How to Be An Introvert For The Holidays

“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.
Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

– Jane Austen

The first week of November is over.  The clocks have changed and darkness comes earlier now.  It’s that time of year where comfort food, hot lattes, and a crazy schedule consumes  me.  While the world expects me to be more social, really I just want to hibernate. These are the months that I want to curl up near the wood stove and write and read and sip seasonal tea and write and read and… well you get it.

It’s also THE HOLIDAYS — no longer divided by Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now it’s all one.  It’s parties and family and friends and gifts and decorating and eating and preparing and rushing and…and… my anxiety is in overdrive.

Do I host the holiday dinners?  Who do I invite?  How many people can we fit in the house? Do I bake pies or order them?  Make my own turkey or cater?  Why isn’t anybody on time?  The food is ready and n0 one is here! Did we really get into a political debate?  When the hell are these people leaving?  I want to put on my yoga pants grab a bottle of bourbon and hit the bed!

Ahhhh.  The holidays.

This year, I came up with what I hope is the perfect solution*. I’m not hosting ANY of the holiday gatherings.  I’m also not accepting any invites.  This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a casual meal.  Maybe a late lunch and an evening of leftovers and grazing.

*Technically I wanted to rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere and spend a week, but that is logistically harder to do than you’d think, and it stressed me out. A lot.

Christmas Eve has always been a night of tradition in my house.  Growing up, it was either hosted by my parents or their friends.  Lots of people.  Lots of food.  Going home stuffed with food and excited to host/attend the dinner all over again the next day.  As a child, it was truly the most exciting time of year (not to mention people kept giving me stuff!).

As an adult it’s meant a mixture of cooking and catering having family or friends or both.  A week of baking the specialties I wait all year to make like sticky toffee pudding and Irish chocolate fudge cake and 800 dozen cookies. Mostly, it’s me (and my husband) in the kitchen preparing the many courses of our dinner (and cooking too much).  In the past few years, we’ve made it an informal buffet rather than a formal dinner.  But still, I rarely get to sit and enjoy the time with my friends or my family.  And there’s nothing quite so awful as waking up on Christmas morning with a stack of dirty dishes on the counters.

This year — that ain’t gonna happen!  I’m making reservations at an upscale restaurant that I’ve wanted my husband to take me to for years.  My friends have an open invitation to join us.  Memories and craic can still happen. We can still meet up, eat good food and be together.

Afterwards, we’re going home and putting on our matching Christmas pj’s and playing board games around the tree and watching movies. Just the three of us — and Finn (our dog). And we’re going to eat cookies, and cake, and whatever – from the couch or the floor or wherever the hell we end up.

Christmas day, we will open gifts and have a brunch.  Then we will stay in our pajamas all day and eat and play, and nap,and read and snuggle (we are really good snugglers).

It’s not that we don’t love our friends and family, but the three of us (plus Finn) never really get to just stay home and do nothing.  There’s always something — soccer, gymnastics, yardwork, snow to shovel, groceries to buy, cars to service, blah blah blah.  We never get to just be...still. We always say we will do it, but then we get invited and think — ahhhh we should go!  But this year I am consciously going to refuse all invitations. Not because we don’t appreciate it, but because we just need some family time. In our pj’s. While stuffing our faces.

And this year, I am actually really looking forward to the holidays.

Eat Your Turkey Before You Cut Down A Tree

So I find myself swept up into the early holiday season where Thanksgiving serves as a dry run for Christmas.  I made it through the August, “Christmas is just 8 billion days away” campaign (people I’m a writer not a math major). I didn’t buy anything that was holiday related.  I made faces and agreed with the older ladies that it wasn’t even Halloween yet.  I refused to let the voice in my head hum to any Christmas music.  I even forbade my three year old from singing “Jingle Bells” – which only encouraged him more.

And then Halloween passed——- and now I’m preparing not for Turkey and pumpkin pie, but for — who should we invite for Christmas and when should I bake my famous Sticky Toffee Pudding? I reason with myself that, Thanksgiving is really late this year and if I’m going to go through the effort of decking the hell out of house, then by golly, I want more than four measly weeks of enjoyment.

Then I attempt to convince myself that this mad rush of holiday spirit is simply because I love Christmas and is in no way an indication that I’ve been corrupted by marketing – because I am definitely smarter than all of that!

And so when I shop online and order a gift from my sister-in-law and—ohhhhhhhh – those shoes are really, REALLY cute and totally on sale and seriously, I need burnt orange– well I know without any tiny splinter of doubt, that it isn’t marketing factoring in.  No big corporations are not playing a role in the fact that most people like giving (to themselves) or that most profit increases during the holiday season are not in fact gift-buying but consumers taking advantage of sales for their own benefit.  No.

What’s really happening is that I’m negotiating.  I’m either  finding a practical reason for my purchase, rewarding myself for all the things no one else rewards me with,  or even more dangerously — because I deserve it.  I bought those wellies from England with little jumping horses on them because if there was ever a zombie outbreak, my feet would be safe for maneuvering through swamps (practicality).  I purchased a new handbag because I remained polite and professional in the face of dealing with a difficult client (reward).  I deserve a new tiny computer because I’m a WRITER dammit and how will all of you read my great posts and novels if I don’t have a new laptop that weighs less than a notebook (just because I’m me)?  They are all very valid arguments and I swear they make sense as I hit the “Submit Your Order” button time and time again.

It’s absolute reasoning (with the complete absence of reasoning).

Advertisers know how we think.  They study us.  They’re watching you right now!

It’s clear that I’m way too smart for all of their tactics (like those websites that tell you how many items are left in stock in your size).  And if I seem full of it — you’ve got me.  These advertisers are smart — SMART (yup in caps).  Even when I’m aware of what it is they’re trying to do, I still give in because how do you fight a system that has this much power?  I can stand back and look at all this with an air of superiority and this notion that I can rise above this. Heck.  I can move up to Maine (maybe VT) and live off the land. I won’t even need to buy new boots (because I already own wellies)!

But when my son watches commercials on tv, he shouts “Mama, I love it so much! Maybe for Christmas?”  — it’s then that I realize in all of my vigilance — it’s too late.  We’re all already infected.  They get to us at a young age, while our parents are in the kitchen cooking dinner. They seep into our bloodstreams and they convince us that what we have isn’t enough.

…Or maybe, this holiday season, I can reclaim my focus  (if I could paint you a picture of me reclaiming anything I would be wearing a magnificent sleeveless ballgown –red and green like a goddess of the holiday season– a giant staff raised above my head and “We’re Not Gonna Take it” played by violins while my long curly, red hair waves in the wind of fury and determination –and no my hair isn’t that long — but that’s really irrelevant).  Maybe there are little reindeer and primitive evergreens embroidered on the bodice — but I digress…

My point is peeps, we haven’t eaten our turkey yet! Carpe Diem — there is still time. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if “The Man” knows that I am boycotting him, rejecting his tug to ruin my holidays, quietly disagreeing with His attempt to make me (or my son) pawns of mass consumption.  He might not notice that I’m not shopping in his store on Thanksgiving OR Black Friday. That I will try and support a small business whenever possible — even if it costs me a few dollars more.  Who knows, maybe I’ll set a budget and stick to it — deciding that my love counts for itself and there is no point in trying to spend more money to prove it.  I might stop gratifying myself with unnecessary purchases.  Maybe, I’ll bake cookies with my son and give those out as gifts. Maybe watch holiday movies cuddled on the sofa with the husband and the dog while we have a fire in our little wood burning stove.  I might become a more conscious consumer and only spend where customers are valued and practices are ethical.  I could  save some of that money and instead of  buying more  “things” I could use it  for something I actually want (like a little cabin the woods).  Maybe, I’ll even send out Christmas cards to people I care about and don’t see often enough.
Anything might be possible if you stop focusing on not having enough and start being aware that what you have is–  everything…

FYI — I am 100% available for hire to write greeting cards and or fortune cookies.