When Holidays Are More Than Home and Happy

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.

-B-

Bee’s Shelves: Spooky Edition

Fall has always felt like the perfect time to break out my classics, curl up by a fire, and read (even if the fire is slightly imaginary because I live in South Carolina, and it’s quite hot enough, thank you). Right around October, I pull all my spooky books out of closets, cabinets, and all the other away places I hid them after they terrified me last year. These are the books you hide from in the dark – until October and the witching hour. SO, if you’re looking for books to read surrounded by pumpkins, black cats, whistling winds, hot tea, and a graveyard (surprise), I hope some of these books scratch your spooky, ghostly itch. And if you’re anything like me, you’re also not ready for this spooky, bat season to be over. SO, hopefully this list will carry some of those feelings right into November, crisp apples, and rustling leaves.

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For the Classic Lover:

Dracula : This book contains the vampire OG, terrifying hundreds in Transylvania, Romania, and England before vampiric lore was even cool. This book is written uniquely in the form of letters, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and psychological research, all following the adventures and horrors of the original prince of darkness. Bram Stoker’s writing style is intriguing, engaging, and nearly impossible to put down.

The Haunting of Hill House : I just finished this one myself, and it left me screaming. Shirley Jackson is a QUEEN. I believe this book can be best described as Crimson Peak meets The Yellow Wallpaper. THoHH follows the adventures of one Dr. Montague, his assistant Theodora, the house’s heir Luke, and an apparent outside, Eleanor. Dr. Montague enters Hill House hoping for psychic manifestations of the supernatural kind that he can research, record, and document. Each of his guests enter the house with secrets of their own, and it won’t be long until the house claims one of them for good. This book is beautifully written, horrifically entertaining, and carries its own weird, sudden twist. I particularly appreciated it because you never directly encounter anything ghostly or monstrous – it hides and grows in your own imagination. Five thousand stars from me, and EVERYONE should read it.

Wuthering Heights : If you’re looking for less horror, and more atmospheric spook, Wuthering Heights is for you. This book takes place out on the moors, covered in fog, rain, chilling temperatures, and drafty mansions. In short, the perfect atmosphere if you’re looking to feel chilled, but not terrified. In this book, the monsters are human and the horrors are relational. But this book is one of my favorites, and if you read it, I beg you to chat with me about it. Even if it’s just to rant about how much you hate all the characters.

Frankenstein : This list would be incomplete without Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. This horrifying tale stays with you and cautions the reader about the perils of fully realizing the height of your potential. If you’re looking for a bonus spook, read this book alongside The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This two pieces were written in response one to the other: one about how man becomes monster, the other about a monster becoming a man.

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For the Eerily Interested:

If you’re looking for books that will leave you with a shiver  but won’t follow you around stalking you for the rest of your life, I present the following for your consideration!

Coraline : This book is equal parts eerie and heart-warming. Coraline has just moved with her parents and discovers another world just like hers through the wall. Everything is the same: her mother, her father, her cat, and her home – except her Other Mother wants to sew buttons onto her eyes. Coraline’s story is about a little girl in a yellow raincoat who walks towards her fear and saves her life, and may the life of a little ghostly child. Sidekicked with her favorite black cat, which of course makes the story THAT much more wonderful.

The Child Thief : This one is a little heftier, but still worth the read. This Peter Pan retelling follows the story of Peter, a red headed fairy child who sneaks into our world and steals children that others have forgotten, bringing them back to his world so they can fight in his child army against the pirates, the grown-ups, and the horrors of the forest. Unlike the classic child’s tale, this story is full of violence, betrayal, intrigue, and multiple children who become soldiers, horror wielders, and murderers in the name of Peter, their leader. Brom’s The Child Thief is Neverland reimagined, without any of the boundaries that keep us safe at night. And, it is also BRILLIANTLY illustrated.

The Bird Box : Another one that keeps the monsters invisible and your imagination horrifying. Bird Box tells the story of an apocalyptic world invaded by creatures that no one can look at – to look at a creature means certain, gruesome, self-inflicted death. The book follows the story of a mother and her children, and has a very “The Quiet Place” vibe (if you’ve seen that movie). Thoroughly enjoyable, edge of your seat, and absolutely impossible to put down.

 

For the Ones with the Limited Attention Span:

These are for the short story lovers, who want to be intrigued but can’t be bothered to commit to long-term scares. We see you, we appreciate you, we envy you because we all bit off way more than we could chew and now we’re terrified, and these authors are for you.

Edgar Allan Poe : Infamous for his spooky short stories, this gothic horror genius is still appreciated years after his time. An author of both short stories and poetry, he is most notable for his works A Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and Annabel Lee.

H.P. Lovecraft : I honestly believe Lovecraft may be the one true love of my life *shrug*. Don’t worry, boyfriend knows. He’s fine with it. Lovecraft rides the line between science fiction and sublime horror. He is known both for his Necromicon (it’s not real guys, but I thought it was for much too long) and his Dream Sequence. If you would like some direction, an excellent place to start is with The Call of Cthulu, The Dunwich Horror, The Rats in the Walls, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Flannery O’Connor : Though not commonly considered gothic horror, Flannery captures the sublime beautifully. These stories will leave you full of “muchness”, some that reaches beyond the ability to put into words. She’s another one we need to talk about. Some good stories to start are A Good Man is Hard to Find, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and The River.

 

Honorable Mentions: STEPHEN KING – because some authors are just too good to put into a category. If Stephen King wrote it, there’s a good chance it’s excellent food for this spooky, supernatural, superstitious season.

 

What did I miss? What NEEDS to be here? Let me know in the comments!