How to have a hard holiday
Beautiful post Mari.
Christmas has been weird for me for years now. My family used to have a lovely day at my auntie's house eating on the deck and going for swim afterwards (Christmas is in summer where we live :)). As a person whose teenage years and early adulthood were marred by difficult relationships and poverty, it was so, so healing to have one day of the year where I was guaranteed to have the "normal" experience of having enough to eat with people who wanted me around. Unfortunately, in 2015, my mum created a big rift between our extended family and I'm now unable to spend Christmas with my aunty and our other relatives (or at least, my mum frames this as a choice between a relationship with her and spending Christmas with the rest of our family). Our post-2015 Christmases have been spent at home doing not much, and my mum cries when I suggest I might spend the day with my long-term partner's family instead.
This year is the first year I'm not going to be guilt tripped by my mother. I'm going to spend it with my partner's family. My parents and brother are invited too, but are refusing to go. For some reason, this ritual of being isolated and miserable on Christmas day has become very important to them. But it's too painful for me. As much as I want to reject the notion that Santa stockings and a fake fire crackling on TV and eating a roast chicken when it's too hot to even feel like eating are much more than capitalist traditions, feeling like I get to participate in the day that was for a long time the one day of the year I was sure I'd be wanted and fed is really meaningful to me. For the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to Christmas.
Your words always come at what feels like the perfect time, when I need them most, and are absolutely encouraging, relatable, wonderful, and a million other positive adjectives. Thank you for continuing to share your words & thoughts with us ❤️
The winter holidays often exacerbate my feelings of loneliness and sadness, and I wish I could enjoy them more wholeheartedly instead.
My roommates and I hosted a Friendsgiving tonight and they went all out — from the decor to printed menus to matching plates to an incredible spread, everything exceeded what I had had in mind by a long shot. It was a beautiful time with delicious food and even better company… and I still found myself crying alone in my room up until the second my friends rang the doorbell and I forced myself to put on a smile.
I’m currently in the depths of sadness, loneliness, and hurt as I’m processing a recent break-up and grieving the loss of that relationship. All of its potential, the things we promised we’d do together, the places we said we’d dance through together. While my logical brain knows that this ex is ultimately not right for me, I couldn’t help but wish he was there with me tonight, to see how beautifully everything turned out, to laugh with and get to know my amazing friends, to spend the holiday season together like we had said we would just a couple months ago. It didn’t help that everyone else at the Friendsgiving tonight is coupled up, though I did get my own crème brûlée instead of having to split it with a partner (lol).
I’m grateful to have such caring, supportive friends and roommates who were considerate of my current emotional state and made sure to check in on me, give me all the hugs, and also helped take my mind off things even if only for a bit.
I’m trying not to have “meta-feelings” (e.g. feeling frustrated that I feel sad despite having such wonderful friends) and just let myself feel what I feel. So, this holiday season is currently making me feel incredibly grateful, lucky to be surrounded by so much love, cared for by so many, and also deeply lonely, very sad, and hurt in a way that sometimes makes my whole body shake. And and and.
I can't tell you how much I needed this. I'm 23, and this will be the first Thanksgiving ever *minus 2020* without my grandfather — we were close (and getting closer), and he passed away extremely unexpectedly in February. I'm dreading the holidays, *and* I'm trying to hold on to the things that made them so special: sticky buns, setting up my grandma's collection of Clothique Santas, warm biscuits and fresh coffee. I'll ache and howl and try to hold onto those bright things this season 💚
Thank you for writing this. I've always been the holiday-loving one, so much that my friends congratulate me on December 1st. I'm all for Christmas lights, matching pajamas, love giving gifts, watching every cheesy Christmas movie on Netflix... oh, and I was born on December 23rd, so maybe that's why. This year, I'll be turning 30 on the exact day my dad got sick last year while I was on a flight, and two weeks later died. I'm struggling with the complex emotions that first anniversary brings, with turning 30 and still not being a mother (a role I've felt ready for for the past 3 or 4 years), with feeling stuck and lonely as an immigrant and not knowing how to move forward or redirect my life towards my goals. And I'm also really grateful that I get to fly to my mother's house for the holidays and I get to see my two younger sisters, I'm relieved that I don't have to spend this holiday season alone (as I've done several times since I moved to another country), I'm looking forward to hugging my mother and her dog, the fluffiest and most loving one, to waking up on what I know will be hard days and having my family's embrace. I'm also proud of myself for doing something really big I promised myself I'd do on 2022.
My dad died on December 8th last year, so we are coming up to that anniversary, and our family gatherings are all shifted around to different days to accommodate in-laws. The last two Thanksgivings I did a drawing on Twitter (inspired in part by your drawings, Mari!) and invited people to a virtual gathering where I drew them in as stick figures, along with the dish they brought. I kind of feel like we, communally, could use another gathering this year, especially as Twitter may be on its last legs, but it’s several hours of really hard work, drawing, taking pictures of the drawing, writing down everyone’s handle so I can tag them in the thread. So I think I might try something a bit more simple, maybe just draw me and my mom, who will be here, and invite people to share where they are and how they’re doing. Ache and howl together. Thanks for the space you’re creating here for that. <3
I like how you wrote how different the sane holiday can feel depending on the year and the season in life. Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. But today I’m dreading it wishing to not get together with anyone and just rest. But tradition overtakes, spending time with family is important. And however tired I am and however awkward and misplaced I will feel at the dinner table, I’m choosing to do it anyway. One year (holiday) at a time. Strange, how an intended to be good thing can bring up so much of the opposite. Especially thinking of people who have lost a loved one, going through a divorce or a break up, or don’t get along with their families.
Mari, I am sorry to hear that you have had some sorry memories of American Thanksgiving, I can't see the video segment you refer to as when I click on it, it asks me to sign up for the Washington Post. I, being Canadian born, and then later an American have memories of lots of feasts. In the beginning, when I first grew up in Canada, our family always welcomed others, whether it be university friends who were not able to be with their family as flying home in Canada can be a big expense, or a man and his son whose wife had died, or just wayward flatmates, or just whoever. They were big affairs, usually, 10+ beyond our family. My mom was a good cook, Ms. Home Ec, she wanted to do that at university but her father did not feel women needed to have university educations, but her 3 brothers did. However, it was always potlucky, before that term was used, as in Canada if you were invited to a dinner you either surprised the hostess (I can't remember one dinner a man hosted until I was 28), or asked what to bring to add to the bounty. I preferred strangers and friends as they were always better converstationalists than my nucleur family. Then when I lived in Ausse, they don't celebrate the harvest which is why I thought we did it in Canada, 6 weeks sooner than the country on the other side of the longest, most peaceful, land border in the world, as it seems that all Americans think we are colder up here. Never in Vancouver did I experience the cold temperatures of NY. It's the Japanese gulf stream up the Juan de Fuca Strait. Look what you are learning. However, so sometimes there was a nod to Thanksgiving if there were some North Americans when the lads were roasting on the Barbi on the beach, and then when I lived in NZ, the Canadian and American consulates hosted an annual huge 200+ joint Thanksgiving at some big palatial space. I think I only was invited as I happened to phone up about renewing my Canadian passport. However, I soon learned that it was a real event in Auckland, the Kiwis purchased tickets (the money went to some charity) months in advance, and I was in like flint as I brought the dish that I have always made for Thanksgiving: Sara of some catering company on Nantucket's recipe: sweet potato and pear casserole with toasted nuts (whatever I can find) and Grand Marnier. Sarah made hers with some pear liqueur which I only found once, and the cost was far beyond my wages/traveling budget, and Grand Marnier was a favorite of mine from way back. So turns out the dish was a huge hit at the joint consulate feast with the Canadian consulate phoning me up to get the recipe and sent it out to all that were asking for it. In NZ, consultates have time to do those things..... Anyway, I met more new NZ'ers and made even more friends, NZ is the friendliest English speaking country I have ever lived in. So then in the US, where I lived for 23 years, I was always invited to someone's Thanksgiving, sometimes 2 dinners on the Thanksgiving weekend, and then when I had my 2 kids, we were always invited to someone's dinner. Most were great, I was not a fan of that Texan sweet potatoe dish with marshmallows, always thought, really? Great discussions, always 15+ people, but the worst was one where it was that 2:00 pm lunch time. Canadians do dinner, and luckily for me all my American invties were dinner except this one. I didn't understand the concept of eating all that rich food for lunch, how do you waddle home? Anyway, we arrived to the home of the hostess, her huge family and some wayward friends as usual. It was obvious that ALL the women had done the cooking, as ALL the men were watching the football game. So near time to eat, the men discover that they are out of beer, so ALL of them head out. to get some more. Why do you need 10 men to buy several caseses of beer? However, they did not return home for hours, by that time the turkey was really done. Their reason: they went to 6 liquor stores and all were out of beer. I did not know any of these men, but I was wondering if they were the full quid (yep I lived in the UK as well) as why did they only think of their beer needs for Thanksgiving in 1/2 time? Like they have never had a Thanksgiving day come up in their life before?, and Americans usually get the day off, most I knew took the whole weekend. Anyway, then ALL the women did ALL the clean-up as the men wanted to watch ALL the replays. Jamais encore. Thank heavens, I was not invited there the next year. Now back in Canada, my sister who is an incredible cook hosts, and as one of my daughter's calls it "always invities some some (at least10) random people" as even at our so-called "family only" dinners which my mother wants as she is nearly deaf and can't hear any cross conversations. The only thing is that these random people don't seem at all interested in mysef or daughters - always now the youngest at the party - however, the food is marvellous. It was only last year, (we moved back to Canada), that I discovered that one of the main ingredients of my always offered dish: sweet potatoes, do not even grow in Canada. I decided when we came back to live here, we were going to eat only food grown within 100km of us. Well when BC was in a state of emergency for 2 months as of one year ago today, I asked my favorite famer at the local farmer's market where the sweet potatoes were, and he educated me ever so nicely that the soil even within a few degrees of the 49th parellel is too cold to bury sweet potatoes before they grow. I asked about that pennsula that juts south in Ontariario, and he said nought, in that case I think it is their weather, which is like yours in NY. So I say, girl, you have a lovely little apartment, you could invite as many friends as would fill the entire place. I always checked around when I was hosting to make sure any new immigrants or someone's 3rd cousin they just met was in town had places to go, if they didn't, they had invites to my place. Sometimes I had to ask them to bring their own chairs. We are giving thanks, so why can't it be all those who need a place to land, and make it all the merrier? Same goes for that other major holiday. I lived in France as well, but there was no Thanksgiving there, despite their plethora of harvests, as of course they didn't have pilgrims and I must say I am learning a lot more about the Indegnous side of the harvest. However, the French know how to eat well everyday. I am sorry that it was just your mom and you, if I had known all those years you were growing up that you were toute soule for the holidays, I would have extended an invite to my dinners which were held in NM and Colorado, where I lived. It would have been a nice holiday for you both, the sunshine, the dry air, the high altitude. I am a single mom, but I have two girls, they came out together, I wouldn't even try to cook turkey for us alone. Your mom was brave. One year my mom cooked salmon in the dishwasher. It was a PNW trend, and we are all quite done with turkey. We never had a Golden Retreiver in our family, we had a black cocker spaniel when I was young, died after I left for university. In NM, a golden German Sheperd/Akita mix walked up to me during a neighbourhood BBQ - everyone there lived on 6 acres - and sat down at my feet. He never left my side until the day he died, 10 1/2 years later. So any dog will do. It helps as you can lower your hand to them under the table when you are chewing something that does not feel like it is going to go down past your mouth, and if you are a guest the dog will never tell.....
Have you read UNDROWNED by Alexis Pauline Gumbs? Am reading now and your essay (the elephants) is a wonderful connection point. I think you would drink in this book! 💗
I love using the word “and”- it’s been a unspoken goal if mine this year. I have most definitely had holidays seasons that felt very much like this. Thank you for sharing!
Dear Mari, I absolutely loved this entry.
Even though I'm an only child, I come from a typical latin, very close family, so my holidays were really magical with all of my extended family.
However, throughout the years, we've experienced the death of members of family members and some complicated misunderstandings, so, even though I still love the holiday, I also feel nostalgic for when I was a kid and we hadn't known what profound loss felt like.
I really love the "yes, and" statements because they help me remember the wholeness of life. My weirdness for these holidays is: I feel joy while having dinner with my family AND feel sad for everything we've lost along the years.
The fullness of the experience of being alive in this exquisite, heartbreaking world 🌍
I’m going with perfect. I looked up the definition to double check my thoughts and Oxford describes perfect as “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics.”
I think I don’t want for anything more than I have. Can it be that the howl of the elephants, as sad as it may sound and be contextually, an essential part of understanding and existing in a world of unknown impermanence and suffering.
I love that you are welcoming it all to the Thanksgiving table. I am not happy or thankful without the lived experience of struggle and pain. My sense of being exists as a balance of what I want/need versus what I fear/doubt and the choices I make in the face of that.
As I consider what is important and serious contrasted by what is worthy of laughter, I wonder if the thoughts and feelings I have are constant, unchanged experiences or an ever sliding scale of reconstituted understanding and significance.
I also think of the poacher. What it must be like to find killing baby elephants as a living. To be the recipient of so much hatred. Is this something they wanted for themselves or know no other life? How do they relate to the people in their community? Is this all they know to be able to support their families?
I am so grateful to my friend Debbie and her dad for inviting me to their Thanksgiving meal. Otherwise I would be alone…
Mari, this post is exactly what I needed this time of year. As much as I adore the holidays and have for my entire life, they carry a lot of bittersweet these days too. Finding room for both is a gift we give ourselves. You words soothe me. I also keep coming back to "I ache, I howl." Whew. I'd love to read that essay if it's available online. Thank you for your writing. I always look forward to it in my inbox. <3
Love what you’ve written about holidays. They are a mix of emotions- I’m grateful for happy ones I’ve shared with family and sad that they are gone. ( I won’t say but 😀)So it’s up to me to make holidays that I’m comfortable and excited about . And it changes for us all.
Your article feels like a love letter. Written by a long but lost lover who knew how you felt exactly on a certain time of a day but never paid attention to it. And it feels beautiful that it was not all lost. It was noticed. It was picked up. ❤️