By Nina Rubin
I didn’t know things would change as rapidly as they did between Thanksgiving and now, Christmastime.
People often feel stress, pressure, and loneliness during this time of year. “The Holidays” are a frosty mirror for some people, reflecting inadequacy and fallacy. For others (and I hope you’re in this category), this time is jovial and full of connection to friends and family who are getting together to create memories, share meals, and take an end-of-the-year break. Typically, I fall somewhere in between.
This year, however, after countless discussions, I’m unfortunately in the former category. I’m reflecting on a situation that has reared its ugly head far too long, an experience that has become unsavory, bitter, and indecent.
One year, I experienced a face-palm of the worst kind.
I had a huge realization that something was not right for me, and I had to stop it immediately around the holidays. I have had a tumultuous history with someone. This person has some special qualities, and also toxic energy. There were moments I thought we could make it work again and I’d be rudely jarred out of a peaceful dream by his wordsmithing or blatant lies. He can be compared to a fruitcake, the dessert that is commonly eaten or gifted in December.
I found a package in the back of my fridge and opened it up. It was a fruitcake. Nobody likes fruitcake, yet we don’t want to be rude and throw it away. We also don’t want to eat it. We’re reminded of the nice gesture, so we have to be grateful. What do we do with it? We put it in the back of the cupboard or refrigerator and tell ourselves to save it for dessert when company someday pops in, and it will serve as a back-up, a just-in-case sweet treat for visitors. Well, a few months pass, and we still have yet to eat the darn fruitcake, so we hem and haw and eventually, guiltily, throw it away.
Like the fruitcake that has been saved for months, I had been holding onto a person (or, rather, an idea of a person) much past the expiration date.
This relationship expired long ago and I found my stomach curdling with every bite. Yet, I continued to keep it in the fridge just in case I might get hungry.
When I took what would become my final bite, I was bitten back. That fruitcake had grown ferocious and was not the mildly gross, dense, sticky confection it once was. It was vicious. The treat had become moldy. There was no way I could sanely cut a piece and put it in my mouth to chew and savor. Obviously, I’m not the only one who has forgotten about a storage container in the fridge.
Then, weeks (months?!) later, I clean out the shelves only to find the disgusting, odorous remnants of a once delicious veggie stir-fry. The crisp red peppers and spry broccoli florets are now limp and grey. There’s slime at the bottom of the container, and placing it in the trash or disposal requires some elbow grease in order to remove the gunk.
Well, I realized that this special, sacred, loving relationship had become inedible, putrid, and toxic.
That year, right before Thanksgiving, when I was going home to enjoy a good food holiday feast with my beloved family, I lost my appetite. I felt nauseous and embarrassed. How could I have held on for so long? Then other people got involved, and the special dish I had enjoyed with one person turned into an overcrowded smorgasbord of repulsive buffet items. The sneeze guard no longer stood intact to protect me or the other diners. All hell had broken loose at the food line.
Imagine your favorite meal, something you crave often and know the most reliable and delicious place to go, gets condemned because of vermin in the kitchen and poor hygiene among the kitchen staff. It’s more than a pity; it’s downright heartbreaking. Well, that’s how I felt. And it happened during “The Holidays,” the time when we are supposed to be connected, loving, grateful, and happy. I’m stunned to learn that most of my clients don’t prefer the holidays. In fact, most of my friends don’t care for them either. The spectrum passes from indifference to anger to impatience for mid-January to come.
Fruitcake looks edible with a candle. That year, when I finally disposed of the fruitcake, I experienced a mixture of feelings.
There was major grief that turned to loss. I was super mad, wondering what I’d done to deserve this. I had a scowl on my face for a long time and nothing tasted good. I ate for sustenance, rather than pleasure-abnormal for me. That relationship dulled my taste-buds, made me mistrusting and skeptical. I was afraid. And then, slowly and surely, my palate came back. I started tasting tuxedo chocolate cake and mounds of delectable foods I’d once loved.
Despite my realization that fruitcake is not and will never be for me and that I’m not a big fan of the contrived holidays, I accept them. I attend parties, get dressed up, spend time with friends and family. But I no longer judge myself. Instead, I remember I’m human and I hold onto things too long sometimes and eat a bite here and there even when I’m already full.
This holiday season, I hold light for all of you and for myself.
I no longer want to apologize for keeping the fruitcake too long; I’m simply glad to have thrown it away. That dumb dessert added weight to my body and strain to my soul. It was not worth the calories, the heartache, the stomach ache, the headache. All around, that last course turned into a major meal unto itself. I’d rather be balanced and have holiday feasts with my favorite people, individuals who are kind, supportive, loving, honest than one dessert that I have to eat in secret, that makes a month feel like a dark year, or that prevents me from acquiring the nutrients I need from other food sources.
You don’t need fruitcake to make you complete.
When you throw it out, you’re making space for something tastier to satisfy you. No more red cherries and green sugary fake things in between the thick dough, no more hard, stale walnuts to chew and pretend you like. Go for the actual thing you need: and that’s personal awareness for you to have a wonderful holiday season.
Photo: rochelle hartman/Flickr
Editor: Sherrin Fitzer
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