I love the holidays. I love the lights and smells and sounds. I love decorating for Christmas. I love eating way too much pie (and then eating it again for breakfast). I love presents. I love it all.
I also think that I love holiday gatherings. I watch holiday movies or the holiday episode of my favorite TV shows and my heart is warmed by the family togetherness… and for most of my adult life I tried over and over and over again to replicate the feeling I got from watching those scenes in real life. And it never worked.
It’s not because I don’t like my family, I do. It’s not for lack of the dramatic moments, we have plenty. It’s not for lack of any of the essential sights, smells, or sounds, they’re all there. It just doesn’t feel the same as watching it on television. Which makes perfect sense, because it’s not television. It’s real life.
And in real life I am far more of an introvert than an extrovert. I get overwhelmed in crowds. I am sensitive to loud noises, temperature conditions, and lighting. I have a million dietary sensitivities. I have both gift giving AND receiving anxiety. And I REALLY like wearing sweatpants and watching holiday movies (in a room where I control the temperature, sound, lighting, and available snacks).
Last year, for the first time ever, I opted out of the family Thanksgiving dinner. My son will always spend Thanksgiving with his father per our divorce agreement and I was starting to realize how little I actually cared for the whole occasion. The plan was to bake pumpkin cinnamon rolls, go to the movies, and eat chinese takeout for dinner with my girlfriend. I don’t think we ended up finding an open Chinese place but overall, it was a great day! A day of celebration completely free of obligation that set unrealistic expectations and got in the way of pure enjoyment.
We repeated it again this year. Went up to Idyllwild and then ate a horrifically processed tasting meal at IHOP on the way down the mountain. It was awful, yet there was still something about being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted that felt delectable. A binge viewing of House of Cards on Netflix rounded it out. Today, I spent all day in the kitchen roasting a chicken, baking a dairy free pumpkin pie (with a gluten free gingersnap crust), grating potatoes, frying latkes, and smashing the leftover potato chunks with heaps of butter and garlic. More House of Cards is on the menu for tonight and I couldn’t be happier. I am comfortable. I nurtured myself by doing things I wanted to do. I love my family more than ever and can’t wait to see them for Christmas.
This Thanksgiving, more than ever, I am grateful for the freedom to choose to be authentic to myself. To care for me and put my own needs first. Happy Thanksgivvukah!