Hospital Diaries Pt. VI: The Holiday Edition
On seeking permission and owning our choices. Plus creative Christmas decor, CBD stocking stuffers and festive eats.
My crooked Christmas tree is bare. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find my ornaments. It’s been years since I decorated. Ever since my mom died, I’ve taken a Scrooge stance on Christmas. Every year, come November 1st, the sound of Christmas music in stores would fill me such rage that it would take every ounce of self-control to resist tearing down holiday displays. Christmas, to me, is a celebration of family and any sign of it reminds me of the family I’ve lost.
The saying “the grass is greener on the other side,” really does ring true. I know there are many people out there with huge families who would love to spend Christmas alone. I know you can feel lonely in a relationship or surrounded by people at the dinner table.
Even when my mom was alive, I had the Christmas blues—every Christmas Day I would wander around my neighbourhood alone while I waited for her to get up so we could start our sad festivities for two. I envied passing families bundled in layers, hot chocolate in-hand with warm expressions on their faces.
And yet, when the doctor told me I wouldn’t be well enough to discharge before Christmas, I was surprisingly disappointed. You would think spending Christmas in the hospital would be ideal for a Scrooge like me; the confines of my ward protecting me from the barrage of commercialism, no pressure to be attending Christmas parties or buying gifts—doctor’s orders gave me the perfect out.
But something had changed. Last year, following a different hospital stay, I spent my first Christmas with company in six years. My friends were so into Christmas I felt I had no choice but to dip my toes back in the festive spirit—it would’ve been rude to rain on their holiday parade. Still, a part of me wanted to stay bitter. People say, “your mom would want you to be happy,” but the reality is celebrations of any kind feel like a bit of a betrayal; like I’m “moving on” too soon.
Choosing to be unhappy feels, in its own twisted way, like an expression of love towards my mom. But when the choice to not participate in Christmas is taken away, as it was in the hospital, it’s no longer an act of devotion. It’s like when everyone thought introverts would thrive under lockdown but instead they felt lonely—their isolation wasn’t as enjoyable because it didn’t happen on their own terms.
And so I discharged myself early. The plan was to leave Christmas Eve, which was already going against medical advice, but then the situation changed quickly, and I decided to leave even sooner. The doctor flat out told me I couldn’t leave; he said he had seen many patients like me come begging a month later to be re-admitted after a quick relapse. But five weeks was enough. And who says I’m destined to become another statistic? The odds might be stacked against me, but whether or not I relapse is ultimately up to me.
Whether it’s deciding to participate in Christmas or deciding whether to leave the hospital, the choice is mine alone. This is one of the few benefits to being an independent adult. I don’t have to drag myself to the Christmas dinner table if I’d rather wallow in my grief. And I don’t have to remain locked in a hospital ward if I feel mentally well enough to face my own demons.
No matter how confident we may appear, I think everyone seeks permission—permission to celebrate the holidays even if they’re still deeply grieving, permission to follow their instincts, permission to quit; to say “enough.” Maybe we like to lean on the opinion of others so we have someone to blame if our decisions have consequences. This year, I’m practicing not needing permission; I’m following my own internal compass and owning whatever comes as a result.
All my best and happy holidays,
Clearly I’m making the rounds on the Queer Eye crew. A couple months ago, I interviewed Tan France. This time, I asked the show’s resident design expert for his tips on hosting and decorating for the holidays, and the new year.
My favourite tip?
Berk also predicts what will be trending in home design next year. He thinks we’ll be leaning into comfort—think, lots of textural layers and softer colours.
If you’re a stress nut like me, it can be especially hard to find time to chill during the holidays. But even outside of the holidays, people are increasingly turning to cannabinoid—the chemical compound of the cannabis sativa plant—not only for anxiety, but to relieve pain and provide better sleeps too. From gummies to honeys; creams to bath bombs—it’s now available in seemingly ever form. Whether your giftee prefers to mix their CBD in smoothies, lather it on their face; take a few drops under the tongue or simply smoke it, these stocking stuffers are sure to impress them this holiday season.
😔 The cure for the Christmas blues.
🎄When grief needs permission to celebrate Christmas.
⚰️ I love when Stephen Colbert discusses grief.
“We never get enough time with each other—no matter if someone lives till 60, 15, or 99—I hope this grief stays with me because it’s all the unexpressed love I didn’t get to tell [my mom] her.” - Andrew Garfield.
💉 Honour the ambiguous loss of the last two years.
📚 The author who arguably invented the grief memoir has died.
🎅 The influencers who stole Christmas.
🤣 The most popular emojis of 2021.
📸 2021, in pictures.
📺 The best feel-good and feel-bad TV of the year.
🍿 But the real question—is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
The pandemic may have increased interest in a “healthy” diet but the last thing anyone needs right now is the annual barrage of holiday food guilt. Rather than encourage restriction, these foodie gifts nourish the body.
Spices from a queer, South Asian-owned company that support farmers in India and Sri Lanka.
A gift box of plant-based goodies curated by Sophia Roe (think, mushroom jerky and alcohol-free spritz).
Another vegan kit for creating the perfect Canadian charcuterie board.
Asian-inspired overnight oats (I love the matcha and taro bubble tea!).
Plant-based ramen reminiscent of Thai and Taiwanese markets.
Peanut butter in seasonal flavours like gingerbread and pumpkin spice.
Mushroom elixirs for waking up and winding down.