I’ve decided to stay home for Christmas this year.
I’ve decided that traveling 300 miles to see my immediate and extended family is not the deepest longing of my heart. I’ve decided to sleep in my own bed on the night Santa may or may not be coming through my chimney. I’ve decided to walk and read at the beach on Christmas Eve instead of participating in the loud antics of White Elephant with my family. I’ve decided to spend the holiday with my Fr-amily 10 minutes from my own front door. I’ve decided to listen to the quiet voice inside me that tells me how to take care of myself, the one I’ve spent so long silencing so that I could be sure other people were happy.
Don’t get me wrong – I believe in kindness and doing all that you can to spread joy to others. I believe in family, sacrifice, and commitment. I just also happen to believe that you can’t pour from an empty cup and sometimes when I visit my family, my cup feels really freakin empty.. like bone dry to the point where the ceramic is chipping and the cup is starting to crack. I love them very much, they’re just a loooot for several days at a time (with no space to call my own).
This process of making the decision to stay home and then communicating it to my family with love, respect, and clarity has been a big one for me. I had to dig deep to make the pro-con list that helped me look analytically at what that nagging feeling in my gut really was. I talked it out with a few people I trust, people who know me really well and understand the emotional implications of the situation for me. [Side note: it’s taken me a long time to find these people, the real ones, and they are the most important people in my life. I’m grateful for their love, their wisdom, and perspective every second that I am breathing.] I also know myself enough to know that it was important to be clear with my family when a conclusion (which I was about 80% confident about) had been reached because I will change my mind if I perceive that someone is disappointed in me. I have always felt drawn to caring for the needs of others and if I had a Native American name indicative of my fundamental nature, it would probably be: “The-One-Who-Does-Not-Rock-The-Boat.” So, the bottom line here is that this decision was uncomfortable. Initially, people griped and I received many messages dripping with the hot, molten lava of guilt pleading with me to change my mind. I let them come and didn’t feel the need to over-console my family or over-explain my reasons for deciding to stay home. I just let it happen and something lifted for me. Guilt and the “should haves” are heavy, people; they are also a choice, I’m learning (slowly and arduously). Eventually the messages stopped coming, but truthfully, the letting go on my part had already been done when I decided that my self-care was bigger than my guilt or my FOMO.
This whole thing was a huge, beautiful, uncomfortable, enlightening experience for me. Yes, it seems like a simple one, a decision that all people have to learn how to make at some point in their lives and I missed the boat on the “learning how to piss your parents off and not care about it” seminar in high school or college or whenever they offered it on a day I was clearly absent… Because I definitely still care.
I’ve decided that that’s okay. What’s no longer okay with me is ignoring the voice that reminds me what I need to do to care for myself at the expense of disappointing someone. As I’ve made this choice, I’m learning that I am more proud to be the person who sets boundaries and honors them by communicating her limits clearly, lovingly, and respectfully to those she shares her time with than the one who shows up and goes through the motions, letting resentment and social fatigue infiltrate opportunities for connection. I’m really lucky because my people understand that and want to help me continue practicing and growing my “showing up for myself” muscle. I’m pretty sure these people know who they are and hopefully also know that I am deeply grateful for the way they love me and teach me, patiently, how to become the best version of myself. But in case you didn’t already, thank you.