I may have mentioned on here that I didn’t have much Christmas spirit this year. It’s the first time ever this has happened. I’m usually an excited little elf, annoying the shiz out do everyone with my overzealous cheer. This year I learned what it’s like to live with myself…
We still did all the stuff – put up decorations, got a tree, bought a million presents the kids don’t really need, even drove to Durango to take the kids on the Polar Express.
And I have to say, that last one knocked a lot of the Scrooge out of me. It was quite the production and if there’s anything I love, it’s some well done musical theatre. Throw in an actual real steam train and Les Mis starts to look like a parlor trick (okay, still not even close but I would still like to see an actual train screech out on stage during a live production. I’ve never asked much of the live theatre community, I feel like it’s the least they could do…)
I struggle this time of year every year. And I don’t mean Christmas, I mean winter. Christmas and a hearty dose of meds usually helps stave off the depression for a few months but this year the first was less effective, probably because I opted out of the second.
So vacation to Durango was like this major breath of fresh air after a stressful few weeks of working while I fought off the inevitable tanking of my entire life perspective. It was amazing. It started out rough because, let’s face it, when you get an 8-hour break from your kids every day, it’s just a little rough to shove them into a small metal box with you with no TV for the same amount of time. I wasn’t sure we’d all survive and that had nothing to do with the snow storm we hit on the way.
But a few sound scoldings later, we all remembered how to live together. And by the time we headed home I was feeling pretty good.
There is something amazing about driving home in the dark, your thoughts accompanied by the sounds of silence overlaid with your family’s breathing as they journey through dreamland and you start to build your own little world in your mind. It may be the most creative backdrop I’ve ever stumbled upon and I built quite an incredible scheme for my new YA novel as well as some fantastical ideas for my own life which, while not even minutely doable, made me utterly giddy. I get unreasonably excited about things I can never do.
We got home and put the kids straight to bed. I was so relaxed that I was determined not to lose that lovin’ feeling. I went to work the next day and made very deliberate decisions all day not to let myself get stressed. I succeeded for the most part, although I’m not sure stress is entirely avoidable when you’re fused to a computer all day. I feel like this is incredibly unnatural for our poor human brains and another reason why artificial intelligence should do my job for me. At least the typing part. Of course no non-human entity could possibly handle the groundbreaking and universally valuable writing that I do.
Back to Christmas. The kids got up at 7am as usual, adorable as sin as they squealed all the down the stairs that Santa had come. They opened their stockings which contained movies so we could conveniently catch another couple of hours of z’s. When we finally pulled ourselves out of bed around 10am the kids were on the verge of conniption. We decided to torture them further by making them supplement their candy binge with breakfast.
See, everything started out well enough. We were all excited, there was much anticipation. The problem with the whole day was that once we got about halfway through the presents, I realized we had waaaaaaaay overdone it. I try not to – every year I try to curb the spending and keep it light and every year I fail. But I don’t have a kids brain so I forget how wildly out of whack it gets when there’s too much stimulation. How can a kid possibly know what to do with more than 4 or 5 presents? It’s like unleashing them on a candy store and expecting them to thank you for it later. With lots of stuff comes lots of responsibility and kids can’t handle that.
So we’re halfway through the presents and I’m already overwhelmed which means the kids are probably ten times as overwhelmed. Suddenly their little brains are in overdrive and they can’t remember how to share or be kind or even say please and thank you. And we get angry because they have so much, got so many awesome new things and they can’t just be grateful, the spoiled little brats. It doesn’t help that all of this is playing out over the soundtrack of repetitive and incessant whirring and clicking from my son’s new racetrack.
Recipe for disaster all around. That’s pretty much what Christmas is.
We got through it, but about an hour after presents my brain dropped into a psychedelic funk. Some strange mix of feeling pissed at myself for overdoing it, angry at the kids for not representing the behavior that reflects the incredible character of their altruistic and saintly mother (and the fuck-awful realization that I’m already failing to avoid becoming my own mom), and just a little bit lost trying to figure out how to deal with all of that without jumping off a cliff.
Luckily, my daughter got me the new Harry Potter book. As much as I didn’t want to do anything despite my desperation to change my state of mind, I forced myself to open the book and start reading. It was either that or Xanax.
I started to calm almost immediately. Fascinating how someone else’s tragic and fantastical story can make you see the pettiness in your own. Or transport you away from yours long enough to separate yourself from it and gain some sort of sense of perspective. It felt like taking a drug. I’ve never tried treating my depression or anxiety with books, not for years anyways – who has time for that? But I’m writing myself a prescription because it completely turned me around.
My husband had picked up the slack in the meantime.
He helped my daughter make some god-awful cookies with her new easy bake oven (it was literally physically painful to buy that gift for her. Eight years of fighting female stereotypes for her came crashing down in one moment of weakness. Maybe I deserved everything Christmas brought), and helped her set up her new microscope (this gives me much relief from the former problem). My son was preoccupied for hours with his hot wheels and slowly things ambled back into what we call “normal.” We had a brief waffle scandal that landed one of the kids in time-out but after that, they shared, they got along, they appreciated what they had.
My husband disappeared for a while to watch what I can only guess was a Quentin Terantino movie – not my bag. But I decided to join him and get some work done on my novel – also very therapeutic.
So everything ended well enough. But we still laid in bed at the end of the day and mused over how awful it was. How not enjoyable Christmas in general was this year despite the good times that were had. And we resolved, yet again, to take a trip somewhere next year instead. Give the kids an experience instead of a butt load of presents and buy valuable time together instead of frustration and anxiety.
In the meantime, Christmas: go to your room. If you’re good, we might let you out for a few days next December.