Making Too Much Meaning

Christmas looms close and this means my anxiety is already spiking. Not all of this is about Christmas (some of it is heat, some is all of the research work I have to do in the next few weeks, some of it is my first international bit of travel coming up in November) but a huge part of it is about the holiday.

I’m a little like this about my birthday too.

It’s taken a while to work out why, exactly, holidays like this upset me in such a visceral way. I think I’ve worked it out.

I imbue them with too much meaning but realise that it is hopeless and so refuse all of it rather than have my hopes dashed.

I am surrounded by people for whom gift giving is at least pleasant if not a hugely vital part of their being; I loathe getting and giving gifts and find myself in anxious knots every time trying to perform gratitude while wishing they’d donated the money. It doesn’t apply to handmade gifts given at random moments oddly enough, but it makes Christmas particularly difficult, and my birthday something of a nightmare. Gifts are a language I do not speak.

I have a constant refrain at Christmas, that this is not for me to judge, but I struggle. I struggle with the useless consumerism masquerading as feeling and the way my child’s natural beautiful sense of fairness and gratitude is drowned beneath a stack of gifts bigger than she is. I struggle with disdain for the adults clamouring and complaining. I struggle with everpresent aura of expectations from others; how many dollars spent, how big, how many, the constant comparisons being made. I struggle as not a single person mentions Christ but all are happy to deride and dismiss my desire and decisions as a parent around not lying to my child about Santa. I struggle with the in-law cage matches about who spends what time where, when it may as well be any other day of the year because any sense of the actual holiday has been lost under the gifts and resentment.

At my birthday I begin to hunker down a week before, or a month, and draw away. I don’t want gifts or a party. I don’t want the attention. I accept that this is a time for my loved ones to celebrate my existence but I feel like I should honour my mother for that more than me. And that if they want to honour me, surely that should involve my wishes not theirs?

Which gives rise to the question I have been pondering – what would these celebrations look like if I gave myself permission to want? To add my meaning instead of trying to fit in the edges of what the world has decided, what other people have enforced with the strength of that behind them?

What does Christmas actually mean to me? Or my birthday? What would a true celebration look like to me?

I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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