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When Good Holidays Go Bad

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Before I met my husband, The Daver, I loved the holidays. When I say loved, I mean LOVED, the kind of love that implies that I would be happiest in my life if I could stay home, make babies with Christmas, hump the leg of Easter every night, and make sweet (yet spooky!) love to Halloween. It was a time of year that I revered: from the sparkling lights to the tacky blow-up house decorations, I loved it all. In my mind, they could have played Christmas music twenty-four/seven by 365 and I would have said nothing aside from, “CRANK THAT PUPPY TO 11!”

And while I use my chance meeting of The Daver as a marker for “When Good Holidays Go Bad,” it’s not really his fault (somewhere, perhaps on a train, he is sitting in shock, mouth agape that I would NOT blame him for something). But with the addition of my Plus One meant a whole extra set of people with a whole extra set of restrictions as to when and where holidays could be celebrated.

For years our holiday schedule went something like this: drive three hours into Wisconsin for breakfast at precisely 9 a.m. at specific diner where we all had to eat pancakes and sausage, sit for exactly and hour and fifteen minutes with two bathroom breaks. Then loop through the upper peninsula of Michigan to climb the warthog infested mountain of snow in order to secure the holy grail of rare beer for XX family member. Stop for gas and bathroom break on way to Arizona to drop of package for other family member who’d forgotten to mail it. At 11 p.m., on the way home, finally have lunch at an oasis McDonald’s.

We came back from that first holiday, “The Holiday of the Ghost of Our Future,” and I wept openly for several hours while Dave chewed his nails and paced the floors. We were both just tapped out and exhausted, and as for Ben, he was so overwrought and inconsolable that this expenditure undid about three months worth of previous therapy.

And after a lengthy, exhausted discussion we came to two realizations:

1. We did it to ourselves when we stopped saying no.

2. We would not do this again to ourselves or our family. Rather than saying “Yes” to the question of if we COULD do something, we’d decide it based upon whether or not we SHOULD.

So, in an effort to cut ourselves neatly out of any possible inheritance, we stopped agreeing to do everything we were asked to do for the holidays. COULD we do something? Probably. But SHOULD we? Not at all.

The Daver and I have put on our thinking caps and tried just about every combination of possible holiday merriment that would allow us even the slightest hint of joy during a time of year that is supposedly all about joy, and each and every year, we break down and weep openly. It’s just not possible to do it all.

Or it is, but at what cost? Is it worth it to have three hysterical children banging on the bathroom door while I sit on the toilet guzzling warm vodka straight from the bottle to try and calm down and put on a happy face? It’s the most wonderful time of year, I know, but for who? Certainly not those of us trying to juggle the needs of everyone but my own family.

Since our smallest children have been born, we’ve started using no where we would have said yes in the past, and while I know in my heart that it’s the right thing to do, I cannot stop myself from feeling that old familiar bitch Guilt sneak her way back into my heart and wrap her claws in and say, “Well, why can’t you do more?” Because technically I could. Who needs sleep, really?

I’m feeling like I’ve used the “I have my period” card twice in a month to get out of swimming class.

I guess I don’t get it. Why does doing the right thing for my own family make me feel so bad?

So I turn to you, The Internet, for your experiences. How do you guys manage the holidays with all of the assorted obligations–and guilt, let’s not forget guilt–that come as naturally with it as cat poo garland and Elvis crooning about Blue Christmases?

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