You're expecting 15 guests around your holiday table. Your “to do” list includes:
- Appetizers (after all - the first guests arrive just after noon)
- Drinks for adults and children (alcoholic, non-alcoholic, regular, sugar-free, caffeine-free...)
- Main courses (which must accommodate as main 21st century dietary trends as possible)
- Sides (even though you delegated this to relatives, you leave nothing to chance)
- Deserts (indulgence, first and foremost)
- House cleaning (especially the bathrooms!)
- Wrapping token gifts (despite the agreement that there should be none; you shan't be alone this year in ignoring the rule.)
You could have asked for help, or simply accepted when it was offered, but for you, hosting is synonymous with accepting burden. The Food Network makes it look so easy. Besides, you have Friday off work (your first recess since Labor Day) that should be plenty of time.
For the 48 hours before the feast, not only are you struggling to execute, but you are also walking a tightrope threaded with the symptoms of anxiety: fatigue coupled with an elevated heart rate, impatience towards both the task you are racing to complete as well as towards your family members, distraction which just exacerbates inefficiency, and feelings of helplessness. Yet, somehow you manage to post a photo of a holiday decoration, or of a completed recipe, or of a wreath. Your post is tagged with "Can't wait's," and "So excited's," and "Only a few more hours!!!" Maybe you can hashtag your way to happiness? After all, it feels so good, being liked...being shared...being tagged. Online, who doesn't want to be "It"? When praise is an addiction, its absence creates a vacuum filled by self-blame, self-criticism, and shame.
Those feelings are not criminal. The crime is that, with all that is shared in cyberspace, our true selves are tucked under the bed. The dopamine of "like" supercedes the bruising of being honest.
Online does not tolerate "Can't handle it." Social media doesn't retweet "I wish I had more time." Facebook doesn't like "I'm not sure I'm ready for this." Your exhibition has become fake news.
Depression loves dishonesty, and online profiles reward cosmetics. That is why unearthing a peer willing to share stories of holiday stress is such a bijou. Anxiety is no longer a subject with a public face. When it is discussed, it is referred to as a disorder, a state which requires treatment.
Apprehension and loneliness during the holidays are not afflictions, they are symptoms of everyday humanity.
Perhaps a resolution this winter should be to begin sharing more than our Instagram lives; to not rely on Facebook posts to be pillars of a masquerade; but rather to use social media to provide social solace, and to seek out true connections within the ether.