Of bah humbug and how I got there this year

I’m not afraid to say, dear Reader, that I cried for two days in a row this week.

There is an unexpected sadness that has washed over me as of late that there’s not much I can do about. Not because my depression/ mental health coping skills aren’t working. It’s really because my sadness is a first-world problem, the kind of problem anyone who didn’t have it would wish they could.

This year, as much as I tried to get into the holiday spirit, I just couldn’t.

Usually, I am the one who pulls out the tree, gets the rest of the family to help decorate it, sends out the Christmas cards the first weekend of the season, usually as we are putting away turkey. I am usually the one to have her shopping done and out of the way (thanks to Prime Days) and does the wrapping of the presents to Spotify’s latest Christmas list.

Heck, I buy ornaments every year to symbolize the highlight of our years. This was a tradition I started and makes me quite happy every year to relive the memories.

This year, however, so many things have happened.

My sister wasn’t here for most of it. She works overseas now. And although she’s here now through the new year, a sadness hangs over the festivities. She’ll be gone soon and it’ll be months before we see her again for this long.

And although I knew she was coming, I wasn’t able to prepare for it as much as I’d like because…

Doctors appointments for mom back to back. Nothing bad has come from them. The opposite is true. Mom is holding steady and it’s a testament to how much attention we have put into her care. But with appointments comes blood work and fluid samples and talking to offices and making appointments from the referrals.

And although this resulted in as little drama as possible, there were still…

Papers to grade, emails to answer, meetings to have/attend, students to communicate with. I’m lucky as I get to plan out the semester and I had planned for there being a short turnaround time between the end of the semester and submitting grades. Usually, the semester ends around the 15th, with grades due by the 17th latest. After the grades are in the faculty can begin their holiday. However, this year, the semester ended on the 19th and grades were due on the 21st. That meant that even though I may have been done grading before the 19th (I was), I couldn’t turn in grades until after the 19th. Could I do it before? Sure, but as a courtesy to my students, I wait until the official end of the semester for anything last minute like a paper they turned in that the grade didn’t show up for (it happens though I triple check) or an explanation of whatever. Is this too nice? Perhaps, but I also don’t want to submit paperwork to change a grade if I could have just waited a day or two.

This means, I submitted grades first thing Monday, which gave me…

Five days to get into the Christmas spirit. I mentally need one full week to unwind so that I can be fully present for my family. And I haven’t been. Mom still needed to get gifts, but I needed to rest. My sister was visiting friends. So, that meant no rest for me, no unwinding from a difficult semester.

That meant that…

I drove around for mom to go gift shopping, took her to the final doctor's appointment and the final doctor’s exam, was present for an in-home visit from the insurance, also present for another in-home therapy evaluation, submitted grades, almost ran 5K until I fell on my face, did one walk after that and only one (I just can’t bring myself to run), and, then finally, raked myself over the coals for not writing, as I do. All this was in the past five days.

For five days I’ve done nothing but things. Given to things, been present at things, answered questions about things, stood in the middle of stores full of things.

And so I cried. And I feel alone. And I feel overwhelmed. And I just couldn’t Christmas this year.

No tree.

No Christmas cards.

The gifts are still in their boxes, not even well hidden.

No Spotify playlist.

My Christmas PJs are still in the storage bins.

I feel nothing, no love for my fellow man, just exhaustion.

Noche Buena feels like another day. I’m not really looking forward to it.

And it’s not even going to be cold on Christmas. (What the in the global warming, Batman!)

And, yes, these are first-world problems. The privilege I have is great. There will be food on the table, a roof over our heads, and at this moment, all members of my family are healthy. We are vaccinated. We are together. But I can’t even enjoy my privilege enough to be truly grateful for it at the moment.

What is it like to be a caregiver, the person who knows more about everyone else than she does about herself? It feels like nothing, like the anti-Christmas, a void that I’m not sure can be filled. It feels like silent, hot tears on your cheeks. It sounds like muffled screaming. It looks like an invisible war, the tug and pulls between what you want or need, and what is best for the whole.

I have earned my bah humbug this year but I genuinely don’t want it. I want everyone else to have the Christmas I wanted. Someone should have it, even if it eludes me this year.

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Writer, Daughter of immigrants. Caregiver. Writing teacher. Afro-Latina. Mental Health informer. Runner.

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Writer, Daughter of immigrants. Caregiver. Writing teacher. Afro-Latina. Mental Health informer. Runner.

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