I feel as though I am actually enjoying the holidays this year. I tend to be a bit of a Scrooge, as the stress of getting things ready and spending too much money on gifts and being in crowds shopping is just not my cup of tea. This year, with the help of my partner, I ended up getting my shopping done fairly early and thus was able to avoid the crowds and do a better job of budgeting. In addition, I am still in email contact with my father but not having to deal with him at Christmas is a gift in and of itself. As a young child, I was always expected to buy extravagant gifts for him and all members of his extended family (with my own money, somehow…). And if I screwed up, didn’t buy a nice enough gift or forgot somebody, there were consequences in the form of guilt, emotional abuse, and rages. So this year, I focused on buying thoughtful but not expensive things for people I love and who love me, and it was actually enjoyable.

I am not a Christian, but my family celebrates Christmas (mostly in a secular way, with the exception of my Grandma). My partner’s family does much the same thing. We attended her extended family’s Christmas party over the weekend, and it was pretty nice. There are two uncles that are not so comfortable with the gayness, but they were polite and the rest of the family is fantastic. They obviously love and care about each other. It makes me kind of sad to see all of that love, with no undertones of abuse or controlling behavior, and age-appropriate expectations of the children. Unlike my childhood Christmas parties, the role of the children is not to entertain the adults. The role of the children is to play and have fun with each other, be loud, and break things without being screamed at or shamed. I wish that I had had that as a child; maybe I wouldn’t be so anxious and timid now.

When I think about childhood parties at my father’s house, it is easy to wallow and forget the wonderful things about time at my mother’s house. My mother is very loving, and although she hates Christmas, she always put this aside to make it nice for me and my siblings. Perhaps she was trying to make up for the hell that she knew was waiting for us at our father’s house. In any case, I am taking time today to appreciate her love throughout the years. In addition, she has invited me and my partner to sleep over tonight before my partner goes to her family’s home on Christmas morning. We both have siblings that are ten years younger than us, so although they no longer believe in Santa Claus, the traditions of Christmas are still important to them. Hence our decision to spend Christmas separately with each of our families. For my mother to invite to have us both sleep over is important. She has known that I am gay for a long time, but I think it took her a long time to fully accept and be comfortable with it. She would never have let me sleep over with my partner a year ago (part of the reason for which is that my sister is 15, and she didn’t want to set the precedent that boyfriends/girlfriends would be allowed to sleep over, but I think another part of it was discomfort with us being gay). Both she and my stepfather have been supportive all along, but they have come a long way in their comfort level with it. They both love my partner, and I think they have begun to see us as more of a permanent couple now that we live together and are technically engaged (no wedding plans in sight just yet). I think of us as married already, and I think they do, too. So I am thankful that we will be able to spend Christmas Eve as a family, including my partner.

I know that this can be a very difficult time of year for people. Some are dealing with the holidays with nobody to spend it with. In addition, some sick people choose to use the holidays as ways to abuse others and program them to deal with distressing and painful flashbacks, memories, and urges to hurt themselves every year at this time. I will be thinking about all of those people over the next few days, and although I am not religious, I will be trying to send my most powerful thoughts and prayers to all who are hurting during this time. Much love to you all, you are strong and deserve to be happy, safe, and healthy.