The Many Firsts of this Christmas

drawing of woman's face and writing that she is done with Christmas FirstsAh, it’s Christmas time. Or whichever holiday you celebrate around this time of year. The merriment, the get-togethers, the alcohol. Wait a minute, I don’t drink anymore, so scratch the alcohol. A Christmas first for me. Oh, and with coronavirus, strike the get-togethers. A Christmas first for many of us. That leaves us with the merriment. Which, I think, next to the get-togethers, the merriment part is the most stressful.

There really is a level of expectation that everyone is super happy and enjoying their holiday, no matter the holiday. If you aren’t having a good time, then people think you are being a grinch, or scrooge, or just that you must hate the holidays. Since when does happiness have to be shoved down our throats? Be merry or else!

This year is going to be especially difficult for so many people. There are many ‘firsts’ this year. It is almost overwhelming when I sit and think about the holiday season this year. I am having a tough time getting into the holiday spirit. There, I wrote it down, I admitted it. I don’t feel like Christmas is tomorrow. I don’t feel like Christmas Eve is today, for that matter.

Christmas Expectations

My difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit this year reminds me that not everyone is joyful this time of year. It can be so hard for so many under normal circumstances. And there is nothing normal about this year.  With the lack of normalcy, and the pressure to have normalcy and be merry, it will be so much more challenging this year for people to find joy this time of year.

Around a holiday that everyone, and everywhere you look, people celebrate, putting up their lights and their trees. Those traditions, which started earlier this year, can push someone who is struggling further into despair. It also reinforces the need to hide how they feel because as soon as someone says that, the pressure to be happy becomes greater.

I am not trying to put a damper on the general merriment of this time of year. I want to point out that this time of year’s expectations put undue pressure on people to act a certain way. They may not be feeling it this year, and that is okay. We are all experiencing firsts this year. Some of the firsts are personal, and others are more global.

First Christmas During a Pandemic

Last week my husband tested positive for coronavirus. I tested negative (twice). We had many discussions about how to do what when regarding his coronavirus positive test. Those discussions took up most of our brainpower this past week. My husband’s coronavirus case was mild, but he gets fatigued very quickly. And I am still worried about him.

Our conversations over the past week are typical for many families this year. The questions everyone is asking themselves, and each other have become the norm. What do we do? What is our comfort level with spending time with friends and family? What does spending time together need to look like this year? No matter the answers, this Christmas is a first for even asking those types of questions.

Even thinking about asking those questions and having those discussions is stressful. We look to each other for the answers, but none of us has those. The scientists don’t even have the answers yet. They are learning right along with the rest of us about this pandemic. We have guidelines, and we apply those to our lives the best we can, but it is still so stressful.  

First Christmas Sober

This Christmas is a personal first for me. It is the first Christmas that I will be sober. On holidays past, I spent most of the day, if not the entire drinking. If I was not actively drinking, I was counting down the moments until I could start drinking. Of course, no one knew that. I would have never admitted that someone had asked that question. But I did spend almost the entire day that I didn’t have a drink in my hand thinking about when I would have a drink in my hand.

The anxiety that I felt about when it would be okay to have that first drink. You know, cause I didn’t want it to seem like I needed it – even though I did. Once I had my first drink, followed quickly by the second, third, and so on, all was finally right with my world. That was not the way to be. That is never any way to be. And now I am not that way anymore.

This year there will be no anxiety around when I can have that first drink.  By removing alcohol, I have removed one of the things that would cause me anxiety. Go me! One down, so many more to go. I suppose the good thing is that I almost one year into my sober journey. I have some tools to help me get through this year of firsts. It is still the first. And firsts are daunting because we don’t know what to expect.  

Dealing with Christmas Firsts

I certainly don’t have any magical answer for how to deal with firsts in life. I don’t historically handle them very well at all. Now I have to face those firsts on sober terms. And during a pandemic of all things. What I remind myself is that first times are hard for everyone. The first time you do something, you have no idea what you are doing or how to do it. And that is okay.

Too many times, we don’t give ourselves (or others) the leeway to have firsts. I know I expect myself to skip the first time and go straight into the fifth or sixth time, whatever gets me beyond that first time. Because that first time doing something is so freakin’ awkward. And no one wants to feel awkward.

This year of Christmas firsts, I am going to be flexible and embrace the firsts. To be there for whatever comes my way. To give me space and be there for others struggling with the firsts in their lives. It is probably one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves and others.

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