Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday or Detour? Part II



(For my philosophy, read part I)

Hubby does not view this time as a holiday, rather for him, it is a big detour--and all the aggravation detours bring.
The first Christmas tree Hubby & I put up together wouldn't stay in the stand, and kept falling on his head. I guess this was a BIG sign; one that I missed!
I'm not saying he's not generous, he is--very. I'm the one who gets curmudgeonly, feeling like people don't even know what I've given them, much less appreciate the time I took, the money I spent, or the great deal of consideration I made in the purchase. I'm the one who gets sad and unattractively annoyed about the people in my life who are eternally disappointed with gifts because they think I should be able to afford so much more.
He's quite childlike in spirit and fun. He draws the cutest teeny pictures on my gift tags and signs gifts from all sorts of inventive people (the mechanics for Santa's sleigh, for instance). And he's always saying he wants to socialize more and be around more people--as well as do cultural things, like go to concerts and plays--those very things we do more of during these holidays.
Despite these efforts, the holidays fill him with angst. They are a big detour from the clean, well-lighted life he leads. For one thing, he hates the mess. He has zero patience for the clippings of gift wrapping. He obsessively insists on carefully placing each gift under the tree so it doesn't look haphazard. He gets physically anxious to have the leaf in the table any days after the leaf-requiring event.
The "holidays" also create a detour from the simple, comforting routines in our relationship: hanging out watching TV, shopping for groceries on the weekends, eating lunch out on Sun. As well as the newer things. . . me cooking dinner--carefully selecting our healthy meals; me keeping up with the laundry. He fears for my health and for the backlash he'll be a victim of after the holidays if I get all depressed about gaining weight. These are not unjustified concerns.
He worries about the money. His work slackens in Dec. & Jan. and the economy is really frightening right now. My company just laid off people and my old company in MA is completely closing its doors. And more than that, he really has an "I-hate-to-shop-on-demand, and I don't believe in this consumer-pushed gift-giving crapola" attitude. It largely comes down to being aggravated that he is culturally compelled to buy for others. My husband, the Christmas Rebel.
I admit that I let the spending go out of control. I tried this year. . . but . . .it's hard. . . But even to me, in cases where I buy from lists or feel forced to find a gift for someone I am completely uninspired to give to, it starts to feel a bit ridiculous. Why should I buy you what you want and you buy me what I want? Why not just buy it for ourselves?
Or worse, why are we just exchanging checks? Are these gestures so necessary to sustain our relationships? This year I tried to remedy some of those negative feelings by not getting so caught up in buying the exact same amount--package or money wise on people. I've tried to focus on one thing at a time, so the demands felt a little more spread out.
We've decided to go ahead and just give some people money--a huge step (cop out?) for me. They haven't seemed to help Hubby. We've often done more creative money-free things for each other, but not for the extended families. . .
The problem is, it's bigger than all this. He won't admit it, but this detour just represents the most fearful thing in this life--that time is running out. (Not so unlike ol' Ebeneezer's biggest fear, eh?)
Since the cancer, this has only been amplified. His fear seeps into me. . .the panicked eating and depression I went through during and after his treatment. He wants a straight course to get to the things he wants and any detour is panic causing because he is not sure of the path.
He doesn't have the confidence that he knows how to get there on his own--that he is talented enough. He thinks he needs me like a child thinks he needs training wheels. It's not that he just wants us to be together. . .or he would be more willing to take my holiday detour. He'd shop with me, watch TV in the room where I wrap presents, chat about menus. Instead he stays at home, blocked by the detour of the holiday, feeling abandoned as I wind through the holiday maze.
He sees this as a detour of the focus on him. A focus he is panicked about keeping. Like if he looks away--if I look away--he will disappear. He's not unhealthy. Not on his deathbed. He's just always feeling like he's sliding down the chute instead of climbing up the ladder and the game is coming to a close. And it leaves me lost.
I feel like my delight in the holidays crushes him, like that first tree. A time I want to feel closer makes him bruised. He's angry; I'm defensive.
It will be fine, I know that. . . until it resolves. . .we'll fill in with Falalalalas.
So how do you see Christmas--as a Holiday from the routine? Or a Detour from your goals or directed course?


  1. I don't know why, but your post reminds me of a book I read "The Five Love Languages." One of them was gift-giving. Your husband is much like my husband. He doesn't give gifts ever. And I mean EVER. No anniversary gifts, nada. But ironically he is the most generous and most loving man I know. Yesterday, he spent his whole morning trudging in the snow to unfreeze pipes so I could take a hot bath.

  2. If I could spend Christmas in my own way with my husband and son and dog in my own home, I would view it very much as a holiday. But instead, we trek down to CT with the entire meal for my side of the family since my parents are very ill and can't do it for themselves. The day is spent in the company of people I don't like (except for Mom, who is always my reason for doing anything for this family) and who don't appreciate what's done for them. For me, it has turned into a day to be endured and gotten thru as quickly as possible - and in that way has become a detour to living as happily as I want. It will be this way for however long my parents are alive. THEN - it will go back to being a holiday on my own terms. Sorry to sound so scrooge-y. Luckily, it is only one day and we can enjoy the rest of Christmas vacation having fun.

  3. You know, I feel as though the holiday is about getting back on track. Taking me away from the detour of self and getting back on track in my care and consideration for others. I like to use it as a reset button, to remind me of who and what is important.

  4. I like a holiday that's simple with my family and a few close friends. I don't like all the shopping and the crowds. I think as I get older, it's more about relationships and less about gifts, and I would say my husband joins me in these feelings too!

  5. I am sorry that I just read this. This year, I did not see Christmas as a detour. I bought for everyone that I wanted to buy for, no matter if I thought they might get me a present or not, no matter if I knew they would appreciate it. I want to show my love and appreciation for people, and Christmas is a good way to push me in that direction. However, I do understand the feeling that it gets in the way. I don't think about the bills I am racking up or the people I don't buy for that might be expecting it; if I did, I'd probably feel the same way he does. I am fighting back the negativity lately, and I am trying really hard to just live the way I want to, not the way people expect. On that note, if "hubby" really loves you, which I am 100% sure he does, he will understand and "forgive" your ways that contrast to his. :)

  6. I really enjoy your blog - Merry Christmas!


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