I’m staring at this blank word document trying to sum up enough energy to put some words on this page that make sense. Mostly, I'm just venting about my disposition because, at minimum, it's therapeutic. As I begin this, I only have a few more hours to write before I have to put on a mask of makeup and dance my way onto the stage, smiling while singing while sweating, and spreading loads of holiday cheer. My goal is to let my adrenaline push me through this show so that I can get home to reunite with my bottle of Cabernet and sulk about my mental and emotional state of being. We’re in the thick of another holiday season, and once again, I hate my life. During this time of year, I often feel like that kid who watches the other kids play outside from inside her living room window. Another holiday party picture is posted to Instagram. Another Christmas engagement is announced. Another “Santa brought us a baby this year” status update. And though I share in your joy (yes YOU with the puppy your now fiancé gifted you, with a princess cut diamond ring strung from its neck), the reality for many of us is that Santa didn't bring us a damn thing—not a Christmas card (hell, I’ll even take an e-card), not a “Happy Holidays” phone call from estranged siblings. It is certainly NOT the most wonderful time of year for those of us who suffer from routine depression and anxiety. Our lack of participation in holiday festivities is accompanied by gray skies and unfriendly blizzards, and the daunting realization that another year is coming to a close and I am not where I want to be or think I should be. I post a picture on Instagram of a new laptop that “Santa” brought me, hoping that I’d feel better about my annual excuse to splurge on myself. I later post a picture of me next to a Christmas tree at the one and only holiday party I attended this season. The truth is, I hate Christmas! That’s right! I am a self-proclaimed Grinch, unashamedly bitter and unapologetically moody. I hate to love the Christmas trees that I see around town because I don’t have one of my own; my “Jesus Is the Reason” playlist had me balling on the bus the other day, and to buy gifts for people who have everything is annoying. My mom’s coming in town on Monday to celebrate Christmas with me (and see my show) and all I wanna do is crawl up in a hole somewhere until this retched holiday season is over.
I’d like to think that this is just a phase; but I've been crawling into this hole for quite some time now. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember so I've never shared the holidays with both of them together. [I guess I'm still bitter about that] I primarily spent Thanksgiving's and Christmas' with my mom and her side of the family. The few times I attempted to spend the holidays with my dad as well, I discovered that I hated bouncing around from house to house with barely enough time to communion and fellowship with my loved ones, or whoever those strange people are. The events of Hurricane Katrina further complicated things, dispersing the members of the family to various regions of the country. With the home base of my mother’s side of the family being split between Georgia and Louisiana, our yearly traditions changed drastically or have been done away with all together. Midnight mass on Christmas morning followed by breakfast? Gone. Frantically unwrapping presents around a fresh smelling Christmas tree? Gone. Our mini family reunions hosted by Aunt Sharon and Uncle Philip? Displaced. With my career putting me in different parts of the country during this time of year, I’m lucky if I even get to see my family. My gifts are intangible now, coming in the form of wired money from my parents that I will most likely use to pay mounting graduate school debt. There will be no potluck-style family dinner this year. I will be masking my somber emotions whilst trying to entertain my mother over a strip steak and glass of wine that will briefly tame my temper. As she attempts motherly small talk about the latest guy I'm dating (or whatever), I'll be internally contemplating what Christmas even means to me anymore, wishing for the solitude that I hate, yet have built my life around.
Two years ago, I spent Christmas in the city, away from all of my family. I worked a double shift at the restaurant on Christmas Eve and got out just in time to hear the midnight bells ring from neighboring cathedrals. I took the long way home that night, walking past Rockefeller Center. I had been so busy that fall, working to merely make ends meet, that I’d completely lost touch with the holidays. I stopped at the infamous Rockefeller Christmas tree and swallowed my tears. I felt like the little boy in Home Alone 2, except my mother wasn't going to come running up from behind to surprise me. It was just me and that giant pine tree, the hundreds of spectators fading into the watercolor of my dripping mascara. In that moment, I learned to hate Christmas for all of its commercialized glory—for letting me down, for the homeless freezing in the cold as we rush by in the subway, and for its fading magic that will seemingly never be reignited. There was no miracle on 34th street that year, or last year. Sure, I've posted some pictures on social media that would suggest otherwise, but my fake Christmas joy has all run out. My engine is on E, I have depleted my resources for caring, and the mask has hardened and cracked.
This year, I would like to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a cocoon of my feelings. I am grateful for all that I have, including a God who loves me in spite of my anxiety and depression. I would like to honor Jesus and God without mistletoe, wreathes, pine trees, and shiny plastic balls. I’m not trying to fix my mental health state this year, pretending to enjoy your tragic renditions of “O Holy Night,” all of which are inferior to Mariah Carey's. I just want to enjoy the greatest gift of all this year—the gift of life— in the (dis)comfort of my cold hotel room, sipping spiked cider, and NOT posting pictures on Facebook of my fake happiness. I’m a Grinch who doesn't aspire to steal your Christmas joy, but yearns be honest and transparent about the lack thereof, and to tell the world that it is okay. It’s okay to be sad during the holidays and to let others know how you really feel. The less you put on, the more sincere and genuine you’ll be. I don’t desire for others to feel sympathy for me, but I do hope that they respect my disposition and not guilt trip me with that “Jesus is the reason…you should at least be glad about that” rhetoric. I already find myself scolding my inner demon for being ungrateful...I don't need help with that. My wish this Christmas is to be a better person. Can Santa bring me that? Mostly, I want to love God, celebrate Jesus, and walk in my purpose. I don't need you to gift me an ugly Christmas sweater for that. I want to create new traditions, such as feeding and clothing the homeless instead of roasting nuts on a fire. Of course I yearn to rediscover the joy of the holiday season; but tonight, I'm taking this giant sleeping pill, feeding my alcoholic appetite with a nice red blend, hoping to pass out until I have to mask my face for my matinee performance tomorrow. So cheers, folks. Merry Christmas...or whatever.