the Unbearable “Joy” of Holiday Shit Storms

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There is nothing like a holiday, and co-occuring school vacation, that validates my ineptitude- not just at motherhood but at this entire thing called life.

If you’re going to get all judgey-wudgey with me and tell me to shift my perspective and appreciate the precious moments, please stop reading and go away now, for the love of all that is holy.  I.  Can’t.  Even.  I intend to rant a little.  Or a lot.

I’m exhausted from this time of rest and relaxation, and I go back to work to a week of back to back clients with whom I have to play catch up, and hear about all of their holiday woes and really valid trauma reactions to stuff.  To be completely honest, I’ve been anxious about going back to work since about a week before my vacation even started, which kinda’ harshes the holiday buzz.  So, if you’d humor me, I’ll take a couple minutes to talk about MY feelings about the holidays, motherhood, and my consummate failure as a human being.

First of all, the house is a disaster zone.  I know, I know.  I’m not supposed to worry about the state of the house, but I do.  My children have eight grandparents because my family is crazy and blended several times over.  I’ll give you a second to let that sink in.  EIGHT grandparents.

Now imagine the influx of stuff they get from said eight grands.  You there?  Good.  Now imagine all that stuff dumped and scattered throughout your entire small home.

Footnote:  You can’t ask them to *not* get stuff for the kids because that engenders all kinds of offense and hurt feelings.  Been there, done that.

I have crates and bins and dividers and shelves and all of the home goods crap that is supposed to make life neat and organized.  You know what?  None of it does a bit of good. I wander the house picking up toys and clothes and dishes, and as soon as I put away one thing, ten other things appear in its place.  The mess makes my anxiety flare and spin inside of me like a Hawaiian fire dancer.

I don’t have cute anxiety.  I have cranky, prickly, ragey, sweary anxiety.  It’s a thing.  Google it.

Some people, like my darling husband, have an impressively high threshold for chaos, disorganization, and clutter.

I don’t.

After ten years of marriage, he sort of understands that when I get like this, he should not take it personally, maybe clear the kids out of the way for a little bit, and bring home a bottle of wine.

He hasn’t seemed to figure out that firing up the vacuum or organizing anything within his reach would go a long way toward deescalating my fervor.  That is, he doesn’t get it until I’m screaming and crying about it. . .  because that’s the point it gets to.  Not all the time, but once in a while and more often during the holidays than I would like to admit.  It makes me feel really ashamed, then depressed I can’t get it the fuck together.

Then, there are the children.  My sweet, happy, playful children who become maniacal, aggressive, and very loud lunatics when their schedule is upended.  Rather, I should say my nine year old Jack has this low threshold for change, is easily overstimulated, and sets off my typically placid five year old, Emily.  Jack has meltdowns that escalate really fast and involve a lot of sensory seeking in the form of yelling, pushing, and crying.

If you know me, or can relate to any of this whatsoever, you know my first thought:  I created this monster and it is my fault he is unhappy because he inherited my anxiety and depression and it is just a matter of time until I’m being judged by another therapist just like myself and my kid has to go on medication because I’m a complete failure as a mom and have no idea how to parent my kid.  It’s science.

And yes, I know that sentence needed some punctuation, but that is how my mind works.

Part of the stress for me, and probably also for my kids, is that with such a big and blended family, there are a shit ton of family parties, get togethers, and visits to be made.  In a perfect world I would really enjoy seeing all of these people hither and yonder and would feel awesome about reconnecting and celebrating with them.

Truthfully, I do enjoy it, but it’s also stressful, draining, and unnerving.  It seems like more proof I’m a complete asshat of a person.  While I enjoy seeing people, it also makes me feel guilty that I haven’t seen more of them, that I haven’t made more of an effort of helping my children get to know them.  It is more fuel for anxiety and self depreciation.

And while I know I might be a bit harsh on myself, it also seems there’s a lot of evidence  I suck at life.

I DO realize it’s not all bad.  And trust me, I’m grateful, despite how this post is making me sound (more proof?).  We had some truly happy moments over the break.  We laughed.  I actually napped a few times!  My husband got me everything on my holiday wish list and the kids were delighted and occupied with their gifts.  I adore my family, and they fill to overflowing with love, which I believe is the most important thing in life.  We have it all.

So what is it about the times of loud chaos that so upends my joy?

It’s a rhetorical question, folks.  I don’t actually have an answer, which sometimes I’m okay with, and other times cranks up the hurdy gurdy of nerves and makes me want to run away with the circus.   But let’s face it, I’m terrified of horses and clowns.  Like actually phobic of them.  So, the circus is probably not a viable option.

There’s no escape.

There’s really only embracing the uncomfortable, nervy sadness and frustration along with the sense of being completely bowled over by living.  It’s tough to get my arms around, and it wiggles while I try to hold it.

Look, I could tie this post up by refocusing on a tender moment and telling you it’s all good in the end.  I really could do that, and I could probably mean it.  But it seems like that would be disingenuous.  It doesn’t seem like it would be totally helpful to ignore the tough times when they really feel so weighted, because if I ignore them, they might subtly start to pull me down, hold me under the surface.

I also feel it’s important to acknowledge “the most wonderful time of the year” is really freaking difficult for a lot of us out here.  The commercials and songs tell us we are supposed to feel and act a very specific way during the holidays, and these unrealistic images and expectations create tremendous cognitive dissonance for those who can’t understand why we don’t “get it.”

Sometimes stuff is just hard and heavy to hold onto.  I have to believe that’s okay and it doesn’t make me a bad person; at least not all the time.

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3 responses »

  1. Thank you for being so real. I feel so many of the things you describe here, and I especially resonate with the severe upset over constant clutter. Nowadays that clutter comes almost entirely from my husband, with his ADHD, depression, and OCD tendencies that lead him to literally try to have out in view every #&^%* thing he owns so he can keep track of it. But the clutter used to be from the kids, and no matter who it comes from it makes me almost physically ill, and then angry, and then pissy.

    Oh – and my Christmas vacation, too, was weighted down by severe dread of going back to work. I struggled with depression every minute that should have been filled with joy, because I knew I would be returning to a shit show this week.

    So you have my greatest empathy. Hugs.

    • Oh. Girl. Thanks so much for this incredible comment. What I love about what you said was so authentic and that it shows we really aren’t alone and the struggle is sooooo real. I hope your week is not entirely dreadful and thank you so very very much for reading and resonating with me. Xoxoxoxoxo.

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