to be immediately supportive. I got “Are you sure?” and radio silence from my mom, but my Oma said, “Well, as long as you’re happy, it’s all okay. I love you.”

    She’s not getting better. When she’s gone, I’ll have no bio family to just, you know, love.

  121. My sympathies to everyone dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics really my heart goes out. I feel blessed I’m actually spending the holidays with my immediate (and less dysfunctional) family this year for the first time in a long time. It will be a welcomed change from the usual tip-toeing around emotional landmines I have to do during Christmas gatherings with my aunts, uncles, cousins and their S.O.s…

    But I’m also currently in a LDR (of more than a year) and unfortunately my boyfriend is starting a new job in December and most likely can’t take time off to visit me for the holidays (and I can’t visit due to finals so close to xmas with no time to plan/work). This is the second round of holiday celebrations we’ll have to spend on opposite sides of the country. I’ve already talked with him about how we’re both going to have a huge case of the sads starting around Thanksgiving…probably won’t end until after New Years. Feels endless. My sister’s boyfriend lives in-state and is spending Thanksgiving and parts of Christmas with us. I’m really happy for her especially since she’s going off to college soon and deserves time with him before they’re eventually long distance but at the same time it’s going to be hard.

    I feel really selfish about feeling sad about it.

  122. Thanks so much for this thread Captain!

    Thanksgiving and X-mas have always been minefields for me as a T1 diabetic, because of food. Add to this the fact that my childhood family really sucked but put a LOT of effort into “look us at us we are a real happy family – there is photographic proof!” and lots of associations with the holidays and my mom who killed herself and you end up with me not really ever enjoying a holiday season.

    This year my partner and I have been seriously considering splitting up, and we made the mistake of telling his mom about it. She immediately informed the rest of his family, and because apparently they’ve never met my partner or something, they started inviting him to tons of stuff and putting him under a microscope (which stresses him the fuck out). We’ve lived near his family for 4 years now, and every year we do the thanksgiving and x-mas stuff with them. But in a totally unprecedented move, I am not gonna do it this year. NOPE!

    So on x-mas he will go off and be with them, and me and the kitties will hang out in our quiet, peaceful little home and eat pad thai and do yoga and read books (and be a little sad too probably) but I am not going to face the “lets snack all fucking day then round it out with a gigantic meal” diabetic kryptonite and not going to deal with super-stressed out partner and traveling and all that horseshit. It is my gift to myself this year.

    1. I’m a T2 diabetic and that definitely changed things for me re: the holidays. I used to bake all kinds of cookies and pies and cakes etc. and I don’t do it anymore. not because I love my family any less, but because I would go completely wild and eat all of them. It’s hard enough to be at a relative’s house and be faced with all the wrong foods but I can’t have them in my home, too.

      Also, I am a vegetarian with lactose intolerance who eats fish. I control my diabetes with diet and a small dose of metformin, so it’s hard to tell someone whose home I am visiting just what I *can* eat.

  123. This is fairly minor in the greater scheme of things but I figure some other folks might be able to relate. I live a very urban life in Large Mid-Atlantic City. I use public transit and don’t have a car. My parents live a full day’s drive away in the suburbs of Medium-Sized Southern City. My parents and I have a pretty good relationship overall (despite some stuff I’ll get into in a minute) and it really means a lot to me to see them (and my sister and brother-in-law and aunts) around Xmas–I usually try to go down for about a week so that we have time to spend together without being rushed.

    However–my religious faith and politics have shifted pretty significantly over the years. They are semi-good about not starting arguments about it now (after my dad and I had a couple of epic fights many years ago when I was in college that scared us both with their intensity) but there are times when I could really use the ability to get away from the house a little bit. Particularly when Dad starts to go on–and it’s not like there’s been anything at all politically sensitive in the news lately… /sarcasm.

    In Large Mid-Atlantic City I can easily walk out my front door and be places I want to be within a few minutes walk or even more places with a bus or subway ride. My parents live in the suburbs where you can’t walk to anything _useful_ and Medium-Sized Southern City has no functioning public transit. I have my license–but I can’t drive any of my family members’ cars because they all have stickshifts now and I never learned to drive stick. All of that takes me back to high school–which is not a good headspace for me to be in. I was a weird nerdy kid who fucking hated high school and my parents were super sheltering/overprotective. So basically I do really want to see them but staying at their house _knowing that I can’t leave if I wanted to and go somewhere *I* want to go_ makes me feel incredibly twitchy and trapped.

    I looked into renting a car but it doesn’t make financial sense for the amount of time I’ll be there–and since my parents are paying for my plane ticket I don’t feel like I can suggest alternatives.

    1. As someone who has also shifted politics wise (and religiously, but family doesn’t get to know that yet) I know exactly how frustrating this can be. When I go to extended family events with my immediate family, someone else drives, so I’m stuck until my whole immediate family is “ready to leave.”

      I have a strategy for dealing with stressful opposing beliefs at family functions: Have a thing around that you can go do quietly in the bathroom or other private location. If you can’t leave the house, find a “safe space” and a private activity. I use my 3DS or my iPod with an audiobook and just go check out somewhere else for a cool down session and the chance to think about other things instead. I think a book/ebook device would also be super useful. Or have a friend you can call with short notice and pretend it’s some sort of super important thing to address. Basically, anything you can do to take some time for yourself in a more isolated space can be immensely helpful.

  124. I just overheard a conversation at Starbucks that relates and made me happy.

    The barista was telling a customer, who I think was a regular, that he doesn’t see extended family because most of his Mom’s siblings are drug addicts. His Mom and Dad left the state where they grew up as soon as they had kids bc they didn’t want their kids to have to deal with their families.

    Then the customer was like “If that’s what you have to do then that’s what you have to do.” He then said he didn’t talk to his Mom and his Dad passed away, but that he would be having big Thanksgiving with his wife, his son, his son’s girlfriend family, and a few straglers. “You know,” he said, “we just feed anyone who comes to our door.”

    We’re not the only ones with dysfunctional families who kick ass at boundaries! I saw such behavior in the wild!

  125. Normally I love the holidays. They’re still usually filled with BUT FAAAAAAAAMILY for various reasons, but I’ve always managed to navigate that stuff fairly intact. This year, though… My birthday falls on Thanksgiving day, and my grandpa on my dad’s side and both my grandpa and grandma on my mom’s side are dealing with really big health issues. The expectation is to go visit and not rock the boat since it’s probably their last holiday seasons. There’s a lot of pressure to conform (go to a church I don’t believe in, don’t challenge sexist/racist/homophobic/etc shit, hide the fact that I am an adult living with her partner, etc) that makes it harder this year. Plus, my (very religious/conservative) grandma found out recently that I’m “living in sin” and gave me a big lecture/guilt-trip about how my partner will leave me if we don’t get married and a woman’s role in life is to raise children and I’m going to end up alone and unhappy.

    On top of all this, my parents (who are generally pretty great and supportive) moved to the west coast last year, so a lot of the familiar and happy traditions associated with the holidays are changing. I tend to oscillate back and forth from “that’s great, there’s opportunities to build new traditions now” and mourning the loss of how it used to be.

    I guess I’m just sad that this year I’m feeling more stressed and anxious instead of excited.

  126. I used to love the holidays. But my husband has pretty much sucked the joy out of them. Love him, hate the baggage. He is a widower and from Halloween thru New Years it is an emotional minefield. He met First Wife over Thanksgiving. They were married over Thanksgiving a couple of years later. Fall was “their thing”. She died in October. He never properly dealt with how her illness and death effected him.

    So Holidays, rather than being a source of comfort or happiness, are Things To Be Tolerated ™ at best. I feel like I’m dragging a 300lb weight from Halloween thru New Year’s. I support the hell out of him. I toned down my own Yay Holidays! for years. I’ve tried everything from just doing my thing as usual but not expecting him to participate to coaxing him into small stuff to not doing any of it in our house. Blah! Still with the dragging. I don’t expect him to wake up and make merry ala Post Ghosts Scrooge but it would be nice for him to at least try to not crap on this time of year. The frustrating part? The one that makes me kind of stabby? He can pull it off for his work and any social obligations…..he’s very “on” for gatherings with my family. Apparently its only cool to crap on your wife’s Holly.

    So my former love for the season is now right there in the “how soon can we get through it this year?”

    1. Jenn, you have my sympathy. a Bunch of Bad Stuff happened to my husband in fall and around the holidays, and he’s just not into them. Your first two lines, I could have written them. I’ve been working on bringing back the joy, but honestly, some bad shit has happened to me around the holidays over the years too (some of it caused by him, honestly). My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer several days before Christmas. My dog died on New Year’s Eve day. I’ve tried to talk to family members about it and some of them just don’t get it. (Like my sister. When I mentioned about our dad, she said, “Would you have preferred he went on suffering?” NO, I would have preferred he never got cancer at all! duh!)

      I end up doing the planning, the buying, the card sending and the decorating.

      Ever year, I say “this year it’ll be different. I will not let it get to me.” And it always ends up the same, with some kind of holiday meltdown. I’ve very grateful if it doesn’t happen on Christmas Eve (believe me, it’s happened more than I’d care to admit).

      Know that you’re not alone. All you can do is what you’ve been doing: try to make the holidays as nice as you can for yourself. And don’t knock yourself out.

  127. Guys I have an important question to ask, two actually. At the minute this Christmas is looking to be dealing with poverty. I’m trying to start a business that I fully and deeply believe in but it is struggling. I’m already in debt and not far off completely broke. I’d rather not borrow any more money.

    I don’t want to quit on the dream because I know I can do it. Eventually something will click and things will turn for the better. At the minute I’m looking at my possessions and seeing what I can sell that will help. My N64 and its games/accessories should fetch £100 which is good. But when push comes to shove I’m looking at selling my cello, hopefully for £1000 including case, bow and spare strings. The problem is that I love it ad thoughts of losing it bring tears to my eyes. It’s been with me since I was a kid and is a symbol of my ability to achieve what I sent out to do. The emotional attachment is intense. Plus, my family is proud of my musical ability and they’d would be unions if I sold the cello. I don’t plan to tell them immediately but they will find out eventually.

    However I rarely play it these days. I use it once a month for an orchestra rehearsal and that’s it. Giving up on my music could be a massive regret further down the line but in the depth of my heart I believe I will be able to buy another cello and get back on track once the business starts to succeed.

    So my question is: if things do come to crunch point, do I give up on this business opportunity or do I sell the cello and keep going? My worst fears are that despite selling it I still wind up bankrupt and I’ve lost my wooden companion for nothing. I refuse to believe that will happen but you see the dilemma.

      1. On the one hand, it’s ‘only’ a thing. But you called it your wooden companion & it seems very emotionally important to you. Selling it seems like it would also cut you off from a source of joy – music, & orchestra with others. I’d say, don’t sell it. It will just make things harder if this business opportunity doesn’t work out. It also worries me when people say they are ‘certain’ something will work out. Sometimes, you are just trying to reassure yourself because you feel like you’re in too deep to turn around. Selling the cello will only make that feeling worse. Listen to it. You’re not in too deep to stop and consider other options. Good luck

        1. After reading both the responses here I won’t sell the cello. I’ll try everything else to make the business work though. I thought I was emotionally attached to my N64 but truth is I don’t have the same interest in video games as I had before. Even if I had the time to play on it I would get bored fast. Especially since I’ve played all the games several times. Seriously it’s been sitting untouched in a box for well over a year. I’m happy to let that thing go.

          Thanks guys.

    1. More power to you. I was at a similar point last year, only without the new enterprise in progress, and it was scary and I was broke.

      I kept my fiddle and I never regretted it. I’ve sold other stuff or pawned jewelry I wasn’t too attached to, but the fiddle stayed. I even used it for busking in the subway on occasion, and I think I’ve attained more long-term good from having it with me than I would have done from the money I sold it for.

      I wish you well and would like to offer a high-five from another country. You sound brave, and prepared to make the painful choice, but know that it may be well worthwhile to make the gentle choice here.

  128. Another Christmas this year means another failed suicide attempt. I’m – for the first time ever – getting the kind of help that helps, but I’m not yet at the place where I have hope that there’s a future worth all this. Besides that, I worry about being evicted for not having enough money, I worry about setting boundaries for my abusive family (who dearly love me), I worry about what will happen to my fully-dependent-on-me boyfriend if I do die.

    This season sucks.

  129. I’m going to have some trouble navigating the holidays this year. My problems are really pretty minor compared to many of those posting here – my thoughts go out to everyone having a bad time. My situation is, I’m converting to Judaism – or at least, seriously considering it enough to be trying to keep kosher & Shabbat (finding conversion classes/ getting people to take me seriously is another matter). My family are mostly atheists but we have some big Christmas traditions & my grandparents are Catholic. My parents actually seem all right with the whole Judaism thing, though a bit bemused. My boyfriend is jewish and they have gotten to know about it a bit through him (no, I am not converting ‘for him’/insert clueless comment here). But my grandparents are coming over for Christmas and Would Not Approve, so I’m going to have to work out some way to surreptitiously go off and light a hanukkiah on Christmas Eve and avoid a lot of the family’s traditional foods without drawing attention to myself. Not to mention feeling conflicted about the ways I like to celebrate Christmas – is it too much? Am I allowed to enjoy carol singing anymore? Should I decorate a tree?

    1. JugglingGeese, I’m sorry my reply to you isn’t under your comment, it’s a couple comments down. Sorry about that!

    2. If it makes you feel any better, my mom is Jewish and married into my dad’s Christian family. She raised me and my brother as Jewish- we had b’nai mitzvahs and everything. She has no issue with allowing us to decorate the tree, listen to carols, watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc.

      Christmas is a very secular holiday these days and doesn’t go much into baby Jesus, except the carols sometimes. The good thing about Judaism, especially converting as an adult, is that it’s very hard to be a Bad Jew. Unless you are converting into a specific, strict community you aren’t gonna get kicked out or banished by God just for doing a thing that Hallmark decided was Christian. Most reform and conservative rabbis I’ve met actually encouraged me to try out mass or Christmas dinner if my friends invited me just to experience other cultures. Of course, YMMV according to why you’re converting, which rabbis you’re talking to (if any) as you convert, etc.

  130. Holidays have become a suckfest of loneliness for me.

    Last year I completely ignored Canadian and US Thanksgiving, which, whatever, in my family Turkey Day was only ever a random reason to cook a giant meal, and when I’ve got a choice of two days to celebrate, I don’t feel too bad about missing either of them. This year, I’m back in the US, so I am feeling my lack of Thanksgiving plans more acutely. The thing I am kicking myself over is that I could have had plans, but I expected them to involve being alone in a sea of people ignoring me, which sometimes makes me feel worse than being literally alone. Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow and it is a total blank.

    As for Christmas, I was invited to a gathering with my dad’s side of the family, but it would have involved the family member I Definitely Never Want to See. Plus, I’m closeted to that side of the family and financially dependent on them, and avoiding mention that I’m queer is a little tricky when I’m an officer of my college’s QSA and the vast majority of my social group is queer. I asked my grandparents on my mom’s side if I could visit them, but they already have plans that they can’t include me in. My mom is hardly even in the picture: she hasn’t bothered to talk to me in months, and hasn’t made the slightest effort to see me in four years.

    I moved to a new town in August. Although my friends are already numerous and lovely, we are not really at the point where they would consider inviting me to family gatherings.

    My dad’s side always has these mega-gatherings of unsafeness, and what little other family I have can’t be relied upon. Holidays are… kinda important to me? The specific traditions associated with Christmas and Thanksgiving aren’t important to me (really, I’d rather be celebrating the Bajoran Gratitude Festival than Thanksgiving), but it definitely is important to me to celebrate any holiday at all. There’s a difference between celebrating something else as a fuck-you to society, and not celebrating anything because nobody cares about you enough to bother.

  131. I don’t see any conflict with your celebrating Christmas as long as you’re celebrating it in a secular way, not a Christian way — if that is what you want to do. It sounds like in your family that is the way it is celebrated. I’ve known Jewish families who celebrated Christmas and had a tree and other decorations, so you wouldn’t be the first (although I doubt you could be Orthodox and celebrate Christmas, but I’m not that familiar with the rules). Plenty of atheists and other secular people still enjoy carols and trees, etc. As far as the approval of your grandparents, that is a more complicated thing. I want to tell you to not care what they think and be who you want to be, but that approach doesn’t always work out. I think for this particular holiday coming up, you need to decide how much stress you can handle from them. Will it be enough stress to ruin the day or the whole visit? Will it become a “thing” between you and them that wrecks your relationship? Or will it be a minor awkward moment that will come up occasionally but not have that big an effect? Since you have not converted yet, I would take this a bit slowly and not tell them if you think it will have dire consequences. But eventually you will probably want to be honest with them about who you are–after you have been Jewish for a while and feel comfortable with that. I don’t see any reason to rush into it though. Also, have you talked to a rabbi about these questions?

    1. In the former USSR, you get New Year, with all the shininess but none of the religion (plus a huge emphasis on frost and snow). Maybe that could be a way around the issue somewhat? (The tree would be a problem, but you could hang up shiny snowflakes, gather with people, etc.

  132. My family is 0% of the reason I’m stressed about December, actually. I have to show face at the office ‘party’ with 80 clients I don’t really know or like + my boss. And by ‘show face’ I mean that I have to be at the venue from 8 am to 1 pm while clients wander in and out, and I’m supposed to make connections for the business. There are no other employees. On some other day, I have to bring my SO to dinner with my boss and his wife, even though I freak right out whenever I have to speak with him (my boss). I have to do that for 8 hours every week day, except when the markets are closed, (and you might be surprised to know when they’re *not* closed), I do not feel up to doing that for a single minute longer than I really have to in order to stay employed.

    I’m looking forward to hanging with my family, but I have been trying to come up with ways to avoid my work obligations since July.

  133. My father died on November 3rd. He wasn’t married, and I’m an only child living abroad, so I had to fly across the Pacific Ocean to bury him and start managing his estate as his next of kin. I was supposed to visit him next month for the holidays. I’m still going back to the States next month, but it’ll be a somber trip, as I have to finish taking care of the stuff in his house and other various legal and financial things. Even worse, I have to see my grandparents, his mother and stepfather, who I feel screwed me over financially (and emotionally) after my dad died. My Christmas spirit has completely left me, with good reason I think. But I’m supposed to still be excited for the holidays at work, because this is Japan, and as the American, it’s just a thing that I have to do.

    Right now, it’s Thanksgiving evening for me. I just had an intense disagreement with a close friend about Ferguson that left me incredibly upset. I’m not feeling particularly thankful for anything right now, just sad.

    1. Oh, me too. 😦 Someone I thought was a thoughtful person wrote a post saying that she was just called a racist, and she quoted her comment and asked “How does this make me a racist?” Silly me, I took that for an actual question and tried to help her understand how her comment could be considered problematic. I wrote *a lot* over a number of comments, talking about institutional racism and the historical context, citing studies, sharing my own journey, etc. Yeah, turns out that she was just looking for all her white friends to say, “Aww, whoever said that is crazy! You’re not a racist! None of us are racist! We are Good People!” So yeah. That was a real bummer. I feel your feel.

  134. I don’t have any major drama, but I’m feeling sad this year because my youngest sister moved across the country for a wonderful new job in a wonderful new place. I’m happy for her, but she is one of my best friends and I could always look forward to her snark and sneaking the booze into family events. Now she’s hours away by plane and can’t come home anyway for Christmas because she won’t have any time off yet, and I’m feeling sorry for myself. Ugh. It’s so hard to lose your partner in crime.

  135. I was going to spend this holiday with my girlfriend and her family, a few hours’ drive from where I live. We broke up a week and a half ago, though, so my mom offered to fly me out to the opposite coast be with her and my sister/sister’s bf & his family this week, and I accepted and here I am.

    I feel like such an ungrateful wretch (ON THE VERY HOLIDAY MEANT FOR GRATITUDE) because while I can intellectually grasp how lucky I am to have family support me in this way, both financially and in deed, and I can feel how much love and care is being offered to me, try as I might to open up and accept it all my heart is closed and cold and choked up with hurt. The intellectual awareness of how valuable and not-to-be-taken-for-granted this is still has not meant that I’ve been able to take comfort in it. So then I feel like a bad person as well. I’m trying to be patient with/forgiving of myself and as gracious and positive with others as I can, but I have been fighting with all my strength against the urge to scream and break things and cover myself with blankets until everyone goes away. I haven’t been sleeping well and am still in the wrong time zone and I just want to go home and hide until 2015 or maybe 2016 but I also work in direct social services and this time of year is our busiest and most full of godawful heartbreaking shit. Also Ferguson. it feels like there is not nor will there be any place to hide and to rest.

    This breakup is proving uniquely painful because there were so many problems and hurtful things that I knew I should get out ages ago and even tried a couple of times, but there were other sides that were so warm and caring and validating that it went on. So now, I’m both already exhausted by and sick to death of pain and rejection and loss of love because that all started so long ago while we were still together AND am feeling new, fresh loss and mourning for what was good up until the end. I’ve been through breakups where the relationship had been dead, painful weight and the healing started almost as soon as I was cut free, and I’ve been through breakups that meant the loss of my greatest comfort. But there’s something really tough about having both be true of one breakup, losing comfort when you’re already so pain-weary.

  136. I was going to spend this holiday with my girlfriend and her family, a few hours’ drive from where I live. We broke up a week and a half ago, though, so my mom offered to fly me out to the opposite coast be with her and my sister/sister’s bf & his family this week, and I accepted and here I am.

    I feel like such an ungrateful wretch (ON THE VERY HOLIDAY MEANT FOR GRATITUDE) because while I can intellectually grasp how lucky I am to have family support me in this way, both financially and in deed, and I can feel how much love and care is being offered to me, try as I might to open up and accept it all my heart is closed and cold and choked up with hurt. The intellectual awareness of how valuable and not-to-be-taken-for-granted this is still has not meant that I’ve been able to take comfort in it. So then I feel like a bad person as well. I’m trying to be patient with/forgiving of myself and as gracious and positive with others as I can, but I have been fighting with all my strength against the urge to scream and break things and cover myself with blankets until everyone goes away. I haven’t been sleeping well and am still in the wrong time zone and I just want to go home and hide until 2015 or maybe 2016 but I also work in direct social services and this time of year is our busiest and most full of godawful heartbreaking shit. Also Ferguson. it feels like there is not nor will there be any place to hide and to rest.

    This breakup is proving uniquely painful because there were so many problems and hurtful things that I knew I should get out ages ago and even tried a couple of times, but there were other sides that were so warm and caring and validating that it went on. So now, I’m both already exhausted by and sick to death of pain and rejection and loss of love because that all started so long ago while we were still together AND am feeling new, fresh loss and mourning for what was good up until the end. I’ve been through breakups where the relationship had been dead, painful weight and the healing started almost as soon as I was cut free, and I’ve been through breakups that meant the loss of my greatest comfort. But there’s something really tough about having both be true of one breakup, losing comfort when you’re already so pain-weary.

    1. That’s a lot to carry. I’m glad your family is around you even if you can’t feel anything but pain right now.

      I closed comments on the thread but I didn’t want you to think that nobody read this one. Do you know this book? Trauma Stewardship.

      I hope time does its work for you, faster than usual.

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