Christmas

Dec. 28th, 2013 01:13 pm
morethanthese: (Default)
Every so often, my brain undergoes a "reset" about certain information. It tends to be following some sort of trauma or negative experience, and the information tends to be at least tangentially related to the bad thing that happened. "Reset" might perhaps be the wrong word, as I don't forget that things exist, but I do fail to understand them personally anymore. After graduating from my old school (probably the most traumatic thing I've ever had to endure), I underwent a reset about empathy. This was rather difficult and I've still had trouble getting my ability to empathize back. Sometime after my mother died, I inexplicably underwent a reset about hugging - that is, I forgot how to properly give people hugs. (The fact that I am touch aversive does not help matters.)

This year, I underwent a reset about Christmas. I remembered what Christmas was, its history and meaning (that is, an observation and celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ), and how people celebrate it in my country (that is, with Christmas trees and presents and hanging up stockings). But it was the customs I failed to understand on a personal level. I saw everything as though I were not a foreigner who didn't celebrate Christmas so much as an alien who didn't even understand holidays.

If you think about it, a lot of things we do at Christmas are a bit strange. We put socks near our fireplaces, we put trees in our house, we put decorations on the tree, we put lights on the tree, we put lights on our houses, we put lights on many things, we sing songs we don't sing any other time of year, we give people presents regardless of whether or not we like them and we expect the same of them. I have a penchant for realizing the strangeness in things everyone else takes for granted, and this year, this penchant extended to Christmas.

I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas this year (I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen it since then), and I related perfectly to Jack Skellington in Christmastown singing "What's This". I was delightfully puzzled by the things we do for Christmas and how we seem to do them in mass numbers, like some madness takes us all in December and we act upon it. It wasn't a bad thing. I actually really liked it, because like Jack Skellington, I was discovering something new and being perfectly enchanted by it. I like Christmas and I always have, and it was strangely enjoyable to do all these things that didn't make sense to me but that were fun nonetheless.

Around the time Christmas Day rolled around, I had fully internalized the Christmas traditions we collectively do, and I thought they were "normal" enough for me to have a normal Christmas with everyone else.

Well, I thought I was having a normal Christmas. My dad and sister and I opened presents on Christmas morning, like we've done in years past, and we went to our Aunt Suzanne's house to meet with other family members like we've done in years past. It all felt normal, and since I couldn't really remember what other Christmases felt like, I went along with it.

However, when we came home, my dad told us that, since this is our first Christmas without our mother, we don't really know what a "normal" Christmas is like, so we did our best under the circumstances, and we did pretty well.

I agree with him that we did well, but with that statement, I understood why I had undergone a reset about Christmas. I understood why I didn't personally understand Christmas traditions and why my memory had purged itself of the feelings of Christmases past and why I didn't recall what a normal Christmas was. It was the same reason people's memories often purge themselves of traumatic incidents. It was a self-defense mechanism.

It was because, if I had remembered, I would remember that my mother wasn't around for this Christmas, and given that she was always so involved with us during this holiday, I wouldn't have been able to deal with that.

I spent the rest of the night (not that there was a whole lot of it) feeling kind of traumatized and not actually covering myself with a blanket and rocking back and forth in the corner but definitely feeling like that on the inside. I stayed like this long after my family had gone to bed (I often stay up later than them, and I don't know why), and after a while, I realized I had to go to bed, too, despite the fact that my feelings hadn't gone away.

It was a shame. It really was. Because I had enjoyed my confusion over Christmas until then. It made the holiday season whimsical and interesting, and on Christmas Day itself, I had to go and realize it was for a very unhappy reason.

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