Here I sit, alone with my fellow Hermit, each of us typing on our separate keyboards, listening to a dog bark in the distance. Ah, Christmas Eve.
More than one of my friends, and one family member in particular, has asked why I’ve gone out of town for the past three Christmases. So, I’ll answer that instead of giving another boring nature report (I’ll do that tomorrow; I did cool stuff today). The short answer is: self preservation. The longer answer, and how I plan to deal with my holiday angst follows.
Background on how I’m wired: One of my major “love languages” is gifts. I’m one of those people who hang on to things for years, just because they remind me of the person who gave them. I have my Kathy Dettwyler Faberge pansy thing, my cake cover and weird quilts from my Granny Kendall, a pod sculpture and a goddess from my friends in Illinois…on and on.
Because of this, I always loved Christmas. I treasured so many gifts, even ones I didn’t actually like, because I knew some family member or friend took time and effort to choose it. That made me feel loved. I looked forward to my sister’s gifts, as well as those from my brother and later my boyfriend, because they were just what I liked (all three of them have the gift knack, which I don’t think I actually got). I just loved being with family and enjoying each other as we exchanged thoughtful and fun gifts (we were never much for expensive ones).
When my kids came along, I just loved buying and making gifts for them, because I loved them so much and wanted to see them happy. Same for the rest of the family.
At some point, I realized I was going way overboard and buying too many things for too many people I cared for. It became clear when I found many carefully chosen and hand-made gifts discarded when Declan’s first girlfriend moved out. I realized many of the nice/carefully chosen things I’d given my own kids weren’t treasured; they were just tossed in a pile in their rooms to be found when I cleaned them out. (I KNOW some kid gifts are just for fun and don’t last forever!)
Then it dawned on me that no one in my current family was big on giving gifts. I guess it isn’t their love language. (My spouse likes to give surprise gifts, but doesn’t like Christmas.)
PLUS, I always wanted to have a wonderful family meal for Christmas. When it began to also include all the neighbors and many friends, I got overwhelmed, though, and the planning started to stress me out. The last time I hosted a dinner, I looked out and saw three people cooking and serving like crazy and the rest just staring at each other.
That was 2016, the same year that half the people invited didn’t even have the courtesy to bring a token gift or food contribution. I’m all for giving. Honest. It just suddenly struck me as really unequal, and I felt like I was giving like crazy without even thanks (I am sure I was thanked; I was over-exaggerating, a thing I have been known to do.)
I looked around after that Christmas dinner and exchange of 90% gifts from me and very few gifts for me. I said this isn’t working for me. It’s also not working for them. Why am I trying to give them the Christmas experience I want? What do they actually want? I decided that next Christmas would be different.
The next year I booked us a week in New Mexico, and my kids, the current partner of Declan, Lee, and Anita all showed up. We drove around, hiked, shopped, relaxed, and played games. It was great.
Last year we went to Fredericksburg and it was also fun. I liked the idea of getting away from the pressure to do this or that. But, it was expensive and I couldn’t bring everyone, since my sister doesn’t travel well. Besides, some family drama occurred that I am not exactly clear on, and my older son has not spoken to me since he left after last Christmas. That’s enough to sadden any holiday.
This year, Lee and I are hiding in a cabin. He wanted time just with me, and he’s getting it (along with hours and hours with his new journal system). I’m mourning the loss of my son. It’s given me time to think. How can I do better?
For one, I can stop being so selfish. I am going to work on finding another love language, maybe acts of service. I am going to see what the rest of my little community wants to do. I’m not going to let outside demands get me all overwhelmed, either. I’m in a better place in life, anyway, so I think I can deal with challenges to my nerves better. I hope.
Now that our Cameron community has grown, with more family and friends around, it might be possible to do low-key holidays at the ranch again. No one will be required to show up. Food will be simple and impromptu. I might see what the others would think if we institute a gift exchange where people draw one name and get them a present. I want to make family time that is enjoyable for everyone who wants to participate, not MY idea of what’s good.
For me, a person whose spirituality is nature centered, I’ve always viewed this time of year as a time of hope, kindness, and giving. I’m going to go for that next year and in years to come.
Thanks to my family and friends for being patient with me while I worked out why I just didn’t want to be surrounded by people this year. I’ll be back.