Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

Dispatches on life, love and the human condition by a wanderer and hopeful romantic

Why Holidays Bring Out the Worst in Me–and Lots of Other People, Too

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thanksgivingnothanksThursday is the annual Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. By now, any thinking person knows it’s a totally bullshit festivity based on a made-up story of how the white European interlopers who settled the Americas–and thereafter nearly completely annihilated the native people living on the land they wanted for themselves–initially fooled those native people into thinking they were mates and shared in a bountiful harvest.

Yet still, people of all sexes, races, sexual preferences and creeds across the United States on Thursday will celebrate Thanksgiving, which really just gives them an excuse to have a long weekend off from their day jobs and practice totally acceptable gluttony.

Though I don’t buy ideologically into the holidays I celebrated growing up as an American-Italian Catholic girl growing up in U.S. suburbia anymore, I’m steeped in a long tradition of family Thanksgivings with turkey and stuffing (on the table and of our faces), relatives and tryptophan comas, and pumpkin pie and good ol’ American football. As a result, I usually feel predictably sad and dislocated on the approach to Thanksgiving since I’ve been an expat living in southwest Portugal.

This year I’m feeling especially nervous about the upcoming holiday, although generally I’m feeling better about my life than I have in years. I have a beautiful house, great group of friends, mostly lovely boyfriend and live a peaceful life in which I don’t have to work too hard in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

I don’t know why, but lately these days I feel so fucking old. I’m only just-turned 46, and I feel ancient, like all my best years are behind me and nothing exciting or particularly interesting is going to happen anytime soon.

Some days in the morning before getting out of bed when I know I’m supposed to be chanting a mantra about what a great day I’m going to have, instead I lie there and think, “When did I get this old? How did I get this old? How did any of this happen that I’m middle-aged and living in a foreign country far away from my family? And why don’t I have kids and a family of my own?”

I thought I had my mid-life crisis eight years ago when I moved here, but now I’m thinking maybe this is it. Maybe this is exactly what people have been talking about all these years, minus the bitchin’ Camaro and the much-younger lover.

Or maybe I should go easy on myself and realize the fact that I’m spending another Thanksgiving away from the United States and my family may have something to do with why I’m starting to feel like a big heaping pile of emotional doo doo.

Let’s face it, everyone knows that no matter what you logically think in your head about holidays (ie, “holidays are for suckers,” “no one celebrates that trite crap,” “I’m an anti-establishment moron” etc.), it’s inevitable that they are usually pretty fucking emotional for anyone with a pulse and a sensitive heart. I daresay that few of us are at our best around holiday season, least of all me.

When I was young I noticed a pattern in my highly sensitive mother, who suffered from what I recognize now as severe and undiagnosed anxiety and depression. Whenever there was a holiday–family or otherwise–she would get extremely stressed and upset and somehow start a fight with the entire family over nothing. She would get angry and refuse to talk to each of us–my sister, father and I–in turn, and end up eventually reconciling with my sister and I but not speaking to my father for some time.

Holidays of course were stressful for all of us due to this, and now that I’m older and find that I generally end up crying on my birthday and other significant holidays, my mother’s volatility is probably at the root of my own holiday angst.

But I–and I’m sure many others–probably totally get why my mother became so upset and agitated around holidays. It is a hell of a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone the matriarch of the house expected to prepare the meals, get the kids dressed and ready, buy all the gifts and pack all the stuff–or whatever a specific holiday required.

Pair that with the general expectation most people have that holidays are supposed to be SO MUCH FUCKING FUN and if you’re not happy during holiday season, then there must be something seriously wrong with you–it seems fairly normal to want to crawl under a rock and hiss at anyone who comes near you come Christmas time.

So I’m going to be kind to myself this year. My boyfriend decided to pick this week to go to Lisbon to help his mom with some stuff (I opted not to go, not that I was really invited, but mostly because he has some commitments to her and it didn’t sound like a lot of fun), so I don’t need to factor him into any plans I have for sulking and emotionally blackmailing those close to me into feeling as shitty as I do.

This, I realize, is a very good thing. It means I can be as miserable as I want to be without worrying about how it affects anyone else, and, if I get my head out of my ass long enough, I can get some good self-care time and try to sort out why I’ve been so tired and anxious and worried about everything lately and, better yet, what I can do about it.

I also already have some tentative dinner plans on Thanksgiving itself (that involve pumpkin pie, natch!), so I count myself as winning the annual holiday battle already. Bring on the blues! I’m armed with enough downloads and distractions to smash the shit out of them and survive the first holiday emotional hurdle of the year.


Author: elizabethmontalbano

I am a writer, photographer, lover, fighter, traveler and bon vivant currently residing in southwest Portugal.

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