My head is filled with noise. It feels like electric shocks and steel wool and rough concrete up there, and they make cruel bedfellows. I am crabby with a side of chafed and a liberal sprinkling of rage. Hold the joy.

This sort of feeling overtakes me every year at this time. It has to do with the forced cheer and family events and death anxiety brought on by my birthday all rubbing together. It's more than a little unpleasant, because I feel I must make myself behave as normally as possible. There is no other way, really, because the world can't have me screaming down the street and pounding in things with the blunt side of an axe. Playing nice is a forced and ugly thing, though, when your heart is so far away from feeling any kindness.

When someone corners me into conversation and giggles at the end of every sentence, which is a behaviour that displays low self-esteem, much like a dog throwing itself on its back to gain your approval, I smile along, nodding, wondering why it is that I continue to stand there and listen to them ha-ha where there is no joke or need to cement our common feeling. I avoid the corporate parties and other seasonal affairs, because I cannot buy into the season-is-the-reason cheer; the sudden warmth from people who are otherwise indifferent depresses me. The where-are-you-spending-christmases and the what-did-you-get-so-and-sos and the have-you-put-up-your-tree-yets are all verses of the secular seasonal litany, so oft repeated that the answers merely fill in the spaces left after questions.

Hello. How are you?
I'm fine. And you?

And we never remember who specifically was fine or why. It's call and response. It tells us that we are getting along. It confirms the bare minimum of an amicable connection.

We have a prior relationship, yes?
Yes, we do, and I am not going to harm you physically.
I will do likewise.

I sound like a psychopath. I'm not. Really.

That is exactly what a psychopath would tell you, I know, but I'm seriously not one. I feel too much guilt and social anxiety.

You see, I want to like people and be someone who is likeable, and I think I am normally like that, liking and likeable, so this present turn of character has presented itself as an enormous problem for me. I find myself being the scroogiest of the scroogey, grinching with the grinches, feeling foul about santas and simulated bells and the soft-focus, home-for-the-holidays whopper of a tale that has Santa Claus riding shotgun. God bless Coca-Cola.

Once I pass my parents' doorstep and consume my first three fingers of Canadian Club, the hard edges will soften up a bit, I'm sure, and the gentle swell and ebb of chocolate highs and triptophan lows should carry me through a few days until we arrive back home and I can work myself into the old shoe of deliberate historical rejection.

I want to smile and make with the funny. I feel bad that I might have made you uncomfortable. The whole conflict makes me want to kick myself in the shins. Why not be miserable if that's how it's going to be? Why buy into the seasonal imperative to express nicety nice niceness all over the goddammed place when really the whole bloody few weeks of it is making you think of your painful childhood and your fear of death and how winter highway travel puts the devil's claw around your heart and, holy fuck, they should just legalize pot and make your life a little easier already.

Would you believe me if I told you that I'm volunteering at a Christmas event tonight? And that I will be playing the happy hostess to the people attending? I bet you're rethinking attending your holiday event tonight for fear that I might be the one to greet you.

Oh, this'll be fun. It'll be like a game. I'll be the one showing too many teeth when I smile at you, and you'll be the one pretending not to recoil in horror at the terrifying Schmutzie. Yes? Yes.