A-one, A-two, A-1234: “it’s the most wonderful time of the yearrr.”
A teensers over a year ago, I wrote about how holidays perplex me: this shove to have no worries, to shelve my problems and bury the tornadoes in my head. As a kid, teenager into a young adult, there was never any space for emotions: we had a schedule to keep, order to maintain, 7 minute lukewarm showers per person, dinner at this time, wake up at this time, 10 minutes in the bathroom then call the next person in. It was an air-tight, sealed home and tantrums, expression, anything that poked at the schedule was not permitted. School and work in the morning- not tears. These feelings of not being seen, of being a burden that takes up space always bubble back up in November and December.
Usually around the beginning of November, one family member will call me up in the morning, insisting that I need to be at so and so’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The room calls up past demons to hold me by the neck as space closes in on me, as I stammer about the holidays being rooted in capitalism and indigenous erasure. Things begin to spin and swirl into an unfortunate kaleidoscope over shouts of IT’S ABOUT F A M I L Y.
So this year, I tried to do something about it.
- Tune into triggering times: I’ve noticed that for me, mornings are the most triggering. I wake up anticipating that phone call, waiting for my cell to vibrate and their name to pop up. Replaying scenarios takes up the whole day, practicing my speech about how I don’t celebrate holidays, comebacks about balancing family expectation and the support I need. I wake up scared and live my days on the precipice of panic. I used to tell myself to get it over it, but now I try a little tenderness and am honest with myself about the ugliness that pierces my usually still early mornings.
- Start with connecting with someone I trust/love: I know mornings this time of year are going to be tough. Are going to set the tone for the rest of the day, week, season. It’s become a ritual of mine, to speak with an older sibling in the morning, even if just for a moment while I’m still tucked in bed under a weighted blanket. I also connect with my partner each morning; even though we don’t live together I’m still able to start the day with being telephonically and virtually loved on. To begin with a laugh, with knowing I still mean something to someone. Either way, I want a safe person to process feelings with. A trusted someone to be vulnerable with and say (ok… imply. Hint at. Think in my head), this is what I need for a sense of wholeness again, this is the type of showing up I need. I tried to do it by myself, and it just doesn’t work alone. I would feel even more isolated and overwhelmed, instead of safe.
- Inject joy: If I know this day, time, moment is going to be dreadfully triggering, I try and do something to ground myself in love and safety. Something I like doing. A not-so-little secret I’ve learned over the past couple of years- I do not have to be emotionally hostage to other folks’ desires. I was a shadow of a human trying to bury my needs to fit other people’s lives. However, I now choose how I want to spend this season. With the understanding that people like me and you, your mama and your cousin too will have an opinion about it, but I don’t have to let that opinion control me.
- End with love/connection: A lot of past trauma comes up this time of year, what could’ve been, what family connections might have looked like but don’t. Trauma responses are different for everyone; maybe you become numb, disassociate, are on guard, have flashbacks or something else. No matter what it is, I like to end the day by again connecting with a safe person in my bubble. It could be as simple as sending a couple of texts to vent. I start the day texting my partner and end the day the same way.
Instead of giving in to the toxic positivity that comes with this time of year, instead of giving all of myself to others and having nothing left over to nurture myself with, I’m giving myself the space to love while being loved.
How do you feel about this time of year? Do holidays bring up tough situations for you and how do you get through it? Holla at a homie 🙂
Sign up for my NiqueNotes, my newsletter on how I was able to heal from trauma and define my identity to find joy within