Past Christmas to New Year’s week use to be a swarm of activities. I used to have a packed schedule, usually with family plus in between visits with friends.
I also used to email with my girlfriend almost every single year, both of us with one vent – the same vent year after year – “Why can’t we just be left alone to relax?”
Obligations – we were continuously planning our schedule to make everyone else happy.
This year, the same thing happens. I’m working myself hard at work while preparing for our holiday festivities to the point where I’m burnt out, exhausted beyond hope and eventually, finding myself with a very uncomfortable cold. The bug bit down on me overnight from December 23rd to Christmas Eve morning. As if to say, Well, now that you’re done working 60 hours a week, cramming the last bit of crap in the office, it’s time for you the pay for what you’ve done to your body!
I’ve gotten better, of course. My family always thinks, year after year, that just because I take the whole week off, I’m available to meet up with them 5 times for lunch, get-togethers, dinners, etc. The truth is, I’m not the social butterfly I use to be in my 20’s. Even that was short-lived. The honest to God truth is that I need a lot of downtime now to recharge myself for the next social gathering.
So, this year, I limited the celebrations to Christmas dinner at my aunt’s place (on Christmas Eve), my birthday, and my mom’s birthday at the very end of the week. It’s down to 3 times with family, no visits with friends and staying home as much as I can with just my family in between. Including New Year’s Eve – a holiday my husband and I don’t really care for anyway. And I wonder why we pushed ourselves to do it every year when truth be told, we’re so tired by NYE that I’m literally looking at the time every 10 minutes or so starting 9pm until midnight, praying time will go faster so I can just go home and go to bed!
And the family is getting better at understanding how tired I am and the amount of rest I need. I use to get awful backlash for not being as available as they want me to be. Finally, in the past few years I have been brutally honest – that I just want to be left alone, left to have NO SCHEDULE and just time to unwind. That’s basically it. Call me anti-social but that’s the only way I’ll be happy.
Still, it’s a hard habit to kick. When it came to my birthday, without realizing it, I was even planning the day to make everyone else happy. My husband and daughter really wanted to see Star Wars – Rogue One, and I knew my parents wanted to see it as well. To minimize having to go a different day and therefore, having to see them again (because you see, it’s not just going to a movie but there will be an expected dinner afterwards with the whole family) I planned on the day we were to have my birthday dinner at our house (take-out sushi). See how that works? I had to squeeze in the movie the same day just so I could free up the following days.
After getting sick, we called off the movie and possibly the sushi dinner as well, but as soon as I started to feel better, the dinner was back on (which I didn’t mind since it’s sushi and at our place), my husband started to get all excited that the movie was back on too.
I told him, “Hold it. I didn’t say the movie was back on.”
He said, “But don’t you want to see it?”
“I do. But I’m not in as much of a rush to see it as you.”
“So we see it later in the week?”
“No – because that means I’ll have to see my family. Again!”
“So why don’t the 3 of us see it and then see it again with your parents?”
“I don’t have the time or energy to do that! The movie will still be around the following weekend.”
“Look – it’s too much for me. Go see it with C. If it’s that good you can see it again with me. Or not and I’ll go on my own.” (Truth be told I use to love seeing movies on my own!)
He was disappointed but also realized that the plans I had to see Star Wars was more for everyone else and not really for myself. As much as I hate to disappoint him, and there’s this small voice in my head that is nagging me to just do it – get it over with and make everyone happy about seeing the movie on my birthday – I just know I’ll feel worn out and this cold may never truly go away in time for me to enjoy the rest of my holiday.
People get use to the “reliable” you when you are always the one that makes everyone else happy. And it’s really about striking that balance to keep them happy and keep myself happy. I love my family, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy getting together with them for Christmas, birthdays and just family time every now and then.
But I can’t see them so often that it feels that they are getting their way, and not giving me what I need – solitude. It’s nothing personal.It’s not that I love them any less. But I love solitude. I love having free time to do as I please because I rarely get that anymore.
Like my dog in the above photo, I’m just so… exhausted.