Friday, December 24, 2010

I'll be "Home Alone" for Christmas

Macaulay Culkin was freaked out at first. Then he had a blast.
    (dec 24,2014) I'll be home for Christmas, but it will be my  home, alone, without all the uproar of frantic cooking, shopping, gift-wrapping, Happy Holidays card-sending, and forced festivity that virtually always amounts to a big-bummer-anticlimax, and a huge mess to clean up. Plus all those leftovers. And the gifts that I didn't want, and the ones I bought that they don't want, and all those false "Just what I wanted!" exclamations.
    I am usually home alone, but it's even nicer on Christmas, when everyone else is rushing around, worried about blizzards, about familial blowups, about the turkey still being raw inside, about gaining weight, about the pressure of spending too much or too little. Credit-card debt and stress galore.. The stack of stuff that needs to be returned or exchanged. That empty feeling, and maybe even some hurt feelings, and that little dread feeling when you start counting down the days until the next Yuletide extravaganza."The most wonderful time of the year" it's not, in my opinion.
    So when I'm home alone during all of this madness, I have an enhanced feeling of pleasant detachment. My solitude seems especially precious. I'm a Christmas renunciant. I object, your honor! I'm an escapee, hiding out and feeling totally cozy. I don't have to exclaim anything, or respond to small-talk exclamations ("You look younger every year! I heard you were named Miss Blogger Universe -- what a cool compliment!) or explain for the umpteenth time why I'm eating nothing but vegetables. And no one can lure me from my fortress, not even a SWAT team dressed like Santa and his elves.

What a feeling -- just like in the movie. Hooray! I did it my way!
     I retired from Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, and every other traditional holiday -- except for Mother's and Father's days --  as soon as I moved out of my parents' house 45 years ago. Oh what a relief it is! The specter of all those obsessed, nerve-wracked people rushing around, standing in lines, crossing off lists, looking exhausted, gives me a sweet sense of peace that I don't generally have. I don't feel superior -- in fact, I guess all those people who care so much are superior -- but I feel lucky to have found a solution that works for me, which is: Stay out of it! 
Scram, you SWAT elf! I didn't steal Christmas - I just buried it.
     The only thing I miss about Christmases past is that when it was all over, and everyone had departed (leaving behind a big disaster of plates, wine glasses, pans and wrapping paper to be cleaned up) (not by any of the guests, of course), my mother and I would sit down at the dining room table -- in candlelight, with the tiny lights among the boughs still twinkling -- and we'd strip all the meat off of the turkey carcass (which is gross for a vegan, but the camaraderie made it tolerable). We listened to smooth jazz (NOT Christmas music), relishing the sax solos in particular, and when Ramsay Lewis's "I'm in with the In Crowd" came on, we'd wipe off our fingers and dance together. The animated conversations we had during that "after hours" interlude were the only decent dialogue of the evening. During dinner, there was little interaction, and most of that was boring, superficial or obligatory.
    My mother agreed with that assessment, but she said, "It's just nice for us all to be together."
    It wasn't nice for me. It was a pointless exercise that ultimately was simply depressing. I could hardly wait to go home, wash my face and get back to my easy chair, with a cup of herb tea and my cat in my lap.
    These days, I don't ignore the fact that it's Christmas. I revel in the fact, and feel a palpable contentment that I've battened down the hatches against. It's turned into a madcap horror show. As usual, Joe and I go out for our predawn stomp through the snow (the more blizzardy the better), before people get up and get those fireplaces roaring away, ruining the pristine air. My yultide festivity consists of doing lots of laundry, having a big pot of some beans-and-greens minestre bubbling away, and switching from NPR to rock 'n roll. 
    I take an extended hot shower, and summon my cat for a longer-than-usual cooperative stretching routine. We give each other new ideas for yoga poses, but my favorite is when we do the child pose and cobra pose together. His purring as we lie side by side enhances the release of endorphins and oxytocin, two of my favorite drugs now that booze and pills don't work any more.
The child's pose makes us feel grown up.
The cobra  is cool, but it fails to activate our reptilian brain's amygdala.
It seems unfair that my cat can do the mermaid, and I can't..
But, ironically, I'm better at the cat pose than he is.
    There is a part of me that resists the idea of all holidays. I don't like being told what to do, or how to feel, on someone else's schedule. I buy gifts when I feel like it, and I make special meals when I'm up to it. I do not enjoy stampedes. I don't appreciate enforced festivity. I resent the commercialization of all of it.
    Sorry, Santa, but I think you're a bit of a terrorist. Sorry Jesus, but I don't think your birthday is such a big deal. Sorry, Gross National Product. I don't believe in you, either.