Monday, December 21, 2009

The Xmas Depression

I'm sleeping twelve hours a night, if you call the hours between 8:00 and noon part of the night. I hate Xmas and more so this year than most. I lost my best friend November 18th. I have another friend who has MS and needs help with errands. My old dog Cyrus has had a series of abscesses on his muzzle that scare me and make me think he isn't long for this world. Now he's on a mega dose of antibiotics that might keep the next abscess at bay as it heals the last one. I'm typing with my fingers crossed.

I've lost a tenant and Ms M and I are having a hard time finding a replacement. This has cut my income in half for December, but nobody told my creditors my income isn't what it used to be. I'm living $500 dollars beneath the poverty level. I qualify for food stamps but I'm too depressed to make the effort to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to get them. Filling out forms seems to be one of the things my brain is no longer able to do without a helper. Waiting in line with other depressed and poor people is more than I can handle right now. I'm old in a way that shocks me. My body tells me so every early AM when I have to get out of bed and hobble to the bathroom. I walk like the very old, shuffling along with every joint aching.

I've always hated Xmas. It was the one holiday my atheist parents seemed to take special pleasure in fucking up for me. I always think of the Charlie Brown cartoons where Lucy holds the football for Charlie to kick and then pulls the football away at the last second when I think of the way my mother dealt with Xmas wishes. She would insist on my naming the thing I wanted. Early on it required dictating a letter to Santa, and I would wake to find that Santa felt the thing I wanted wasn't possible that year. No tricycle this year. No doll, no Teddy bear, no, no, no. There was always a reason Santa wouldn't make my wish come true, and it had nothing to do with my being bad. Santa had philosophical reasons for denying my wishes. By the time I was six I found out there was no Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, and it was my mother who wanted to make sure I got the point that my dreams would never come true as long as she was in charge of fulfilling wishes. But for god's sake do not neglect thanking her profusely and with convincing sincerity for the new underwear or the new winter coat, whatever it was I needed. This was where I got my acting chops. I learned to fake gratitude. I learned to fake a lot of things. And I began to dread all events that required gift giving and I never trusted hope.

This kind of conditioning lasts. It sets up a biochemical event in the brain. All relationships become substitutes for the one who made it a tradition to hurt, disappoint, and require fake gratitude. Now receiving gifts just makes me feel unworthy and guilty or sad. I have, over the years, begged friends to please, please, please not give me Xmas gifts. Perhaps I am depriving them of an opportunity to express their joy in the season, but I feel nothing but guilt that I haven't matched or surpassed their impulse to give. And frankly, Xmas the retail holiday, just makes me tired. I've worked in retail sales. Believe me, there is no other holiday that's harder on sales people who are trying to help you desperate hordes shopping at the last minute to find one perfect gift for Xmas. It's not their fault you waited until all the good stuff is gone.

We were a middle class family. Poverty wasn't ever the reason wishes weren't granted. It was my mother's own brand of tough love. It was her belief that granting wishes spoiled the child. In reality it was the perfect way to make every celebratory event something to dread. So here we are sixty years later and this well-learned dread still grips me. Merry Xmas. Just don't expect a gift.

14 comments:

Nan said...

I empathize. Like Tolstoi said, every family is unhappy in its own way, so my miserable experiences were different than yours -- but for sure they left me with a lifelong dislike of Christmas.

Oso said...

My ex was somewhat like that, with regards to spoiling the child. She insisted we never let the girls believe in Santa because they should know the gifts came from US rather than some imaginary fat guy.

I insisted that we let them believe in Santa and it was one of the few battles I won.

She felt the same way about stories or bike riding, playing catch or with Barbies with them (yeah I played with dolls but only with my kids!)-it had to be a reward after chores.

Some people just don't have any joy inside them, and they resent and try to squeeze it out of those that do.

MRMacrum said...

Your unhappiness for this season has a kindred spirit here in Maine. I wish your better times for the New Year.

The Peach Tart said...

Just enjoy spending time doing what you like this time of year.

Randal Graves said...

So you're on board with the my constitutional amendment to repeal Xmas?

D.K. Raed said...

but my dear UT, YOU are the gift ... you give us the gift of your writing.

MadMike said...

I'm with you on this one Utah. This Christmas will be spent with my dear old friend Johnny Walker.

Merry Christmas:-)

an average patriot said...

Hi Ytah! I guess I was lucky, I grew up like that and worse but I had a ball.
It is what you let it be! I am sorry about your friend and all but get a helper and get the stamps and help you'll need.
Sometimes it takes a while for reality to hit you in the face but it usually does. Relax and have a Merry Christmas!

Fran said...

Hey there~ Just stopping by to say hi. All that damned glistening & joy can really be a bitch when you are just not in the mood for it.
Several people had asked me if I'm "ready for Christmas".... I know they are making conversation.... but today I answered a co worker "more less than more".

Ready?
The husband got double rear ended on the freeway in November & we have been up to our ears in insurance adjusters, looking for a replacement car with the low low settlement for the car... then dealing w used car salesmen & private party sellers.
I'm about ready to throttle a used car salesman.

But wait! There's more... the college kid called in Friday to say he's sick as can be.... he's been down & out for 4 days & needs to go to the doctor. Co pays & prescriptions & all the extras you need when you have the flu.
He just spent 5 days here hacking & spewing w drenching night sweats & nausea. Truckloads of kleenex.

Oh yea.... the holidays are just the ticket here!
Deck the halls w effing hand sanitizer.

Humbug!

Sorry things were shitty as a kid.
There is no rule you have to like the holidays... but I will revel in the opportunity to say good damned bye 2009 & good riddance.
that alone is something to celebrate.

So whatever if someone gives you a gift accept it gracefully.... people just want you to feel appreciated. Myself included.... but I won't impose the gift thing... ya know, I'm busy refraining from car salesman "incidents".

If cash is tight, get the food stamps. Some friend will help you, or you can request additional assistance from the Food stamp people. Hey the freaking government will only piss it away on wars-- might as well get some healthy food for you & ease your financial burden. You can get the forms online, so as to make the process easier.

Soon all the holiday hooplah will fade, and you can get on with life.

One day @ a time.

anita said...

i'm with nan, while my miserable experiences with x-mas were different than your miserable experiences with x-mas, we all share that awful emotional numbness that wraps around us beginning in late october and probably not really and truly letting go until spring.

and i also agree with d.k. you share so much of yourself, it's painful sometimes (but not always) to read you, but your scorched-earth honesty in the face of chaos is a site to behold and, yes, you have been amazingly generous in your sharing your gift and your life with us, your readers and friends.

thank you for being you, utah.

Blueberry said...

I am right there with you. I hate this holiday and would give anything to just skip over it (and by that I am including Thanksgiving plus all of December).

Utah Savage said...

Nan, Oso, MrMacrum, I'm sorry anyone shares my current misery. Winter's a bitch in the cold climes and then to add Xmas to it seems extra cruel in a time of already tightened belts. Thanks for looking in on me. I really do love you and appreciate your being here with me.

Peach, I'll try.

Randal, I'm on board. In fact I thought it was MY amendment!

DK, is odd how the least little kindness makes me tear up. Thanks for the tears.

Mike, I just might join you. I'll have a pipe in my hand, not a highball glass, but the intention will be the same.

Ave Pat, I know your intentions are good, but nobody hates the advise to have a stiff upper lip and see the good in small things more than I. I'm bipolar man. It's like telling someone with cancer to think good thoughts and you can cure yourself. I'm glad you sailed through your worse than my childhood having a ball. Lucky you. Or do you think it was just your innate good judgement that got your through it? Whatever it was, I'm glad you survived to tell the rest of us how to cope. Thanks for dropping by to bring such unwanted cheer.

Fran, I'm so sorry about your husbands accident. And just when we all need a little kindness and generosity isn't that just the time insurance companies decide they can fuck you really hard.

And to have your son so sick must be heartbreaking. I have a dog with health challenges and when he's having a rough time, I breaks my heart. Thank god I don't have children. I doubt I'd survive my child's fears and pains and illnesses.

Anita, I get a little thrill every time I see you here. I know there are times I really piss you off. I know my never ending whine can get tedious. I also know you have your own serious struggles. So seeing you here means you aren't so down you can't get out and about. And like I said to DK, nothing brings tears faster than the kindness of someone who knows me well and still says something kind to me. I so appreciate your company on this trudge toward my very old age. You words are greatly appreciated.

Blueberry, It's nice to know I'm not alone in my hatred of the holiday season with all it's forced cheer and generosity.

I love seeing you on twitter. Glad you like it enough to stay with it.

Elizabeth said...

I'm comforted to know I'm not alone in detesting xmas/winter. Yeah, those childhood memories don't help either. But, Utah, you tell it like it is, without hesitation, and I thank you for that.

quin browne said...

i swear we had the same mother...

same methods, same torture, same bullshit.

i watched my brothers get everything they listed... i had knockoff second best things... from the ukulele given instead of the guitar to the cover band lp's.


still does it.

bless her.