It’s OK to Feel Sad About Christmas This Year
I was fine with not celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. Well, maybe not fine, but I got through the day with no tears. But now Christmas Day is staring us in the face, and I feel sad. I’ve tried to find the positive: I don’t have to clean the house, I don’t have to try to squeeze into any of the clothes that fit me before the pandemic, and I don’t have to cook. I can spend the day lounging around in my sweatpants with my hair in a messy braid, reading, eating, watching Netflix, and taking naps. Unfortunately, that describes most of my blurred together days since March 17. This is Christmas we’re talking about, not just another pandemic day; and darn it, I am sad about it.
I’m sad, and that’s OK. It would be dishonest to pretend I won’t miss our annual cookie decorating contest where we all crowd into my kitchen, dividing into teams to create crazy themed cookies. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, my kitchen is large, even luxuriously spacious by most standards. On Christmas, with all eight of us in there, flour flying, Christmas carols playing, and a toddler running through the chaos, it becomes crowded chaos. I love it that way!
I’m sad we won’t have our usual matching Christmas Eve pajamas fashion show. Last year’s matching Llama pajamas were especially fun! I’m sad I won’t watch my three-year-old grandson open his Christmas presents and shriek in delight when he unwraps the steam-breathing dragon. (Shhhh… don’t tell). I’m disappointed I won’t see my baby granddaughter’s eyes open in astonishment as she experiences the lights, wrapping paper, and music of her first Christmas.
I recently heard the term “toxic positivity,” and it rang a bell with me. Toxic positivity is defined as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. What’s the problem with that? Haven’t we all been trained to put on a happy face and find the silver lining in every case? The problem is that it’s inauthentic to pretend everything is wonderful all the time. If you tell a friend about a problem you’re having, and their response is to tell you about someone who has it worse, does that help? No, their invalidation of your feelings makes you question yourself and then feel guilty for complaining. You probably will avoid confiding in that friend again.
I’m not suggesting we should all go around being “Gloomy Gus,” but I am giving all of us permission to admit that this holiday season is not the ideal one pictured in Norman Rockwell’s paintings. Sure, my family will adapt. We will have a Zoom meeting, and everyone will present the cookies they created in their kitchens. I will watch the grandkids open their presents on Facetime. My husband and I will order indulgent foods and play a cutthroat game of Scrabble. We will celebrate separately because, in a time when the Coronavirus is spreading, it’s the right thing to do, the safe thing to do.
The optimist in me insists on looking ahead to next year when life will look better. As much as I try to resist “toxic positivity,” I know I’ll tell myself some useless platitudes such as “it could be worse” or “it’s only one day.” I feel caught between my usual optimistic persona of Cindy Lou Who and my recently acquired identification with the Grinch. I will also honor my true feelings and say, “This Christmas kind of stinks!”