That's an ugly headline, and it can lead to untrue conclusions. I do not want to say it was a BAD Christmas, nor do I want people to jump to conclusions about what I found unsatisfying about it. But compared to others in my life, it's got to rank at the bottom.
There's a lot of factors that go into a conclusion like that. On the most basic level, I've had SO little money for SO long that every purchase, every choice, is a stressful issue. I'd hoped to have, and had reason to expect, somewhat more available cash this month then I ended up having, but that's not the heart of it. The way that things got complicated this year was my wife's almost obsessive desire to get the kids every last thing they wanted - even when the kids themselves said "if we can't afford this it's cool" - in some sort of misguided attempt to make this a special Christmas in the face of the drama that might be coming soon. How do you point out that one more video game in December isn't going to make things better in March without coming across as a cheap bastard who's looking to dodge a little spending?
Then, of course, I can't buy her as much as I'd like because we spent it all on the kids - and again I'm an unfeeling and uncaring SOB (not that she would say it and probably doesn't consciously think it but I pick up enough negative emotion to feel guilty about it). That's not to say that I think that happiness at Christmas is about gifts - it's not. BUT attempting to buy happiness with more gifts and measuring how much someone cares by what the think they can afford MAKES it about gifts. They become emotional proxies for feelings which are assumed to be absent.
On top of that, she's rightly down because her mother passed last month and because, on top of that, some members of her family are behaving less than lovingly in the wake of that event. It's been some six weeks and most of her kids still haven't had the chance to go through her meager belongings and find some keepsakes of her. My wife spent much of Friday in tears thinking of such things. She has a right to feel that way, but that's compounded by also feeling I am not interested in providing her emotional support - support which I can't give because of the distance she's put between us. It is a maddening paradox to be accused of being distant and unsupportive while so often running into a cold shoulder when you try. But even if all that is somehow my fault, it surely can't lead to much of a Christmas when you are mourning your mom.
Then on top of that, we confirm what I already knew - that I have no close family except my mom. You shouldn't read this as a complaint on my part. I had a pretty good idea that I was in for a life of rejection, and while I couldn't in most cases predict the sources, I am not surprised or dismayed about the price which is to be paid. I read so many of my sisters write in obvious pain around the holidays about how their parents or siblings or kids or whoever treat them so coldly and unlovingly at Christmas and my heart goes out to them but I don't share that depression. Maybe I am too callous and cynical after all. I often feel like I don't really know how to love anyone enough to feel that kind of pain. (Maybe that comes from too many years letting the false front be the vehicle for all emotions given or received?) But beyond that I also know that I can't build my life around whether or not my dad or my brother or whoever can stand to be in the same room with me. I refuse to grant anyone that power over me. I care enough about my wife and kids - more love there than I could muster for the whole rest of the world combined and doubled - to be making every effort to do the right thing by them (and even that has it's limits) but beyond those three? You don't have a prayer of thinking your disapproval is going to affect my peace of mind.
Besides, the honest truth is that since the grandparents passed, most family functions feel like people who don't especially care for each other going through the motions because that's what families are "supposed" to do. Frankly, I've rebuilt my life around taking off masks and that's one mask I certainly have no real interest in putting back on. I'd rather be alone as be with people who have to pretend to enjoy my company.
BUT I'm married to a woman for whom family is precious (even though many of her own family are almost abusive in how they treat each other) and somehow, someway, the pretense of caring is supposed to be important. My dad has neither appeared, nor called, nor written to make contact with my kids (the ones he's not laid his eyes on since LAST Christmas) this year and not only does it hurt her that he doesn't make a token appearance (I despite token affection myself, and I don't think either son is a great fan of their "grandpa" anyway) but it's yet another brick to throw at me (i.e. he's taking out his feelings about "this mess" on our kids). Never mind what it says about him that he can't be burdened with ignoring our differences long enough to visit, or bring a gift - it's MY fault.
Nor am I arguing that I was the perfect child when it came to maintaining relationships before I came out. But an unbiased mind could analyze the history of interpersonal relationships in our family (on my dad's side, my folks divorced when I was in my teens) and find a strong pattern of "fucked up" long before I went crazy. Still, he doesn't show? MY FAULT.
And for the icing on the cake, we got entirely too close to having yet ANOTHER discussion about how I need to make a choice and how I was obliged to "act right" to prove my feelings if I wanted to save the relationship. On Christmas f'n DAY!
I've spent the last several days reading the posts on Facebook and on a few message boards and on Twitter as people speak, apparently sincerely, about family get-togethers and how blessed they are and how happy they are. . . and it pains me I can't make that sort of happiness a reality for her. The kids are content, I'm content, and she's miserable. I can't control life and death, of course, but beyond that - just more guilt. Of all the emotions I was prepared to deal with during transition, I don't think I could have ever imagined the almost infinite number of ways I could be made to feel guilty.
So yeah, not the best Christmas.
(I should say here, that I feel like I owe a bit of an explanation about WHY things are as they are emotionally. Despite all I've said I don't really blame her for a lot of this - she's as much a victim of her own mental wiring as I am. I think I have a good handle on why things are going as the yare going, even though I'm utterly hopeless to change it. But until I review what I've said before, lest i repeat myself, I'll save that for next time. Besides, this post is long enough)