As I write this, it is the day after Christmas. I love Christmas with all my heart and soul; I love the decorations, I love the music, of course, I love the presents, and I love when everyone gets together to celebrate. I had around thirty family members come to my house yesterday and we all hung out, played games, talked, and ate great food. But Christmas is also a time of a lot of complicated emotions.
I love my family. I am very fortunate to be born into a very loving, very large family. My second cousins are as close to me as first cousins, and my first cousins are as close to me as siblings. I look forward to coming home every year to spend time with them, and they’re a big part of the reason why I love Christmas. But coming from a big family is a bit difficult for me.
I am the only one of my cousins in college. I have about six older cousins (in New York with me; there’s more around the country) and three younger cousins, and the older cousins have all graduated college, while the younger ones are still in elementary school. There is no one else in my family going through the exact same things I am at the exact same time for me, so there is sometimes a feeling of not belonging. My cousins are absolutely fantastic and do everything they can to include me in things, but there is often confusion in the air on whether I should be with the cousins in their late twenties, or the cousins who have not yet started puberty. And most of that is my fault; as I said, my cousins do everything they can to make me feel included, but sometimes I pull away because I don’t know exactly where I belong. My social anxiety prevents me from being competent at small talk, and I don’t know enough about my cousins’ worlds to engage in hard-hitting conversations with them, although I am trying to change that. I also have such different interests from all of them, that I don’t even know where to begin. Lucky for me the majority of my older cousins love Harry Potter and Nickelodeon cartoons from the 1990s, while my little cousins love making gingerbread houses and goofing off, so I can push through that initial awkwardness and try to find some common ground. Also, my older cousins are always excited to hear about my college adventures and lend me advice from their own times in college, so that helps a lot too. I’m learning to ask more questions about them and engage more in conversations and to push aside my social anxiety for as long as I can to improve my relationship with all of them, and I honestly believe it’s working. Christmas becomes a time for me to try to be a better person in regards to my social skills so that I can better hang out with my cousins, and I think that finally, after a couple of years of working on it, I’m finally getting into that space.
Christmas can also be difficult for me because my parents are divorced, and this is the time of year that I begin to think of it more. As it gets closer to Christmas, my brain decides to remind me of all of the old times; when I would run into my parents’ room and scream that Santa came and both of them would be there, when my dad would set up the Nativity that his mother gave him when he was born on our piano, when all four of us would sit in the family room and watch Christmas movies in our pajamas by the fireplace. This is the time of year that I really really miss having my family whole. My parents split up almost six years ago, and aside from one Christmas where they started dating again and my dad was back at my house, I’ve spent Christmas Day without my father since I was fourteen. It’s very difficult for me to watch my mom prepare for the thirty people that come over every year by herself, and I try to help to the best of my ability, but it’s not quite the same. It’s the little things I miss the most. I miss when my dad’s father and my mom’s father would hang out together in the family room on Christmas Day and make jokes and watch TV with the volume on way too high because they’re both going deaf. I miss my dad singing on Christmas morning, his deep voice floating from the kitchen downstairs all the way up to my room. I miss falling asleep with the Christmas tree in my room on only to have my dad unplug it when he came up to bed. I miss seeing my parents exchange their gifts with the utmost love and affection for each other possible. While most of the year I am adaptive to the two separate households, around Christmas I just really wish the divorce didn’t happen. On a brighter note, I now get to celebrate Christmas twice, since my dad, his girlfriend, my sister, and I celebrate when I go over to his house for his birthday two days after Christmas every year. And of course, I get double the presents since my parents are no longer giving us presents from the two of them. But those are things I would sacrifice in order to have my family whole again.
I don’t write this post for people to feel bad for me; I’m incredibly lucky and very well-adapted to my new situations, and I did have an absolutely marvelous Christmas this year. But I want to make it clear to people that even the most festive of Christmas elves can understand the particular melancholy that occurs around this time of year. So I urge you, if you’ve made it this far into the post, reach out to your friends and family. Everyone is going through their own shit, but if we’re all too wrapped up in our own messes, we might accidentally ignore someone who we could help, or who could help us. Be kind, as you never know exactly what someone is going through. Be generous with your time, making sure you spend your valuable time with people so that they know how much you love them. Christmas is hard for everybody, but it doesn’t have to be hard alone.
I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year, and I can’t wait to be back on this blog in 2019. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @liz_zarb, and you can like the blog’s Facebook page to be notified whenever I post. Be kind, be generous, and be loving. Happy New Year!