Friday, November 23, 2007

I'm Going to Hate the Holidays

In our long-distance world, where families are strung out across the country or the globe, the holidays are the one time of year everyone comes together to be reminded who they're related to. So it makes sense that it can be a tough time for the grieving. The pamphlets warned me about this. I was expecting it. So why was yesterday so hard?

By all other accounts, it was a really lovely Thanksgiving. My Aunt Di cooked an absolutely beautiful meal and Uncle Buff carved the turkey, and there was the requisite stuffing and gravy and pie, and wine and cocktails and dogs and a fire, and my cousins Devon and Sienna flew in from Los Angeles, and Sienna's girlfriend Tharyn was here from Boston, and my other cousin Rhea and her girlfriend Sam came over from Easthampton, and of course J and I, and the whole thing was festive and cozy and the house smelled amazing.

But then we sat down, and it was announced that we would all say out loud what we were thankful for this year, and suddenly what had felt warm and right and completely without discomfort turned on me. I was one of the last to go, and as we worked our way around the table I wracked my brain for something to say. There had to be something, after all. Life, love, health, if not happiness. Everyone has something to be thankful. That's the point of the whole exercise.

Not me, though. I thought and thought and all I could come up with was the furious realization that I wasn't thankful at all. Not for a goddamn thing. Everything I have, everything I should be grateful for, paled in comparison to the nasty, bloated thoughts taking up my mind. I'm not thankful. I'm miserable. And no one should expect me to be anything but. My brother is dead and around me every day are brothers and siblings, their shared histories suddenly excessive, their shared intimacies suddenly garish. And the last thing I wanted to do was suck it up, be mature, and admit that I really do have it good, after all.

"I'm thankful for family," I said lamely. I felt like crying.

So I did. Not at dinner - I wasn't going for spectacle - but afterwards, down in the basement room where I'm staying, face down on the bed with a ball of my aunt's supersoft toiletpaper clenched in my hand. Rhea came to say goodbye and I gave her a snotty, swollen hug. Later, after I felt better, I washed my face and went back upstairs to eat a turkey and stuffing sandwich.

I can't wait for January. Apparently, I'm becoming one of those people who hates the holidays.


sallie said...

Mir, I hope one day hating the holidays will change for you. I am in the holiday hater club and I don't want to be here.

I have been in your shoes and this blog brought it all back. I did not loose my brother but I too once had to leave the table and go to that very same bed to cry. It was the year I was homeless, I felt so ashamed of myself and so unworthy of being at the table. When the "give thanks" came around, I had to make some lame thing up as like you, I did not feel thankful at all, just depressed.

This year I found myself relieved to be alone and not have to perform at Thanksgiving for anyone.

I too want to go to sleep and wake up in January. The absolute best Christmas in my adult life was the one where Rhea and I decided to boycott Christmas all together and go to Jamaica instead. We did not buy presents for each other or anyone else in the USA.(although Rhea cheated and bought me a beautiful watch)We instead brought a few things down to our Jamaican friends who have next to nothing.

In Jamaica we discovered a whole slew of American Christmas haters who go down every year and now have a way to really enjoy their holidays.

I am sure this will not cheer you up and I probably should not post this . I just want you to know, I understand. You are not alone. We are in this together.

Yesterday, I too tried to come up with a list of things I am thankful for and I did find some things, quite a few in fact -

The first thing on my list (after having a daughter like Rhea which is a given) is; I am most thankful to have such a loving and caring big sister, who not only has given me a roof over my head and a car to drive, but a pool to swim in a climate where one can swim on Thanksgiving! (who am I to complain, I may be busting my ass for 10.75 an hour but look where I live)

I am thankful to have had Kyle for my nephew for the past 22 years he taught me a lot and is continuing to teach me even more after his death.

I could go on but I won't.

See, that was easy enough. Try it when you are not under pressure to perform, it feels really good.

Katie said...

I'm in mourning, too. This is the second round of holidays for me and it does get easier. Not by much yet, but just enough so it's possible to imagine how you might, someday, enjoy things again.

This year, though, you get to skip the holidays. Be an observer. Be dark and sad and feel like an outsider. That's what mourning does, it cuts you off, makes you 'other'. And people who aren't in mourning can't see that, won't allow it, which is why they're so fucking hard to be around.

Anyway, that's how it was for me.

cynthia said...

Please think about Xmas a lot and decide before hand what you want to do and what you don't want to do (as best you can figure out). I--for one--would like to do exactly what you want, no more and no less. I know guilt drives you a bit; but as for me, I would feel worse imposing on you things you don't want to do--following some kind of ritual for tradition sake--than by helping you what you truly do want to do (even if it is only a little bit).

And, unlike some employers you've had in your life, you never have to be afraid of setting clear boundaries on me and even on your dad. So please, really think, "What do I want?" and "What don't I want?" It would give me the greatest pleasure to help your Xmas be well within those guidelines.

Of course, the hard part is that we can't set boundaries on the memories and reminders, on the sadness that is kindled and rekindled. They travel with us, they interrupt us, they seep into the best laid plans and trip us up. But we can try to work around them.

didi979 said...


And Sally . . . sorry, I think perhaps that tradition has gone to bed. I love you so much and I'm so sorry that the thankful tradition turned on you that way. I'm really sorry. It was lovely to have you here and the next time you come up there will be nothing that you will have to be thankful for . . . for christ's sake you just lost your brother. What a dumb idea.

Aunt Di

robin said... the risk of causing more weeping and gnashing of teeth, i must confess that for all of my life and for all of its pain and suffering, i have survived by seeking out that for which i might be is a decision, a subtle shift in perspective, a saving grace....and it has made all the difference... sorry, but so glad that such a lovely tradition was a catalyst for it, you remembered how thankful you are for having known remembered how devastating it is that he has died....and in your tears you honored his memory... glad to have heard your sweet voice on thursday....

.... and Aunt Di does have the super softest toilet paper....

...and hugs, hun....

cynthia said...

oh di -- it's not really a dumb idea, but it can be hard. at our thanksgiving table no one brought it up. della usually would be the one; i think she was worried that my tears would make the overly salty gravy even moreso.

thank you for taking care of our daughters and their friends and making them feel so welcome. it was very helpful to both sal and me to know they were with family and in such good hands.

love you sister,