I did a lot of recipe posts on my food blog for Thanksgiving and so have had a lot of time to think about holidays. Almost all of the recipes I posted were recipes I had made when I was married. Almost all of them have memories — the first time I made it, the reaction of my husband, the appreciative smiles from friends, and the smile I got from the empty bowls because people enjoyed my cooking. The memories of a houseful of people – some watching football, some cooking, some playing, but everyone having a good time.
But writing about the memories, and the recipes themselves was harder to do than I imagined it would be. I had the recipes all set for posting, except for the introductions, which are usually easy and fun to do, yet I found it horribly difficult to write. Memories flooding back. Overwhelming feeling of sadness. Feeling as if there was a huge void that could not and has not been filled, yet I don’t know how or what to fill it with. Feelings of regret, and failure at making things work. Fear of the future and what it will bring. Fear at the financial situation I am in.. etc. etc. etc. etc. At one point, I just let myself cry — feeling totally sorry for myself. Yup. A good pity trip, let me tell you. It was truly pathetic.
After I had that good cry, I wrote a lot in my journal. My journal is my conscience, my thoughts, my secrets, my anger, my joy, and has always been where I learn to come to terms with the strangeness that is me and my life. And so I know what I should feel — Change is good. Looking back bad. Holidays are what you make them. Being alone is a good thing. Blah blah blah blah blah. Yeah.. I know all the rhetoric by heart. But it is actually putting these things into practice that is so hard.
The thing is, if you look at the stress levels of people, (In the US, at least), from mid-November until after New Years, it’s freaking high. We have to make the holidays be wonderful, so we shop for Thanksgiving. Prep for Thanksgiving. Make sure Thanksgiving is as great as it is “supposed” to be. Then comes the Christmas season in full force – more shopping, dealing with less money, dealing with all the other stressed-out people – the shoppers, and salespeople alike. Who wants what, and do you have to buy your Mother-In-Laws 4th cousin a gift? Wanting to give a perfectly wonderful party, and have a “Currier and Ives” Christmas Day in which we sit beside a perfectly decorated tree, with perfectly happy children and family, and have a perfectly wonderful day. And then there is New Years — our Hip-Hooray-No-More-Holiday-Induced-Stress!! “relaxation technique”: Getting blastedly drunk on New Years Eve and then sleep all the next day.
I’ve really had enough of it.
I no longer have a definition of what a holiday should mean to me. It can’t be what was, (nor do I really want that, truth be told), and yet, I’m unsure of what I want. I know that I can no longer take the stress of what the holidays bring into my life, and those around me. There is a quote, I’m not sure by who, which says:
“If we fill our hours with regrets over the failures of yesterday, and with worries over the problems of tomorrow, we have no today in which to be thankful.”
So, in the spirit of that quote, I decided to really take a look at every single holiday I used to celebrate, and define it for myself.
- What is it that made the holiday special?
- What is it that makes these feelings of sadness/happiness happen?
- What do I now need this holiday to mean?
- Do I even need or want this day to be special to me, just because it used to be, and because it is expected?
- What are things I can do now to make the holidays that really are special to me, special again without feeling like I am on the outside looking in?
I’m going to work on these questions over the next few weeks. I simply do not want the emotional roller coaster that last year brought to me, and to be quite honest, I’m finally really ready to let go of what was, take a look at what is, and make hard decisions about where I’m going to go.