Friday, November 30, 2012

Bah Humbug

If you know me personally, then it is no secret that the holidays make me crazy.  I know I get called a lot of things, and of those, one of the titles that can get repeated in mixed company is "control freak".  (Of course, that should have clued me in when Kelsey started down the road to ED, because I was told often that it is an individual's way of controlling their circumstances.  Like mother like daughter, with fatal results.)  But, anyway, given my need for controlling what I could in a hectic world of raising kids and working in a stressful industry, the holidays were like my Kryptonite.  Granted, the holidays have their own sort of routine, which we all call tradition, but they crowd in on all the other stuff that goes on in a life.  None of that stuff stops so you can savor the holidays.  Oh no, you're just supposed to be of good cheer and still work 12+ hours a day.  And, no one suddenly increases your income by 20% so you can afford all those gifts plus pay the electric bill, now higher because your home is literally lit up light a shopping mall.  I know, I know.  You've heard all this before.  But, I'm just setting the table for the main course.

Worst of all for me maybe is that I want to love it.  Every year I sit by the tree and try to recapture those long ago days when, as a little girl, I would curl up with a book and read by the light of our Christmas tree - maybe with a fire going in the fireplace nearby.  And every year I wanted that same sense of peace and comfort that I had as a kid for my children, all the while enduring my own nervous breakdowns.  It's a lot of pressure:  trying to make yourself happy when you're not actually.

Now enter our Empty Nester years.  Marissa is all but out of the house - busy with her own life, which is as it should be - but it is in the lull Before Grandchildren.  We live far away from Greg's siblings, so the holidays are a quiet, intimate affair.  My cousin will have her holiday party, and we, like last year, will make the drive down to where my mother's family all live toward the beginning of the month, but it is a relaxed event without pretension or expectation.  No stress there - just the welcome anticipation of hearing more colorful stories of a family I've been connected to for all my life, but don't know well.   There is still the issue of gift giving - which I'd like to say I do well, but that is not always the case.  That one probably never gets any better or less stressful.  I love giving gifts, but hate it horribly when they are not spot on, and it's like gambling.  A lot like gambling.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and always you spend money.  But, people who are control freaks are probably rarely compulsive gamblers.  Those two things do not go together.  Yet, still, in these quiet years - what one might call the Viagra Years (when we still want to act and feel young, but just quite aren't always up to the task) - this should be the time I could re-grab the magic.

Yet, what you realize is that, while you may move on with your life after a loss, the holidays never get better.  Or, I guess I should say, they haven't gotten better yet.  There is just too much emphasis on being with family.  As I set the Thanksgiving table last week, it was so obvious that it was lopsided.  There was a place setting missing.  I filled the void by putting most of the food dishes around that side of the table and kept myself upbeat on the surface so no one would see how bothered I was by that visual image, but the next day I had a migraine like I haven't had in years.  The pain was white hot and blanked out everything but the fact of it.  I told my mother-in-law that it was the change in the weather, which might actually be partially true, but I think it was my brain exploding from the stress of having to endure one more holiday without one daughter.

You realize you need to be thankful for the family remaining, but occasionally, in our infinite fragility as humans, we lose sight of that.

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