I’m just not feeling it. #Christmas

Adam Avitable as The Grinch

The last real Christmas I had was in 2009. A month prior, I had told Amy that I was unhappy in our marriage and had been going to therapy in secret to figure out what I wanted and needed in life. She had given me space to figure that out, and the only path I was following led directly to divorce. It was a tough time.

Christmas Day, though, was a different story. We had a house full of people. Both of our families were there, along with friends like James, Britt and Faiqa and their entire families. For that one day, our home was filled with the warmth and love and holiday spirit of over 30 people, and it was truly one of the best Christmases that I can remember.

Granted, six days later, I told Amy that I couldn’t continue, and twenty-six days after that, I moved out for good, but that Christmas was damn near perfect. Last year, I flew to Utah to meet my parents and siblings for a weekend that happened to include December 25th. It wasn’t Christmas, not really, and I was okay with that.

This year has flown by, and there have been ups and downs, but generally speaking, I’ve had a good year. As Christmas has gotten closer, though, I’ve found myself losing interest in participating in tradition and holiday festivities. My Christmas lights are still hanging from the eaves of my roof since last year, but I haven’t even turned them on once. I don’t have a tree, and my shopping list had one gift on it, which I already purchased.

My family is doing a Christmas brunch next Sunday morning, which I will attend, but all I can think about is what time I’ll be able to leave. I don’t want to be there, and I just don’t want to take part in Christmas.

This isn’t depression. This is me figuring out what Christmas is for me. From 1998 until 2009, Christmas was about Amy and my friends. I take great pride in being an excellent gift giver, and there is little that I enjoy more than giving gifts to the people I love. I don’t generally like receiving gifts, though, as I’m impossible to shop for. I buy what I want when I want it, and I have very particular tastes. Since the divorce, my ability to give gifts has been diminished by my need to be more financially cautious (past Christmases ended up being $4,000-$5,000 affairs), and receiving gifts generally makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable. There are always exceptions, of course, but it’s rare. Even people I called my best friends, who knew me almost better than I knew myself, found it difficult to buy me a gift.

In the end, though, I don’t know how to feel or what to do with this Christmas season. This morning, I plan on calling my mother to ask her to please refrain from wrapping any gifts for me and to please return anything she’s already purchased. I’ll enjoy the day much more if I don’t have to worry about that, I think. I don’t know, but that feels right.

I think I’m just ready for 2012.

78 thoughts on “I’m just not feeling it. #Christmas”

  1. I feel a lot the same… some years I really am feeling x-mas but this isn’t one of them. I’ve been hearing it from a lot of people this year so you aren’t alone. I hope you manage to still have a good holiday, regardless.

  2. I was raised Jewish and frankly, Christmas has never been a big deal for me. Mostly I like celebrating it here in Belgium with my husband’s family cause the food is usually really good.
    I figure, you can give a special, perfect gift to a loved one at any time of year. Giving it on the fake date of some guy’s birth doesn’t add any meaning to being thoughtful towards your friends and family.

  3. Yah, I was there last Christmas – and I have kids – and it sucked. My reasons where slightly different, but in the end, I couldn’t wait for it to be OVER. I wanted 2011 to get here, already. As it turns out, 2011 sucked too. But it’s recently had a turn for the better, sorta, so this Christmas, I’m making UP for last Christmas (at least for my kids, who remember that it sucked πŸ™ )

    I’m sorry you’re feeling that way – and I just wanted to say I completely get it.

    also, as I read your words, it felt like I was reading my ex-husband’s – though he doesn’t blog – you two ought to start a club. =)

  4. I hear you. For different reasons, Christmas hasn’t been a big thing for me since 2008. I think it’s ok to make it what you need to make it. Otherwise it feels false, forced, and annoying. I hope you are able to make the best of your time.

  5. You should go to Florida for Christmas! Oh, wait…
    Seriously, I wish I could instill some feature spirit in you. I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. But, truly, 2012 will be here *like that*. Winter is almost over, and before you know it, it’ll be spring again!

  6. Christmas, like Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that is a family obligation…even if you aren’t feeling it. It’s the time of year you put on your happy face, spend a few hours making small talk then go home and cry if you want to. You aren’t the only one who feels like that at a family holiday gathering.

    1. @meagan avitable, that’s bullshit. Family obligations are only there if you make them into obligations. There’s absolutely no reason to do something that you don’t want to do under the guise of “tradition” or “it’s what we always do”.

  7. I think it might be nice to be able to figure out what the holidays mean to us without the “pressure” (pleasant as it may be most of the time) of having to participate to them because we are part of a family and a group of friends etc.

    I sometimes used to feel “forced” to celebrate Christmas, but not this year. For some reason this year I am actually looking forward to it – probably because I stopped obsessing over the details and let my husband take over as much of the prep as he wanted to. It’s refreshing not to get swept up into all the holiday fever.

  8. Hey, Adam. Some tough love, here.

    Let’s imagine that your favourite niece buys you a pair of bright, puke-green wool socks in a colour that you can’t stand. You have a number of alternatives.

    You can wear them. When all your friends say “Those socks are so grody! What possessed you to buy those socks?” you say “My niece bought those for me. She’s awesome. Here, let me tell you how awesome she is…”

    You can put them in your sock drawer and never wear them. Every time you open the drawer, you see them and are reminded how awesome she is.

    You can put them in a box in the attic, or throw them away, and just remember how awesome she with no help from a pair of socks. (Most people do this, in truth.)

    Each of these responses are about you and your niece, your relationship, her awesomeness, and your love for it.

    On the other hand, you might look at the socks and think, “That kid doesn’t know me at all. I live in Floridaβ€”why do I need wool socks? Has that young woman forgotten that I only wear blue socks, of a precise shade of blue, and seldom wear socks at all?”

    In this case, the socks cease to be about a good relationship, and are about how poor your relationship is.

    Let’s say that the person is not your niece, but a parent, grandparent, or sibling. Your reaction might be “You know, you were always too self-absorbed to understand me as a person. Your present isn’t about me, it’s about you. It’s about what you imagine I am, not about who I actually grew up to be. Every gift reminds me of the distance between us; between me and those who say they love me. And the small gifts which come from acquaintances just confirms that we’re not close. ”

    Did the gifts you got from the people you loved have a deeper meaning? Did they come with strings attached? Is your love for giving, and not receiving, just another way of being in control; of pulling the strings?

    Stop the presents, Adam, and you’ve treated the symptom, not the disease.

    Love, THH

    P.S. If you ask nicely, I’ll tell you the story of The Basketball and the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

    1. @The Honourable Husband, I don’t want the clutter stemming from shit that I have no need for or interest in, and yet I’ll feel an obligation to keep it because it is a gift from someone about whom I care.

      When I give gifts, if I can’t find something that they need, which is the first thought, I’ll get them something that shows that I know them and appreciate who they are. It’s not hard to do.

      I don’t need baubles and gifts to remind me who the people I like are and who the people I don’t like are. I have no problem faking enthusiasm, but the reality is that I don’t care nor do I want to waste my time or space with receiving gifts.

  9. I agree with everything THH said. My first reaction was “You’re being an asshole.” Christmas was hard for me for a lot of years and I was an asshole about it for a lot of years. I would give just about anything for one more Christmas with my mom and just one more gift I couldn’t use or didn’t need.

    1. @Cap, I’m not an asshole about it. I put on a happy face and will take whatever shit people give me, but I don’t want it, and their insistence on thrusting gifts upon me is not appreciated. I also have a very different view on family than I think you do.

  10. Yeah, not feeling it either.

    I’m not into holidays and I resent the forced commercial feel, but I’m also not religious, so it’s not like I can take that approach with the kids instead.

    THH has some great points. And you could make more effort to be a gracious recipient. You dont have to be busting with the spirit to make sure you dont shit on someone elses.

  11. Ditto. I feel that I have been forced into participating in a non-optional social event. I’m not Christian so it’s always been Santa day for my kids. I am putting up a few decorations for the grandkids but not much. I buy 1 or 2 gifts for the kids and something nice but inexpensive and personal for the rest of the family. The limit is $10 per person and I can usually find something unique by shopping outlets and thrift stores. I declined a gift at work and instead asked that a donation be made to the Harbor House Paws for Peace. Everyone gave me a hard time about it trying to get me to get a gift. I told them I have everything I want and need, with the exception of a new fence for the yard lol! I think next year I will seriously look into volunteering to give back. Gifting to those who cannot help themselves is the best gift of all.


    Six humans trapped in happenstance
    In dark and bitter cold,
    Each one possessed a stick of wood,
    Or so the story’s told.
    Their dying fire in need of logs
    The first woman held hers back,
    For of the faces around the fire,
    She noticed one was black.
    The next man looking across the way
    Saw not one of his church,
    And couldn’t bring himself to give
    The fire his stick of birch.
    The third one sat in tattered clothes
    He gave his coat a hitch,
    Why should his log be put to use,
    To warm the idle rich?
    The rich man just sat back and thought
    Of the wealth he had in store,
    And how to keep what he had earned,
    From the lazy, shiftless poor.
    The black man’s face bespoke revenge
    As the fire passed from sight,
    For all he saw in his stick of wood
    Was a chance to spite the white.
    The last man of this forlorn group
    Did naught except for gain,
    Giving only to those who gave,
    Was how he played the game.
    The logs held tight in death’s still hands
    Was proof of human sin,
    They didn’t die from the cold without,
    They died from the cold within.

  12. If I am being completely honest with myself, I am walking a path parallel with you. You are absolutely correct in that it isn’t a depressed outlook/opinion. Being divorced is just a fact in the story. Not the cause.

    Not feelin’ it doesn’t necessarily mean “bah humbug” nor “woe is me”. It, sometimes, is literally just a “take it or leave it” view. And I think so much effort has to be put into “the Christmas spirit” these days. I’m sad to write that, but I’ve heard several say that they’ve had to force themselves to be “in the spirit”.

    There’s no deadline to figure it all out. It’ll come. Or not. And it’ll still be your conclusion. And mine. And theirs.

    Wishing you a standard, non-gifty, comfortable next Sunday. πŸ˜‰

  13. I’ve been searching for my Christmas spirit this year, too. It’s normally one of my favorite times of the year, mostly because I genuinely enjoy spending time with my extended family.

    My solution has been to focus on that – I asked that instead of Mitch giving me a gift this year, we donate what he would have spent this year to a charity that helps homeless kids. I asked the same of a coworker who insisted on giving me a gift. It made a huge difference for me and I’m glad I did it.

  14. This is gonna be a weird Christmas for me. Gia is going to be down in SC visiting her family, but I can’t go until the following week because of work obligations.

    So Christmas Day will be with my family…but at my cousin’s house. Which we’ve never done before. It’s always been at my mother’s house or my sister’s house. And there is some family…drama going on. It involves G and I so there will be some uncomfortable feelings too. For me, at least.

    I’m more looking forward to Christmas Eve. A local ska band is playing at a pub down the street. I’m friends with the manager and staff, so I plan on wrapping gifts, drinking bourbon and skankin’ my ass off into the wee hours. Then being properly hungover for my “family obligation”.

  15. Does that mean I *shouldn’t* send out that fruitcake?

    In all seriousness, 2012 is the year we’re going to start scaling back on the number of family holiday things we go to. We’re going to start easy on them, and cut out Easter first. But eventually, I want to get down to just 1 or 2 big family occasions a year. It’s exhausting, and I don’t enjoy it. The husband doesn’t enjoy it, and the kids are always ready to call it quits long before their cousins are. Why do we keep putting ourselves through that, ya know?

  16. I’m always Grinch -like around the holidays. The shopping and idiot drivers and music school functions and GAAAHHHH. I think it’s all sensory overload to me. I’m glad I took a stand, years ago, with the families, about what we will and won’t do – which as you know, caused years of drama and bullshit. Still – this year, I refuse to let stuff bug me as much, and someone always surprises me with a really thoughtful gift (um, like you). πŸ™‚
    You’ve got years to figure out your own Christmas routine – or non – routine. You know my attitude is always: do what makes YOU happy – fuck how everyone else feels.

  17. I had to wrestle with a few issues this Christmas (and last year too, for that matter) and being broke – utterly, utterly broke – makes it all shitty in a whole load of other ways. But my dad is going to pay for the tickets I bought to take my girls and me to his place in Scotland next week and I am actually looking forward to it. There will be discussions about my finances, how I’m going to buy my ex’ share of my flat, etc. and that will be uncomfortable, but my ex won’t be there (he and my dad always argued) and my family is small (me and the girls, my dad, my cousin and his wife) so totally manageable. The girls are beside themselves with excitement, I’m pleased with the gifts I’ve managed to buy (luckily I started putting stuff away back in March! I’ve hardly had to actually buy anything recently) or make and yeah, the Christmas spirit is starting to make itself felt.
    But I’m also most definitely ready for 2012 because 2011 has sucked big time.
    I wish you a very happy holiday, Adam, and a marvellous 2012!

  18. Christmas is always a ‘chore’ for me instead of something to celebrate. Too many money worries, time worries, etc. Hate it. But people (friends, co-workers, family) hate hearing that you’re not excited about Christmas and the ensuing effort to jolly me up is….effing annoying. LOVE your idea about paying down people’s layaways, Adam. Please let us know how that felt, because that’s something I wish I could do this year too. Oh……..and *clink* here’s to December 26th!!!!!

  19. You can ask your mom to do that, but if she needs to give you gifts to sleep at night then she might give them to you anyway.

    This is a lesson I’ve learned lately. You can tell people you don’t want something from them, but their opinion and feelings in the matter are also important.

  20. When I was about 16 – 17 (which is a looong time ago) I introduced the idea into my family that all this need to buy presents is pure consume-terror and we all decided that we stop doing it. We started to give presents when we found something nice, and we gave it independent of the time of the year.
    Christmas got so much nicer – the parents went to church, we kids prepared a beautiful dinner and had a perfect and relaxed time when they got back. No need to pretend that you liked that sweater and that you always wanted that juicer.
    New members entering the bigger family usually had a bit of a hard time to adapt, but they all saw the advantages very soon.

  21. I just had this conversation with the Unbearable Hotness Of Robert. Christmas for me these days is a very low key affair, since all my family is so far away, and while I spend Christmas Eve at Sizzle’s, at least for awhile, I like to spend Christmas Day by myself. This year, because the Hotness just got out of a one year relationship, we are having brunch on Sunday. With homemade bread/french toast.

  22. What an asshole you are!

    I’ve been too busy to think about Christmas, but I certainly don’t want to jump past it to January.

    Maybe you should pick out something you really love from K-mart and put it on layaway. It’s like fishing.

  23. My boyfriend and I aren’t doing anything for Christmas because he can’t afford it and he doesn’t want me to do anything he can reciprocate. Honestly, the past few years, Christmas hasn’t meant that much to me except headaches from extra traffic. This morning I woke up realizing I still need to get my nephew his present, and my dad his birthday gift!

  24. We’ve been working on creating our own traditions. My parents would love for me to come home to Chicago, but I stay in LA and have friend-Christmas. Sometimes that means an open house/potluck for whoever’s in town, sometimes it means an intimate dinner for four on Christmas Eve followed by a Christmas Day of eating junk food and snacks and watching bad TV.

    I think there’s a lot of what you’re SUPPOSED to do that people can’t shake. Whenever I tell people about my holiday plans, they always sigh and say “that seems fun.” Which means me wonder why they don’t do things THAT ARE FUN. BREAK THE CYCLE.


  25. I understand not wanting stuff that you don’t need, but the act of giving a gift is a happy thing for many people. I’m glad you decided not to ask your mom to take it all back, because you could be robbing her of the joy of giving. You enjoy giving gifts and others do as well – they just may not be as anticipatory of want/need as you’d like them to be. I usually hold onto the gift for a month or two, then I donate it to Goodwill. My grandma gives the worst stuff ever, but she sincerely LOVES to do it.

  26. Since my life pretty much fell apart and since getting it back together, I still haven’t figured out who or what Christmas meant to me. I especially haven’t figured out how to go about it. Last year I cried through Christmas and hoped that every decision I had spent the last year making was the right one. This year I just hope to be as content as I feel. I hate the way holidays can manipulate my very sense of being. I’m fine and then BOOM. Fuck Christmas.

  27. “I take great pride in being an excellent gift giver, and there is little that I enjoy more than giving gifts to the people I love.”
    Why would you take that pleasure away from your Mother? Suck it up and be gracious, it’s not all about you all the time. I usually appreciate your viewpoints, but this? Not so much. Sorry

  28. I love the honesty of this post, and I identified with so much of it. I haven’t been to your blog since 2007, but I’ve kept up with you through mutual blog acquaintances and the power of the Internet. Let’s be friends again. Am I late? It was written more than a week ago. Anyway, here is to an effing happier 2012.

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