My Holiday Tradition
The holidays are supposed to be a time of family, food, hanging out, and gift-giving. I don’t know if this experience is delightful and true for most people or if most people are faking it. What I do know is that my life isn’t filled with the traditional trappings of family and gift-giving.
A little about me. I’m from Atlanta and have lived in the Philadelphia area for a long time. At this juncture, not only does Atlanta no longer feel like home, but the majority of the people who anchored me to Atlanta have moved away or died. I have one aunt and one uncle who I really want to see, but after a day, I’m gonna need to catch a flight back (I hope none of them read this because I have two aunts and two uncles left). I’m close to just a couple of cousins and a few high school friends. It’s amazing how distance impacts relationships. When people say that they can pick up where they left off with a friend they haven’t seen in five years; they are lying (fight me)!
On the other hand, my Philly relationships are interesting, too. Half of us are single and hunting for a place to go for dinner. The other half have kids, and I don’t want to hang out with them. Don’t judge me for not wanting to hang out with a bunch of people under 10! I’m an adult, prefer adult conversation, and believe that we should respect kids and shield them from certain things. They need to be shielded from me entirely. After giving them a couple of jolly ranchers, I got nothing else to give.
What’s more is that I’m also something of an introvert; thus, hanging at somebody’s house ALLLLLLLLL day is only pleasant if I know everybody there. Otherwise, I feel like I have to indulge in endless small talk. I’d rather eat Aunt Lucy’s chittlins (Aunt Lucy was legally blind. Do you trust that they were clean? Then, there’s a debate in my family about who was the worst cook, Aunt Lucy or Aunt Linda. Aunt Lucy has my vote. And Aunt Lucy was a little off, but in my black family, we acted like we didn’t see that mental illness walking around in the living room – Praying didn’t help Aunt Lucy.)
Because of my upbringing, I felt like I was supposed to be with a huge clan, start eating at 2pm, graze all day, and help clean up afterwards (The only thing worse than the guilt trip about not wanting to clean up IS actually cleaning up after eating Aunt Lucy’s food – a waste all the way around). However, as I looked back over my life, I saw how I always managed to spend portions of the holidays with families that were a little bit more low key than mine. I needed a bit of a reprieve from being on: you cannot be a member of my family and not talk incessantly, lest you be accused of being saddidy. But, honestly, this was NOT working for me. I had started to dread the holidays because I felt like some sort of weirdo. I felt sad because my family was dying and therefore shrinking, which left me feeling unmoored; I felt guilty about not wanting to hang out with other people’s kids and families (does this make me selfish?); and I felt alone because I wound up laying on my couch listening to sad R&B every Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. In short, I was depressing myself!
But let me tell you how therapy is a beautiful thing! It helped me to work on my sense of duty and obligation to others. The hardest thing in the world was to state, with conviction, that I was not going to visit the family that I had left, whether in Atlanta or other parts of the country, because I didn’t want to. I mean, some of my relatives live in North Dakota! Um, who is going there in winter? The devil is a lie! But owning that I was not going to some relative’s home was liberating. By the same token, it was also liberating to acknowledge that I often felt out of place with other people’s families. This acknowledgement freed me to “only go for dinner”, if at all. It also freed me to plan for myself. This has turned into wonderful personal traditions that make me feel at home with myself.
Here’s just a peak at how I’m living during the Thanksgiving season.
First, I plan my own dinner and ALWAYS include a new recipe. I make two desserts, one for me (this year, I’m having red velvet cake with ERMINE icing instead of the cream cheese icing) and my signature pound cake to share. I cook on Tuesday night and Wednesday because I think certain things taste better the next day – the cake!
On Thanksgiving morning, I get up super early, exercise and catch the 10am-ish movie, maybe two (I can’t wait to see the Irishman). Then, I deliver my cake and play with others for a couple of hours. This year, I’m going to the Universoul Circus. I reserve the right to cancel everything after the exercise to have my single, childless friends over for a “get away from those people for a little while” brunch.
On Black Friday, I participate in REI’s #OptOutside activities in the morning. The idea is to encourage people to spend time enjoying the outdoors rather than shopping. Since I really do enjoy being outside, this totally works for me. REI sponsors #OutdoorAfro; so, I’m hiking with them in Pennsylvania. In the afternoon, I’ll visit a museum (How many of us live in areas where there are great museums and cultural amenities that we never take advantage of?)
Finally, on that Saturday, I prepare to go back to work! I clean up, grocery shop, and spend the day on the phone with my favorite senior citizen (you have to be my Facebook friend to appreciate #the88yearold).
My point here is that it is okay to step out of the box, – the box that your upbringing put you in, the box that being black put you in, the box that you allow fear to keep you trapped in. The holiday season can be tough, but we can plan for our needs. I told you that self-care was more than a spa day.