The “War on Christmas”? Bah humbug.

waronchristmas

Certain Christians who celebrate Christmas (not all Christians do) have lately been bellyaching via blogs, bumper stickers, and various memes that there is a “war on Christmas” going on. Even some conservative Christian politicians have been bloviating about this alleged “war on Christmas.” Where are the tiny violins?

I find it all a bit mystifying because if anything Christmas is more in your face today than it ever was before. The holiday season used to start the day after Thanksgiving; now it starts the day after Halloween, and even Thanksgiving has been insidiously taken over by a day celebrating the spirit of greed called “Black Friday”–which now has edged into “Black Thursday,” meaning many stores are now open on Thanksgiving so people can stock up on cheap TVs and other appliances to give their holiday shopping a head start.

You can’t get away from Christmas. Everywhere you turn, it’s buy this, buy that; give this, give that; host a big holiday bash or else; and you’re either a Scrooge or a sucky parent/lover/friend/employee if you don’t blindly obey these messages that are blasted into our ears 24/7 for an entire month or more.

If you don’t have the funds to give extravagant gifts or host lavish parties and holiday dinners with all the trimmings or the time or desire to decorate a 10 foot Christmas tree and bedeck your entire house with exterior lights, you are made to feel defective–and Scroogelike. And it’s getting worse and more in your face every year.

So Christmas itself is having no problems. I don’t see any war against it going on.

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I think what the “war on Christmas” actually refers to is cards, banners, signs, and greetings that say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of the more Christian-centric “Merry Christmas.” Those who complain about the war on Christmas are objecting to the political correctness of those attempting to be all-inclusive–because after all, America is a melting-pot nation that includes Jews, Muslims, atheists and people of other faiths besides Christianity. “Seasons Greetings” is convenient and covers at least the Jews who celebrate Hanukkah and African Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa (who probably also celebrate Christmas). In fact, I know a lot of Jews who celebrate both Hanukkah AND Christmas. Christmas has become more of an American holiday than a religious one–and a handy excuse for Big Business to rake in big bucks.

“Seasons Greetings” has been on Christmas cards for as long as I can remember (and I’ve been around quite a while), but it didn’t seem to me that anyone minded that until the past 10-20 years or so. Personally, I think it’s petty and stupid to make such a big deal about it. “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holiday” doesn’t exclude Christians, but for some reason certain Christians think that such a greeting is a sign of hostility against them or Christmas itself. I think there are far more important things for them to be worrying about besides the printed message on a holiday oops Christmas card that will probably be tossed in the trash the week after New Years’ anyway.

Here’s a news flash: There is no “War on Christmas.” It’s all in your head.

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Take your office Christmas party and shove it.

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Get out of my face with your absurd fake smiles and stupid Santa hats.

So tomorrow night is the annual office Christmas party. I will not be attending. It’s not like I have some high level job where my presence is expected or necessary anyway. I doubt anyone will even notice my absence or care.

As an Aspie, I have never been able to tolerate the forced upbeat perkiness and all the small talk and chit chat about nothing in particular that abounds at these events. Too much social input coming in from all directions overwhelms my oddly wired brain, causing it to short circuit. I wind up in a state of near panic and to compensate, I become mute to avoid reading a social cue wrong and say something out of context that causes people to look at each other knowingly and roll their eyes at my social ineptness.

I feel like the old Saturday Night Live character Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, whose mantra was “your world frightens and confuses me.” The world of neurotypicals, a world of people who love to socialize in groups, attend parties and engage in small talk, has that effect on me.

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Whenever I’ve attended one of these things, I leave as exhausted as if I just spent the day digging holes in dry packed mud. Because I’m nearly silent at these events, people don’t even attempt to talk to me. More often that not, I wind up sitting there at the table alone, picking at my plate of stuffed mushrooms and baby carrots, feeling as self conscious and awkward as the school geek in a roomful of popular kids, because I can find no one to talk to and apparently no one really wants to talk to me either.

Small talk is utterly boring to me. Aspies tend to like “deep” talk, but I learned that serious, in depth conversations about things that matter is verboten at parties, especially office parties, where you are forced to spend an evening acting like people you probably wouldn’t give the time of day to if you didn’t have to work with them are your best friends. It’s all so fake and stupid to me.

I don’t get jokes a lot of the time, especially if they’re inside jokes that, because I don’t have close friends at work and am not part of a clique, I haven’t been filled in on the background that makes these jokes funny to others. It’s hard to laugh at a joke you don’t get. But you must laugh anyway so people don’t think you’re cold and unfriendly or worse, didn’t get the joke, which implies stupidity. But telling jokes is de rigeur for office Christmas parties.

The other thing that drives me crazy is everyone talking about their upcoming holiday plans. Most neurotypicals have lots of friends and love to talk about the gifts they are buying and the parties and other events they will be attending with those friends. Most people also have loving families and nearby relatives and all the talk about what toys they are buying little Isabella and Caleb at Sam’s Club makes me want to stick hot pins in my eyes. Being a person with hardly any money to buy gifts for anyone in a world that seems full of people who are living in two income households and have disposable income to throw around drives me mad too.

The only way I could cope with this type of an event would be if I had a few drinks ahead of time, but that wouldn’t be worth it either and besides, I’d still have to drive. I don’t really need a DWI on top of all the other shit I’m dealing with.

I’m no Scrooge, but you can keep your office Christmas party. I have better things to do, like socialize with my cats who don’t give a damn how awkward I am, or write more blogs posts.

My minimalist fiber optic Christmas tree

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This year I went minimalist. With no family in my state besides my daughter, and plans to spend Christmas with her at boyfriend Paul’s much bigger house (with its more spacious and modern kitchen, where I will be making my traditional Christmas spinach/meat lasagna), there was no reason to drag out the 6 foot tree that requires assembly and all the boxes of ornaments out of the back of the hall closet.

So I bought this little 24-inch gold-tinsel fiber optic tree at the dollar store. It set me back only $15.00. I don’t have to deal with untangling strings of lights or or rigging the tree up since it just screws into its little gold stand, which I wrapped with a red and white tablecloth to cover the base and make it look less like a tacky dollar store tree. No need to decorate it–its fiber optic lights change colors and an old mirror propped behind it on a small table give it the appearance of looking bigger than it really is. Only a few gifts will be given at my home–and the small space around the tree will fit them perfectly.

I kind of like this tree. It reminds me of one of those sparkly tinsel trees that used to be popular in the 1960s. It’s very retro and cute.

Surviving the holidays

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I relate to Charlie Brown. As a kid, “Peanuts” was my favorite comic strip (I owned all the Peanuts books too), and Charlie Brown was a lot like me–fearful of what others thought of him, frequently bullied and taken advantage of, and often pessimistic. But he also had a good heart, and his faithful dog Snoopy brought joy to his life when he was ready to give up. So I have used some photos from the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in my post.

The holidays are a rough time for many people, but they are especially hard on those of us who have been victims of narcissistic abuse and been cut off (or have gone No Contact) with our families. It sure doesn’t help either that I have SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and become very depressed during the shortest and coldest days of the year.

I have described the way my MN mother has systemically, through triangulation, scapegoating and gaslighting of me as well as making good use of the flying monkeys in her own extended family, has cut me off from all my relatives who I never knew very well anyway. She has even recruited some of the relatives on my father’s side into her evil campaign against me. I am the family embarrassment and black sheep.

Even though I have gone No Contact with my mother and several other family members, I feel I would have been eventually cut off completely from them anyway. I’ve almost certainly been written out of both her and my father’s wills. My mother’s extended family and friends don’t know me; they only believe the vicious lies what she tells them about me–what an ungrateful and selfish daughter I am (and how narcissistic I am too), what a pathetic loser I am (because I’m poor and haven’t achieved a high status career the way they all have), what stupid choices I make, and how emotionally unstable and crazy I am. It’s obvious she’s projecting some of her own character defects onto me (a red flag for narcissism if there ever was one), but knowing this doesn’t make her hateful comments and lies hurt any less–and some of them have a grain of truth–especially the picture she’s painted of me as an impoverished “loser” and that I was always destined to fail (because I was programmed and trained to fail).

It hurts like hell to know how hated I am by my own family. Even as a child I sensed my mother hated me, because I was an exceedingly sensitive child and she could never understand that. She also knew I could see right through her, even when I was a toddler. Knowing that my family hates me has done enormous damage to my self image and crippled me in succeeding in life. I was programmed by her to fail. My being a success would have been a huge danger to her.

Because of my C-PTSD and suspiciousness and lack of trust of others (and due to being naturally introverted), I  find it very hard to socialize and make friends because I have so much trouble reading social cues and knowing the right thing to say at the right time (for years, I thought I had Aspergers). It seems that my only social life is on the Internet. I’m afraid to get close to people because I’m afraid they might hate me if they knew me too well. So I spent most of my time alone, reading, blogging, and interacting with my sweet and loyal pets, who never judge me and accept me for who I am. I actually prefer it that way. I relish my time alone, without the stress of having to be “on” in social situations. I’m never really lonely, and I’m free to be myself without fear of judgment.

CHARLIE BROWN TRIES TO PERK UP THE FORLORN LITTLE CHRISTMAS TREE

But the holidays are hard because I am so alone in the world. Thanksgiving is coming up this week, and I’ve made absolutely no plans, because there is no one to make plans with. My only immediate family that has anything to do with me (or are still alive) are my son and daughter. But my son lives several states away and there is no way either he or I can afford to travel to be together, and my daughter has moved in with her boyfriend, and although she says she will be around on Thanksgiving, her word is about as reliable as a Nigerian email scam. She will probably find some excuse to not show up.

It’s very difficult for me to listen to people all around me talk about their big holiday plans–plans that involve boatloads of relatives, extravagant gifts, preparing huge meals for the extended family and their large circles of friends, planning plane or road trips to see beloved family and friends. I admit I envy these people, and really have a hard time dealing with their holiday chatter. It makes me feel so cheated and drives home how unfair life can be. Holiday commercials are even worse, and their images of the idealized, big extended, functional families sitting around a huge table groaning with food while the kids happily open gifts under a 12 foot tree feels like a kick in the teeth. It feels like the universe, or God or whatever, is taunting me:
“This is what everyone else has and you do not. You don’t deserve what they have. Nyah, nyah! Suck it up, loser.”
That’s really what it feels like. And it’s so, so hard. It makes me want to crawl into a large cardboard box and die.

I have a roommate, but she will be with her own family on Thanksgiving, and frankly, she isn’t someone I want to spend much time with. So it looks very likely I will be alone on Thanksgiving. Should I cook a small turkey just for me? I might–just to go through the motions of doing something special, and because I enjoy cooking and baking. I thought of going to the Catholic church I’ve been attending lately for their free Thanksgiving dinner–but that just seems so desperate and pathetic. I can’t help but associate people who go alone to such events as being the rejects of society, those without families or friends to be with. Well, that’s exactly what I am though, isn’t it? What makes me think I’m better than those people? Still, I don’t know if I can bring myself to go.

Christmas will be even worse. I think I’ll just skip Christmas this year. I’ve said that every year though since my kids became adults, and I haven’t skipped it yet. I may put up a small pre-lit tabletop tree from the dollar store. I have an antique mirror I can put behind it to make it appear brighter and bigger. But I don’t know. For me, giving gifts is far more fun than receiving, and Christmas is no fun if you’re too poor to give anything. I can make some of my glass and mirror suncatchers and give those (they were well received last year) or bake cookies and wrap them in attractive packages and inexpensive colorful tins.

Or maybe this can be the year I decide to stop feeling sorry for myself and give someone who is even worse off than me a few hours of joy. I could volunteer at the church, or the soup pantry, or even invite a homeless person or someone with no one to be with out to dinner for Christmas. Even a total stranger! At least I have a home, and a little bit of money; many people don’t even have that. In a week or so I’ll be receiving a several thousand dollar settlement from my daughter’s car accident back in October; I think I should use a little of that money to try to bring some joy into someone’s life who doesn’t have any at all. But will I do it?

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The holidays sure are a challenge, and every year I dread them and wish I could just hibernate until spring, but maybe this will be the year I can give to someone else what I don’t have much of myself.