Friday, December 15, 2017

"What Right Have You To Be Merry?"

..Ebenezer Scrooge asks of his pitiable assistant, Bob Cratchit.  What right indeed? It's that time of year when the expectation is there to be joyous and merry, when the pressure is on for Martha Stewart decorations and the gift that wows your loved one.  There's baking...because cookies aren't a thing in January?  And I don't know about you, but a present out of the blue in March might be even cooler than a bunch of stuff I'm expecting or anticipating in December.  But it's also that time of year when a lot of things just suck for some people.  Let's face it, the effects of the time change never really go away, not until the Spring Solstice rolls around.  Old Ebenezer was probably just suffering from a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder with a healthy dose of social anxiety. 

I can relate.  This time of year is not a joy for me.  It never has been, not really.  I want it to be, though, and I'm not as "scroogey" as to want to boil every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips with his own pudding and bury him with a stake of holly through his heart.  But it's close.  Ebenezer was scarred by the shitty things that happened to him in Christmases past, and he closed his heart to all of it.  It's easier that way, and I get it.  I said recently that there's something about my brain that only lets me remember the bad stuff and not the good.  It's not that the good memories aren't there, but they aren't the pushy ones that force their way to my amygdala and mess with my emotions.

Christmas carols make me cry. I have to listen to the instrumental versions most of the time, because they evoke strong memories of my grandpop standing on the front porch of this very house in a bathrobe listening to my youth group caroling in the front yard.  That was his last Christmas, and he died the following February.  There was a Christmas in the early 80's on which I wasn't allowed to go home to see my mother, and during which my brother and I sat awkwardly and opened presents with my mom in my dad's living room under his scrutinous and, let's face it, hateful looks.  And the mere fact that people aren't with me when I want them to be is an ever-present thing to bear.  We all have those things; I'm not special in any of that, or in any other way, really.   Charles Dickens himself had a crappy childhood and adult life, truth be known, but managed to put a positive spin on the holidays.  Some of us are able to "Bob Cratchit" the crap in our lives away and still easily put a merry spin on things for those we care about, while others of us tend to want to retreat and shut everything out. 

I'm stuck somewhere in the middle.  My instincts are to both bury my head in the covers and hibernate until it's all over, for myself, but also to try to make everything perfect and wonderful for those I love.  It's the struggle of being a Libra, maybe, in that I'm always divided, always striving for balance, but inevitably ending up falling over in my efforts.  So, I put on my jingle bell earrings and my Ms. Santa sweater and try to be festive.  I make traditional Italian pizzelles and try to put up Christmas trees when I know the cats are just going to destroy them and the ornaments we place carefully.  I try to buy perfect presents on a limited budget for the people I love, and my expectations for a joyful, stress-free holiday for myself somehow manage to rise, even though I try like hell to hold them down.

I'm struggling this year more than others.  It's not a secret to the people who are close to me, and there's no shame in admitting it.  Things this Christmas will be very different for me, and for my family, and it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is stressful because the unknown always is.  Christmas should be about the kids, and they should be able to enjoy it without all the stressors that we have.  But we adults should cut ourselves some slack, also.  If the Christmas party food is a bag of Food Lion pretzels with some Cheez Whiz, then so be it. Enjoy those.  If the lights hang crookedly, or you never even get them hung at all, what's the real loss? 

So, this is me.  Lowering my expectations for a Christmas in a clean, decorated house in a Victorian postcard.  Lowering my expectations to get all my shopping done online as I swore I would.  Lowering my expectations to provide an exceptional holiday for everyone while pushing myself into a nervous breakdown.  Christmas will happen.  In fact, it will be over really fast, maybe faster than some of us want it to be.  And none of the cookies, the wrapping paper, or even the gifts, really, will matter much past that day.  With any luck, though, I'll get to spend time with the people who are most important to me, and to whom my presence is a gift that's appreciated.  And that's all I want for Christmas. 

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