Christmas Wednesday (Krissie)

sarahOkay, Christmas.  I bought my first Christmas present on the weekend, and today I bought my first Christmas album (Sarah McLachlan has a new one).  And I thought about the upcoming season.

I’ve always loved Christmas.  My mother used to call me her Christmas child, and I go all out, spend way too much money, have probably a roomful of boxes and bags of Christmas decorations down in the basement.  I’ve made half a dozen Christmas quilts and I’m bound to make more.

But I wonder why?  I don’t think Christmases were particularly festive in my childhood.  I remember opening presents while my father was passed out on the couch.  And when I was in my mid-teens and my mother started screaming at his I started singing to my sister, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”  In other words, Christmas was rage and trauma and alcoholism.

But Christmas is also a fantasy that I buy into. A Charles Dickens, fire in the fireplace (and I’ve never had a fireplace in any of my houses).  It’s family getting together, it’s strangers being nice.

But Christmas has a way of stabbing you in the back.  It’s grandchildren that are kept away, it’s horror scenes so bad (last year) that we didn’t even open our presents on christmas day, but instead three of us went out for a Christmas dinner at a restaurant.  Horrors!  But the whole time was a shitstorm.

And I’m wondering what it’s going to be like this year.  I always get cheery and silly when I see Santa Claus coke cans and holiday plastic bags.  I want Christmas!

I figure I’ll have to go into this one with clear vision and realistic expectations.  Which would be no expectations at all but simply to bring what joy I have, to celebrate it and be happy, and not be responsible for anyone else.  They’ll have their emotional breakdowns or rages or whatever.  Nothing I can do about it, but I can keep my own Christmas safe.

I gotta expect very little time from the grandkids, and not let that fact break my heart.  I’ve been feeling iffy about Halloween because I always used to do things with Alex — make cupcakes, carve pumpkins, watch Charlie Brown.  But he and Ali are far away, and at Christmas time I’ll get very little time with them.  Happiness is lowered expectations.  Happiness is not counting on other people to make you happy, but finding it in yourself.  (In case you can’t tell, I’m still going to Al Anon, thank God!)

So I’m going to work my way into Christmas here.  Figure out a way to just embrace it all without setting myself up for sorrow and pain.

But first — Sarah McLachlan!

23 thoughts on “Christmas Wednesday (Krissie)

  1. Diane says:

    Maybe you could have a friends Christmas, before or after the actual day, which would be more what you are looking for emotionally? Maybe a Boxing Day celebration, with friends and not any stressful guests.

  2. Kieran says:

    I always tell my kids–don’t have expectations. Have hope. There’s a big difference.

    I love that you’re going to Al-Anon! Yes, protect your Christmas!!!

  3. Yes! Keep your Christmas safe. Enjoy those things that make you happy and forget about the rest. Others will do what they will do, and there’s not much you can do about that. Glad you’re still attending Al Anon, it will be interesting to see if your new approach to life will see you through a difficult holiday season.

  4. Cindy says:

    That’s a great way to put it, easy to grasp. I’m usually good at not having expectations, but sometimes I fumble. I’ll remind myself before I deal with certain people “don’t have expectations, have hope.” Excellent!

  5. Lisa says:

    TL/DR Lots of understanding, and why not try something new?

    Long. You’ve been warned. 🙂

    Another ACOA here, and on the spectrum, aaaand probably a borderline personality, but I try really hard not to let my natural tendencies toward sociopathy actually affect other people, which (I am told) means I’m not a psychopath, so I’ve got that going for me. (cue the rimshot and canned laughter)

    I said that to give myself permission to say this–I get this. I get this SO hard. Mom’s been gone for 15 years (died at 53) but dear old alcoholic (and diabetic, and blind) dad manages to ruin every holiday by himself now. I, however, still have these crazy hopes that THIS year it’ll be better. THIS year will be everything it’s supposed to be.

    I think we feel this way because we believe that even though it’s a stereotype, there wouldn’t BE a stereotype if there weren’t some truth to it. It doesn’t matter to us that A Christmas Carol was written because Dickens was broke and needed something to sell, fast. He told a story of redemption, and God help us, we ache for redemption. We ache to believe that that kind of happiness is possible at the end of our long and landmine filled road. He says that there will be–at last–peace on Earth and goodwill to men, and we hang onto that promise with everything we’ve got. We’re going to be happy, dammit!

    As long as we have breath, we have hope. Hope that we’ll be loved and respected. Hope that people will want to spend time with us and show us–in concrete and visible ways–that they value us the way we have valued them, through thick and thin. Hope that we haven’t kept throwing goodwill after bad for so long that we’re fools. Add into that mix the siren song of another sacrifice–a gift to Christians everywhere–that is still recognized and valued, and to NOT cherish it is unfathomable. When the story says, “Unto you a child is born. Unto you a savior is given.” you feel it in your bones that they are talking to YOU.

    I’ve moved away and cut ties with family to try to move on, but the holidays are so rife with pitfalls that I haven’t been able to truly experience new, undamaged holidays, so this year I’m trying something different. My family is spending Christmas at Disney World (another stereotypical source of “happy” that I totally buy into, because it is SO SO much better than anything I’ve ever had). I’m hoping that since my disfunctional experiences NEVER happened there, I will be able to just enjoy it without crappy PTSD moments ruining everything.

    Here’s to holding on to hope, Krissie. Even if you have to look outside your nuclear family for connections, you’re not alone. Also, the fact that you’re looking for happy at ALL is a really good thing, but maybe this is the year for you to try some new things rather than “traditional” things that might be too tied up with your PTSD triggers. Oh, and have a chocolate dipped candy-cane–on me. 🙂

  6. Jill says:

    I love Christmas. I have cut down on decorating-a lot. With just Joe and I here it seems too much effort. And traditions change as the kids move out, marry and have kids. I have happy Christmas memories as a child and adult but I wonder if I just had my head in the sand sometimes. Alcoholic parents, drug addicted son since he was 13 and who (at 47) has graduated to homeless. I think I tried to cover up the bad for the sake of our daughters.

  7. Michelle says:

    If you like Christmas/Winter albums you should check out Loreena Mckennitt’s A Winter Garden, Five songs for the season. Seeds of love is beautiful.

  8. Christmas album favourite is Kate Rusby, and then Pink Martini’s version of Bell song.

    Christmas is an odd time for me. I have fond memories of very small Christmases, just me and my mother and a lot of self-indulgent tv and food and being warm and cosy in a London that seemed almost empty because everyone had left to be with their families.

    Last Christmas was good – it was here on the IoM with my mother and a dear friend of mine whose husband had to head to the US to be with his ailing parents. We went for a beautiful walk, the boys behaved, we ate well and shared memories. But it’s the season when my father died, Jan 2 2013, and although I was at his side when he went, we were never reconciled, because by the time I reached Wash DC to be with my stepmother and brother and sister, he was in a coma. He was an alcoholic, a mean, bitter man capable of intense psychological cruelty. But I remember him when he was a joyous, charming young man full of joie de vivre and delight. Our inability to be maintain any kind of loving relationship as adults is a sorrow to me. Still, I think of it as his loss, not mine. And I’m determined not to make the same mistakes with my own boys, even though Number 1 exhibits many of the same difficult characteristics as my father.

    I think with Christmas the only answer is to make your own. You and Richie are strong together. Sit down and decide what makes you happy, how you like to celebrate. Protect that safe place. Make Christmas your special time and look after each other. If you want to decorate the place to an inch, do it for you. if you want to run away and eat sushi, do it for you. Celebrate your own pleasures and joys. You deserve it.

  9. I hear you, Lisa. And I totally buy into WDW as well. It’s magic and it’s real for me, and nobody can convince me otherwise.
    You will have a wonderful time. I’ve been around Christmas twice, once with people who were happy, once when things were rife with stress, and I still loved it.
    You give Mickey a kiss from me.

  10. Maine Betty says:

    I used to love Christmas, and now I get most of my joy in it from making music. Also colored lights and the smell of evergreens, it’s just low key.
    One of my top 10 Christmas albums is by Bruce Cockburn, called “Christmas.” Very spare arrangements, guitars, some fold songs, some original. It’s so simple it never palls. I like some of the Irish Christmas albums, but I have to watch the melancholy at this time of year, sometimes I can’t get out of it.

  11. I’m hopelessly addicted to James Taylor’s Christmas album–his version of Joni Mitchell’s “River” makes me weep every time I hear it. It’s gorgeous and heart-wrenching because often at Christmas I’ve wished I had a river I could skate away on. This is sister PJ’s and my first Christmas together without Kate–last year right after she passed on 12/19, we both headed to our kids in other states. A part of me wishes beyond wishes that we could just go to Williamsburg or someplace we’ve never had Christmas before. But we will do Christmas Eve with Kate’s kids and grandkids and try to give all the love and joy Kate would’ve bestowed, while at the same time clinging tight to each other. There is a third of us missing and some days, I feel the empty place so very desperately that I can hardly breathe.

  12. Yup, I’ve got Bruce Cockburn too. Adore him anyway – his “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” pretty well works as a soundtrack for every book I write.

  13. I’m so sorry, Nan. The Christmases when someone is gone are the hardest to get used to. Everyone’s gone for me except my fighting children, and whether they’ll both be home for Christmas is a question.

  14. Thanks, Krissie–it always helps to know I’m not the only one in this boat–well, me and PJ and we do have each other. I know you understand what it is to lose a sibling. No one ever told me, so I was utterly shocked at how bad it feels. It’s different from losing your parents in a way–not more sad, but different because Kate was one of the few people with whom I share a childhood history. Someone who grew up with me and knows who I was and how I became who I am…

  15. Hey, Family-You-Make here. Come to New Jersey. There will be a Christmas tree in every room because I have that Christmas Tree addiction, and a fire in the fireplace, and two presents that are so Krissie you’re gonna plotz.

    I’ll even clean.

  16. Office Wench Cherry says:

    What Jenny said.

    My maternal grandparents were famous for collecting strays, they raised more nieces and nephews and friends kids then they did their own, and none of that changed with their 3 kids were adults. Some of my best holiday memories are of gatherings that were more non-blood family than blood.

    Go to Jersey, hang out with Jenny’s bears, pet some dogs, and have fun.

  17. Jenny, bless your heart! Damn how tempting!! I love Christmas decorations and last year, I didn’t do any because…Kate… and we went to CA and shared Son’s decorations. But a tree in every room totally rocks and I’m a sucker for a warm fireplace…

  18. Bears? There’s bears, that’s right!! Ooh! I’m not quite a stray yet–my other sister PJ is here and she needs me and I need her, so we’ll be good. But New Jersey sure sounds like fun and I’d love to do it sometime! Wouldn’t a Cherry/Betty Get-Together be the best thing ever?

  19. Julie says:

    There’s more joy in giving then receiving. Sign up now to delver meals to to the homebound in the morning or serve at the local homeless shelter. Join one of the local pageants abd enjoy the festivity for yourself! Get your shopping thrills for the angel tree kids or “adopt” a family or 2 for the season that could use a little lift.

    I adore Christmas for the lights under the snow, the decorations, the music and the baked goods. But candlelight midnight sevices and quiet christmas days of doing nothing but eating and watching bad tv are just as nice.

    Take care of yourself!

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