The Holidays Are Hard

This year I find myself struggling with the holidays more than usual. Never would I have imagined that instead of joy and happiness, the string of events from Thanksgiving to New Years would bring increased unease and discontent.

Without kids or a significant other, I often feel subject to the whims of extended family. I’m not a part of anyone’s primary decision making or planning process. Sometimes that means not being included when you’d like to be. Other times it means feeling obligated to put in an appearance because someone thought to include you.

This didn’t happen overnight. It would be easy to point to my mother’s death in 2018 as the turning point, but the truth is that this feeling started to creep in years before that. Families change in size and move around. Traditions become unsustainable. And in the years since losing my mother, these feelings have only been exacerbated by the loss of additional friends and family. Some who have passed on and some who just don’t have time for me.

This is not a cry for attention and I’m not a suicide risk. But I get it. For many, the last six weeks of the year are full of celebrations and gatherings. For me it feels like an amplified reminder of isolation I’ve felt much of the year. Then the calendar turns and it’s like, Here we go again.

And maybe 2024 will be better. Maybe I’ll find the job I’ve been working towards for the last two years. Maybe I’ll have time and money so I can adopt a German Shepherd rescue. But I struggle to remember the last time one year was clearly better than the last. And for the past several years it feels like my efforts to make improvements, personally and professionally, have been met by an invisible force intent on keeping me in my place. I’m choosing to persevere with my ambitions, but it takes a toll.

Over the years my New Years Eve plans kind of morphed into a loose tradition to watch episodes of The Twilight Zone at home while I eat goat cheese and crackers. At first it felt kind of pathetic that I didn’t have a place to go, but now I kind of look forward to this little tradition of mine. Sometimes a friend joins me, and that’s okay too. 

This year I’m going to try to reframe Christmas for myself, too. I’m just going to focus on doing something I want to do. I might record some music, go to the woods, or just draw some guitar playing robots while I listen to The Smashing Pumpkins.

If you’re similarly struggling through the holiday season, I invite you to try establishing a new tradition for yourself. You don’t have to have a tree. You don’t have to buy gifts for anyone. Know that there are many others like myself who won’t be having a Hallmark picture perfect holiday, and that’s okay.

(But I do reserve the right to make myself a delicious cup of traditional hot chocolate)


5 responses to “The Holidays Are Hard”

  1. Will Carson Avatar
    Will Carson

    I hope you find something at least halfway fun for the holidays this year.

    I actually want to create a Cookie Party tradition amongst friends starting next year (I didn’t get around to it this year).

    Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, so this cookie party would have Christmas music and movies going all day, and each guest would have a role to play. Some roles could be: prepping the ingredients, baking the cookies, decorating them, plating them tastefully, and wrapping them. The next morning, the cookies would be donated to an org that needs them. (actually used to have this same tradition when I worked at a bakery when I was young)

    I’m excited to try it out next year.

    Let me know some of your ideas that you come up with!

  2. Julie Barber Avatar
    Julie Barber

    I love the honesty in your post John. I find Christmas hard as well for different reasons. I think the shorter days and early darkness also add to the bleh feel. I’ve been taking action to tailor Thanksgiving to my style, I need to do the same for Christmas. It’s hard for our field but I’m going to try to limit my social media activity and do more offline creative stuff these next few days. I actually just checked out some library books today and I never read!
    Enjoy the hot cocoa – looks yummy!

  3. I feel like for most of my life I’ve been on the outside looking in, but before I became a “single” rather than “part of a whole” it was far less noticeable, at least to myself. Now many, if not most of my interactions, are somewhat obligatory rather than something to look forward to and enjoy.
    I believe I feel this way because “feeling needed” is an essential element of well being and knowing/believing that you aren’t an essential element to someone else’s happiness lessens one’s sense of self worth. This is not to say that I don’t feel someone would miss me, but rather that I’m not actually an “essential element” to someone’s sense of self.
    Having a dog helps because even though he would readily adjust to a different person, at least for the moment I’m an essential part of his world and he demonstrates that regularly.

  4. I love the twilight zone. It’s my NYE tradition!

  5. Janet Harnden Avatar
    Janet Harnden

    I always wonder about your holiday plans. I should ask every holiday. I usually am out of state every other Xmas and Thanksgiving. I am always home on NYE. Now that I am at new job, ot sure what my holiday plans will be.

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