I believe that everyone remembers the first time they were asked to step outside their own experience of the world and realize that life weaves itself differently for every new person who enters it. The first time I realized my life wasn’t everyone’s “normal” was the first time I had a friend who wasn’t looking forward to going home for the holidays over winter break – because their aunt would drink too much, because their family was complicated, because mom and dad would fight, because there was a good chance half their siblings wouldn’t show up.
In the midst of a season that is designed to cater to families, couples, home, cozy, and happiness, this moment is for those for whom holidays hold a tinge of sadness alongside all the magic. Maybe you just need a reminder to take the time to care for yourself. Maybe you need someone to emphasize that it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to take the time to protect yourself.
If your holiday means putting some distance between you and the system you grew up in, know that you’re attempting to do one of the hardest things in the world and it’s okay that it’s hard. Families form us and they can also hurt us, and sometimes one of the best things to do is step back, step aside, and make sure you’re surrounded by people who love you even if they’re not the people who bore you. This is true and valid even if the hurt stems from a place filled with the best intentions. Sometimes the people who love us can so badly want the best for us that the way they try to get there seems cloudy.
If your holiday feels like a time when you surround yourself with people who aren’t safe or don’t really know you, whether that be sexuality, gender identity, religion, or just the general existential crisis, take a breath. If you don’t like the way your life is going, take a breath. If you’re not sure you’ve made the right decisions or you’re just generally overwhelmed with how the heck you got to where you are now, take a breath.
Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. It’s okay to process through your feelings even if you can’t articulate exactly why they’re there. It’s okay to allow yourself to work through hurt, anger, pain, frustration, betrayal, and grief. It’s equally okay to put those feelings aside until you get through the weekend or the season.
Feel free to set boundaries. You don’t walk to talk about politics? Step out. Family asking questions you don’t have answers to? “I’d rather not discuss that right now, thank you.” Situations you’re already aware might lead to complete and utter chaos? Communicate where your lines are. Communicate areas that are safe. And feel free to step out or step away or leave completely if that’s required once those lines are crossed.
Check your feelings with people who are outside the system. Shoot a text to a friend and ask if you’re really the worst person in the world, because chances are it’s very likely that you’re not. Sometimes we need an outside voice to speak truth into a pattern we’ve been living out for years – and sometime it’s nice to have all those suspicions and hurt feelings we’ve been stomping down validated. Even if it’s just to hear “they shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.”
Finally, for those in the midst of dark, overwhelming, heavy, big feelings. Please stay safe this holiday season. Know that that’s exactly what it is – a season. It, this, those feelings, and this chaos will pass as long as you continue to wake up every morning and keep breathing. And if it gets exceptionally overwhelming, here are some numbers for people who are there literally just to talk and encourage you:
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
Hearing & Speech Impaired: 1-800-799-4889
National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-786-2929
The Trevor Project for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth: 1-866-488-7386
Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
I’ve always felt like I’ve had a safe home to go back to for the holidays. Sure, we have our issues (and even that can feel overwhelming sometimes), but I’ve never questioned my family’s love for me. It still rocks my mind that this isn’t the normative experience, and I’ve always wondered what I can do to help.
Grab a friend. Bring them home. Keep your phone close for those who need help. Validate, validate, validate. Encourage those who are taking steps towards healing. And love those around you like crazy. This season is magic, and everyone gets to be part of spreading that magic.
Just remember that this season wouldn’t be anything without the people you love. And remember there’s always someone out there who loves you, even if it’s family that you chose not family you were given.
And us little witches are always here if you need to rant, vent, or cry. OR CELEBRATE THOSE STEPS TOWARDS BRAVERY.
We love you, beans! Merry OFFICIAL Christmas season.