December 11, 2012 by Julia
So, I had this brilliant idea that maybe I, of all people, could write about how to be happy during the holidays, and it wouldn’t be annoying because I’m not especially perky or perfect or anything (duh).
That last part feels like the understatement of the new millennium, at the moment. It’s been a rough, rough two days. No matter that the weekend was Awesome, because Dennis and I had the luxury of staying at a hotel overnight to celebrate our ninth anniversary (go us! That’s at least eighteen in celebrity years, of course), and we had almost twenty-four hours to ourselves, and we spent it wisely – equal parts fun and relaxation. When we arrived at the hotel on Saturday at 3:30, I reveled in the fact that I could collapse on the bed face-first and instantly take a nap. No unpacking, no whining, no diaper changes, no snacks to provide, kids’ channel to find, nothing, NOTHING BUT NAP. And Dennis rubbed my back as I fell asleep, to boot. I murmured, “I am so happy.” And then when I woke up an hour later, we walked to the movie theater to see Lincoln (brilliant acting and full of scenes that stay with you), walked to have dinner at an old haunt of ours, where I had blackened chicken served over mushroom stuffing with creamy crawfish sauce and two peachy cocktails, walked back to the hotel, where I took a bath…etc. Now let’s talk about the morning. Room service French toast and steel-cut oatmeal and bacon and coffee in bed, while watching old SNL Christmas episodes. Reading, reading. Laziness. Classic Sunday morning laziness. Does anyone actually experience this laziness on a regular basis? When Dennis came out of the shower, he asked me, “Did you talk to them yet?” and I said, “Talk to who?” and he said “Who do you think? My parents…the kids?” and I said, “I have children?”
Back to life. And Christmas stuff. Freaking Christmas. It’s gonna kill me. Why, WHY?!? I’m at the point right now where holiday decorations are mocking me. They’re giggling amongst themselves, up on their high horse on my little tree. The work ahead is a swamp, pulling me down. Or maybe that’s just my son, literally wrapping himself around my legs so I can’t walk. He’s going through a “hold me all the time or I will die of heartbreak” phase. You know the one. He’s also going through a “I only need to nap for an hour total each day” phase, which is not working out for anyone, including him. And it’s like Fiona has forgotten how to play by herself. Yes, she will draw out stories for up to an hour at the kitchen table, but she has already blown through our 500-pack of printer paper, and you would think I’d suggested she go sit in the gutter and play with slug-covered rotting leaves by the way she reacted when I said I couldn’t play with her during Jack’s nap yesterday, because Mommy is a freak who feels she has to make freaking personalized gifts and provide each of her million family members with tied up stacks of gifts (which is only fair because they all get gifts for all four of us! And I love to do it. I really do, fam members who may or may not be reading this.) That is to say, Fiona cried for me on the kitchen floor (Amy Winehouse-style) while I worked on the aforementioned personalized gift and frequently told her to shut it. Not really in those words. I think I said, “I’m sorry I’m too busy to play right now,” but she knew from my tone that I was really saying shut it.
And then this morning we weren’t meeting friends for lunch until 12:15, so I figured we might be able to get a couple of errands done, or I could make a doctor’s appointment, or maybe get some Christmas cards addressed, or text back or email back five people. I don’t really have a to-do list at this point. It’s just random floating items in a cloud around my head, and whatever I pull out is what I try to do in that moment. The cloud is like a dark stormy one these days, though, and I blame Christmas. You want to know what I accomplished this morning? Two cards addressed, not stamped, not return-addressed. One load of laundry made it into the dryer. Several texts sent. Finally, at 11:15, the kids were out the door, dressed, groomed. Yay! Breathe. As I’m locking the door behind us, hear Fiona say, “Oh no, Mommy – Jack’s in the puddle!” Turn and see him kneeling in a pure mud puddle, drenched. It was one of those “Really?! REALLY?!” moments. I dragged him back inside, kicking and shrieking, and wrestled him into other clothes. This was after Fiona fell on her tailbone the second we stepped back inside, due to wet shoes, and did her ultra-dramatic cry while I did my best impression of patience. It’s all a blur. Probably because I was soon crying angry tears, myself. How am I supposed to make Christmas happen when we can’t even make it down the sidewalk?
I say all this like it was funny, but it so wasn’t. My level of stress and discouragement and frustration reached a fever pitch today. I cried on and off all day. It’s kind of hard for me to be so blunt about it. I know I should calm down. I feel foolish. I know the extra holiday stuff doesn’t matter that much. I know I should be focusing on the good, important stuff. The reason for the season. I mean, Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite Christmas movie – I KNOW. Believe me, I know. It’s not cool.
But it’s real. It’s where I’m really at, at the moment. It’s nearly impossible for me to let go of some of this holiday stuff. Getting good gifts for people is important to me. Taking the time to bake with my daughter is important to me. Celebrating with friends matters. Finishing the wrapping in time to actually breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy my family on Christmas Eve is important to me.
To get back to my original idea, maybe it is more valuable to come up with happiness tips while in the middle of an unhappy moment or day or month. I mean, it’s easy to be happy when you’re already happy. It’s the finding the Holiday Happiness while drowning in a sea of broken ornaments and un-addressed Christmas cards that’s hard. So, after my unhappy day, here are my happiness tips, as they come to me in this precise moment:
1.Tell someone how you feel, bad or good. Be honest. Let yourself feel that you are not alone.
2. Know when to work your way out of a funk by attacking all the projects you’ve been procrastinating about. Also know when it’s time to surrender to the exhaustion, and give up and cry for a while. Maybe take care of yourself while you give up on the work, if possible. The moment will pass, and you might be stronger after.
3. Thinking that you are the only one who can run your household the way it MUST be run is soul-killing. I find that the more tired I get, the more I irrationally tell myself I’m the only one who can do what I do. It’s simply not true. There are other people who know how to care for small children and maintain a fairly livable house. Hopefully, your partner or spouse is one of those people. You gotta loosen the reigns and let him take over for a while, if you need to quit the minute he gets home. He’ll be okay (he’ll probably be grateful for the opportunity if it stops your crying), and so will the kids, and so will the house. In fact, things will probably be better for everyone. And you can sweep up those crumbs he didn’t notice in the morning, when you are sane again.
4. Tomorrow is a new day. It may be as crappy as this one, but maybe it won’t be, too. And it’s new! A clean slate. You haven’t yelled at anyone yet, tomorrow morning. You get to drink coffee or tea in the morning. You might be surprised. You might feel different after you sleep.
5. Write about it. (I know this only applies to some of us.)
That’s all I got. I’m not sure how successful it was, although I do feel better, now, thanks to #3 and #5.
Lovely Christmas posts will come soon. I always do this. All I see is work for a while, and then when the event comes, I’m so glad for all of the preparation and love and beauty and ritual and I get high on the whole thing. I just hate the part where I can’t see beyond the work.
6. Remind yourself that this too shall pass.