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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Balance and Outsiderness

This week I finalised my paperwork at the university and Bunbun’s kindergarten; at both places I felt like an outsider, excruciatingly so. At the university I was surrounded by eager undergrads and seasoned staff while I towed my three year old behind me getting lost in the construction mandated detours; I was ably assisted by an extremely nice professor though, and the admin staff were very helpful too so the outsiderness did not weigh on me so much.

At the kindergarten it was less so; class based outsiderness is difficult to overcome. Student status is very much linked with low socio-economic status (mostly for the short term but it isn’t like we’re in this for the big money) and it was painfully obvious how different my family is. One car, so we will walk to kindy. Healthcare card. No private schooling. No outside classes.

But I have innumerable privileges. I’ve spent much of the last week organising repairs to our house rather than studying – but we own a house. We own a car too. I am at home with my daughter, a privilege not open to all families (for all the sacrifices we made). It means I have so far been interrupted in my morning’s readings for morning tea, toileting, to create a pair of felt socks, to comment on the felt creations and to clean up the mess from those things. All to the soundtrack of either Madagascar or Bunbun’s version of The Sound of Music. But I am at home, with my brief moments to study, between the jobs of parenting and being the person on the ground at home.

In other words, I’ve fallen behind on the ‘article a day’ already…