Post-Christmas Meltdowns and Embracing Anxiety (yeah, right)

“Oh, this has been one of my better Decembers …and that included chopping off part of my finger.” was my summation of the holiday season to a friend of mine last night. Kinda sums up what I think about Christmases in general. I boycotted the whole thing this year; vastly improved my quality of life. December is brutal for me, the darkening days slow me down, the cold weather makes it more work to haul my butt outside when I’m tired, the holiday gatherings full of yummy foods that are hard on my body, it all kinda takes the stuffing out of me [pun!]. Add to that a life ususally working some sort of part time retail job that goes nuts this time of year, and MY holiday tradition includes The Post-Christmas Meltdown: a multi-houred exhaustion-fueled snotty tearfest that centers around the “What am I doing with my life, I can’t go on like this, I’ve got it all wrong, what am I gonna DO!?!”

This year, coming out of a brutal relapse the end of November, using most of my available energy just to start to get my life back on the rails, looking at the upcoming holiday season all I could muster was an awfuckit (not even a bah humbug). I just couldn’t do it; I simply opted out, avoided most holiday gatherings, didn’t buy any gifts, didn’t write a single card. For the record, I did discover you can say screw Christmas without having to be a Scrooge. I didn’t suddenly turn into a bitch, I just carried on with my usual cheerful, generous spirit, kindness, and enjoyment of people I usually have. Okay, admittedly there was a wee bit of swearing and ranting as I discovered Christmas was the unrelenting unavoidable abomination – like hearing Christmas music in a Vietnamese restaurant the first week of December, or being trapped on a bus to Edmonton unable to avoid some bloody Christmas movie.

More than anything this attempted boycott made me really understand what it must be like for people who don’t celebrate Christmas, or for reasons of lost loved ones or ill timed breakups are definitely not going to have a happy Christmas. It’s brutal, it’s a persistent and pervasive (dare I say invasive?) mass marketed event. And I wish more than anything that we could all tone it down a bit in December, and just carry that spirit around more the rest of the year. Why not be generous and give to charities every month? It’s a long winter, why not have a dinner gatherings in February with all your loved ones? It’s such a dreary month with the lingering of Winter and a restless need to get on with Spring, why not make that month more festive?

But I digress, lessons learned from boycotting Christmas wasn’t really what got me down to posting today. What has is: sans traditional major exhaustion-fueled melt-down freakout, I’m still looking back on the year at what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve been through, what I want and what the hell I’m doing. And to be honest I’m not happy. It’s been a tough year for me. Mind you some great achievements too: like 10,000 views on my website, and hooking up with protospace and learning so much from them. I’ve somehow migrated from saying “I write” to calling myself “a writer,” and chatter away on topics of tech, society, creativity, social media, and the future of the internet like somebody who has a clue – and I think I do! I’m curious about all of that stuff, how it fits together, and spend a lot of time listening and thinking about it. But when I look at my daily life I spend a lot of it stressed, strung out, overwhelmed, …and anxious.

Anxiety is a new thing for me. Most of my spiritual/emotional work has centered around arguing with reality, and the despondency that sets in when I lose that argument (which of course is most of the time). Lack of acceptance, an unwillingness to let go of illusions of control (and the spiritual pugnacity that comes along with that) are my old dear friends, I recognise them readily now, and know what to do (whether I actually settle down and do is of course another matter). But anxiety, fearfulness, insecurity, is all new territory for me and I’m still trying to sort all that out.

Some of it may simply be physiological: my adrenals coming back online in fits and starts – leaving a chemical trail of alarm for no reason at all. I know the heavy metal detox messes with my brain and my emotions are all over the place. And my mother, as well as friends in their 40’s, remind me it may just be hormonal; my mom says she used to cry if the potatoes boiled over, heck she’d cry if the potatoes didn’t boil over. I’ve got a lot of reasons to be a basket case.

Situationally, I’ve got a lot of things to be scared about. I’m better than I was, but a long way from being really well. I keep expecting more out of my life, but always seem to be measuring with a stick slightly longer than my reach. In a sad way life was easier when I was really ill, it was small and simple and didn’t reach much beyond the couch. Feeling better means going out into a great big world with all sorts of things that are new and fast and over my head, filled with people who’ve been doing stuff for decades, not just a few years like me. And I’m not just behind, I still move slower than anybody else, so my small accomplishments seem washed out when I see others zoom by me. It’s a world I’m not sure I can keep up in, and yet that empty, couch life doesn’t fit me anymore either. I can’t seem to find a place where I fit, and end up feeling overwhelmed and out of place most of the time. Reason enough for some ill-at-ease anxiety.

Looking at the anxiety from a spiritual point of view is probably the most interesting for me, and the most uncomfortable. I’ve got a few people in my life I really have a hard time being around …okay, honestly, simply don’t like AT ALL. And that’s not like me, I generally play well with others and can find something interesting, loveable in practically everyone. If I was honest with myself, what I don’t like about these people is that they are wound up, anxious, generally insecure, and yep, basically mirror back to me all the parts of myself I really don’t want to look at. Being anxious is not a part of my identity. I’m admittedly a little proud of that feisty argumentative side. ‘Cause honestly, anger has a goodly amount of power behind it, and I’ve learned a lot from that part of me about acceptance and gentleness and patience and mostly now can redirect that angry power in healthy ways.

I’m sure there’s something really valuable anxiety and insecurity has to teach me (bleh, SO don’t want to go through this lesson though). Probably something along the lines of vulnerability, powerlessness and true power. Don’t really have a clue though. And I hate writing from this space. I like being all clever and laying down the brilliant life-changing insights I’ve already figured out. But the reality is, you don’t get to the clever life-changing insights without spending some time in the uncomfortable place of ignorance and uncertainty.

So here I sit. And boy, it sure makes me feel insecure.

*   *   *

As the post-Christmas meltdown is becoming a seasonal tradition, you can read how I coped with it last year in I Quit.

8 thoughts on “Post-Christmas Meltdowns and Embracing Anxiety (yeah, right)

  1. I had a great low key Christmas. I’ve been disapproving of the commercialism and effort that goes into Christmas for a few years now. I think I am becoming more comfortable with how I wish to spend my winter holiday and my family is also beginning to get it. I spent the evening with three family members for Christmas day dinner and the rest of the holidays I did what I normally do. The terrible music and absurd traffic jams were a minor inconvenience. Thankfully I don’t watch TV.

    The only gift I bought was a Ciniplex pass for 2 from Cosco for a Secret Santa at work. I would never put my self though Cosco near Christmas again for a gift.



  2. Hey Valerie,

    I feel your pain. I just avoided malls and travelled with ear plugs to block out the Xmas tunes. If I hear Santa Baby one more time I’m gonna go postal.

    I think the gift you need the most is to give yourself a break. You have had a great year, taking on many challenges with enthusiasm. You are living your life and if you weren’t insecure, you be wel…bored.


    1. aw… thanks and good point. I keep forgetting if you want to learn new things you need to be willing to be stupid for a while.


  3. …and the interesting thing is after writing this post – which really meant owning up to feeling insecure and just letting myself be in that space – as per usual when I just stop fighting the feelings, they disapated.

    I’ve been feeling much more relaxed and comfortable since.


  4. i’ve been processing my xmas experience for a few days now, and i’ve come out the other end right where i should be. letting go, loving. it’s good work too, good for the planet to do this kind of work. i didn’t boycot xmas in the sense of struggling against anything, but instead allowed the moments of connection. like children’s choirs singing all day one sunday that i was working alone in the store. i could hear the distant voices floating in the air and it was like a gift. i still found small gifts for some people like my mom, they just came to me with a smile. giving a little extra tip at restaurants or coffee shops. that was connection too. so prior to xmas was a time of peace and gratitude and spirit. it wasn’t until the family get together that the clash occurred. being truly single with no more children or spouse to take my energies elsewhere, i was being solicited to take on a tradition that in hindsight was probably offered as a better alternative. little did they know that good intentions pave the road to hell. i wasn’t actively affirming the excesses i was witnessing, and that raised a bitter defensiveness (all round) and a feeling that i was being ungrateful. there was no connection in the sense that i was seeking. like i said, i did the processing and still love, really happy i took my own direction despite the pain it caused. it’s good work regardless of outcomes.


  5. dear valerie, dagmar, jane, donna & friends,

    merry december-is-over! solstice and the longer brighter days is regularily one of the biggest gifts. (and nothing like it is for sale. though, if you want to borrow my SAD lamp, I’m not using it…)

    (sleep? you mean I need to sleep in this new improved year?)


  6. Well, Valerie,

    I really like this post. Especially your third last paragraph (the one with the couch.) Just tingling in my brain right where I keep hurting, or perhaps, tingling in my life. It’s also interesting and useful that my anxiety and insecurity are slanted just a bit differently.

    My grounded, steady sister keeps reminding me that most people feel that they’re just getting by, faking some, hoping some. And that most people feel that most other people have way more clue than they do, most people worry that others fit into the world better than themselves. My father was often amazed that he had gotten by, (in this country/ as a grown-up/ as a father and husband) and to outward appearances, he was highly successful in many ways. Somehow my father had shed enough of the angst, that he could show that core of sheer amazement. (He was older than we are.)

    Spiritually, I don’t know either. I find an ongoing connection between doubt, (mostly a drawback) and obsessive double check did I do it wrong doubt, (shee-yit), and humility (mostly good, this-size-fits, clear eyed, with a restful potential.)

    Spiritually, in a lot of ways, I value inarticulation, but I’m not sure if any of those relate. I guess amazement is spiritual.

    You said it better, but here goes me. The world beyond the couch fits all. It’s our world. We’re not the cogs which the machine possesses, we are the thinga mi jiggers that create and recreate the machine. It’s our machine, it’s our society/ societies, it’s not the society that possesses us. I exist. You exist.

    Uh, yeah. Yanno, then there are these times when I value articulation, oh lofty and elusive goal.

    ;-) jyanti


  7. I finally have a moment to go back to read the latest from Valerie et al. It’s not that my holiday season was frantic and filled. Actually it was the opposite in regards to activity level – very relaxed and go with the flow. But it was filled with lots of love, relationship, and community. So many of us don’t really celebrate Christmas because we no longer tow the Christian line but that doesn’t mean that we don’t value the origin of Christmas – The Divine gift of Love sent in the form of a baby.

    I agree with Valerie that the gift of Love should be celebrated all year around, not just at one time of year. And if it means, given to myself on the couch, then so be it, because it means I really needed it at the time.

    And cool, we all get to learn and relearn the idea that if we just let whatever we feel be…it ultimately resolves itself. No use getting anxious about being anxious. I’ve finally learned that after 54 years! No one ever said I was a quick study! ;o)

    So let’s celebrate love, being loved, self love, being anxious without being anxious about it, and plenty of couch time if that’s what you need. There is something to be said of siesta times. It’s a daily reminder to renew yourself.

    Recently my very religious (Christian) sibling emailed me and said, “My wish for Christmas is that you and the kids know the true meaning of Christmas.” I told her “Yup, we do…It’s called Love.”


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