I have never been much of a holiday person, and under the best of circumstances I find them somewhat contrived and stressful. I (not so secretly) end up resenting the fact that I am supposed to feel grateful or joyous or generous on demand simply because Hallmark and the calendar say that today is the day that I will be (fill in the blank.) For years I faked my way through the holidays; made apple pies, hung wreaths and stuffed stockings, sang carols and went to church, all the while mentally tabulating the amount due on my January Amex bill.
Now, as a divorced family, the holidays are more of an excuse to go somewhere and have a new adventure, rather than to gather ‘round the hearth and drink egg nog and celebrate our good fortune and cheer. So when my daughter asked me the other day if I was upset that “Dad scheduled the flights on Christmas morning…” I could in all honestly tell her that it didn’t bother me in the least, and I even gave him a gratuitous plug by telling her that it was much more efficient for them to leave on Christmas morning than to wait until the next day. What I kept to myself was the truth that the flight schedule got me off the hook for having to “Do Christmas” in any kind of comprehensive way.
In the first year immediately following my divorce I went a bit overboard, trying to recreate a typical family Thanksgiving and Christmas – even inviting my Ex to be part of the festivities – to mask the guilt and angst I was feeling at having decimated the family sanctum by initiating and actually following through with a divorce. It’s not that I didn’t feel like a hypocrite – honestly, Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a bit strained, at least from my perspective – but by putting forth an extra dose of Ho, Ho, Ho I felt that I could possibly run away from the awkwardness that was pervasive that first year.
Like most things in life, learning how to be divorced, particularly around the holidays, is a matter of trial and error. There are always the awkward moments of bumping into your Ex at a social gathering, particularly when one or both of you are with your new squeeze, or the holiday card situation – as in do I or don’t I, can I use the word family in the text, and who gets axed from the distribution list – and then the gift giving game, which in and of itself should be taught as a graduate level course. So you see why I’m not much of a holiday person!
As the years have passed we have settled into a more peaceful and natural dynamic at holiday time. The time away from school or work allows each of us as individuals to have the time to relax into what is most restorative for us as individuals, rather than focus on traditions that are no longer traditional in our house.
As a friend of mine once pointed out, there are times when you need to capitalize on the benefits of divorce, and for me, having the built-in opportunity to skimp on the Christmas Cheer is one of them. Am I thankful for my family and friends? You bet. Do I love a festive gathering with funny people and good cocktails? Absolutely. Do I like the occasional sparkly something tied with a bow? Hell,yes. But I especially like the freedom to duck out of a formulaic and routine holiday and try something different, especially on a day that is not designated as one where I am supposed to feel a particular way.