Emotional Labour for Christmas

I went to my first Christmas party of the season last night, and as much as I was looking forward to it, I was scared. I love to meet new people and to see old friends, but I find it exhausting in equal measure. It seems that if I smile for 3 hours, I’m likely to spiral emotionally for 6 hours.

My mind revisits every interaction and is determined to find at least one way that I embarrassed myself or embarrassed my husband or that I might have hurt someone’s feelings. My heart being exhausted, I find myself physically exhausted too. As though I’d been lifting weights.

And while there is much more burdensome emotional labour that is required from time to time in life, those are sprint where Christmas is a yearly marathon.

I am fortunate that, though there are very few people on earth with whom I can spend time and come away renewed, I count my family amongst them. While the stereotypical tragedy is to be alone for the holidays, there are people for whom being in the company of their family makes them feel equally alone and unwanted. And if that is true for you, I want you to know that I see you and that you are entitled to those feelings. Sometimes there are not enough twinkling lights and cream-based beverages to compensate for the emotional labour that is required at the holidays.

I had a great time at the party last night, but I woke up asking my husband the same question I do every morning after such an event: “are you mad at me?” Not because he’s given any suggestion that he is mad at me, but because the reassurance that he still adores me, no matter what, is a kind of shortcut in the emotional marathon, which allows me to bypass much of the post-mortem analysis of my social performance. Because I value my husband’s opinion higher than anyone else’s and often even more than I value my own opinion. But again, having that kind of emotional tether makes me much more fortunate that some other people. And again, to you, I want to say that I see you and that you are entitled to take the time and distance you need to recover from that emotional labour.

All of this to say: be kind to people, be gentle with people, be forgiving of people who seem to be struggling this season. It’s a wonderful time of the year, and it is wonderful to see so many people I love, but we can admit to ourselves and to others the challenges that this season entails, particularly for those of us with mood disorders. And so, again, I say: I see you, and you have my most sincere empathy.

Posted in: Progress

2 thoughts on “Emotional Labour for Christmas Leave a comment

  1. When you posted the subject of this post yesterday, I expected that this discussion might take a different path (ie: the extra emotional labour that some people do at this time of year to ensure others have a good/worry-free time at social gatherings). I find it interesting that the emotional labour you describe here is much more personal; I would never have thought to assign that label to being exhausted after parties!

    That said, your comment about “are you mad at me?” brings to mind something I read elsewhere: That those people who ask this question to the ones they love (I am also one of these people) have often survived a relationship with someone who has trouble expressing themselves emotionally. A relationship where everything seems fine until that person, seemingly spontaneously, lashes out dramatically. In the eyes of the questioner, the world becomes a place where anyone can be secretly extremely upset but shows no outward sign of it until, volcano-like, there is a sudden explosion. Walking on eggshells in a world where any person might potentially be hiding an emotional bomb becomes exhausting!

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe in a future blog post?

    1. So many great blog ideas in here!! I am putting them in my drafts folder right now. I did actually get the idea to do a post about emotional labour from some I read that was more along the lines that you describe, and I expect I’ll do a post along those lines at some point I’ve just not found the right impetus yet. And with the regard to the volcano-like people, I’ve had soooo many of those people in my life and I’m 100% sure that’s why I “check in” as much as I do in all of my relationships. Thanks for the feedback!!!! 😘

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