It is exactly one week to Christmas and all I feel is annoyed. If Christmas carolers came to my door right now I would probably get arrested for aggravated assault. I’m sick of asking everyone “ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS ” and of everyone asking me the same. “AM I READY?” Ready for what? A nuclear bomb? A winter nor’easter? A college final? Nope, just the catastrophic event known as Christmas. Call me the Grinch, I’m okay with that, because for me, to quote the great B.B. King, “The thrill is gone.”
I’m not ready. I’m not even sure what exactly is inside all of those boxes that arrived from Amazon. When you drink and drive the internet who really knows what you’ll end up with. One minute I’m convincing myself the kids have enough so I’m done ordering and 5 minutes later I’m crying that they will soon be out of the house so of course I should spend hours hunting down a limited edition hockey jersey for my son and an overpriced Patagonia jacket for my daughter who only goes outside to get into the car. I’ve got 4-5 years till they are college bound but sappy Christmas songs and movies hit me where it hurts. I want to love Christmas again, I really do. But really it just feels like a setup for failure, with a deadline.
I want to buy thoughtful gifts for friends and family, not just a plastic and practical gift card. The problem is that we are so damn lucky that no one really needs anything. I want to use beautiful wrapping paper and tie on gorgeous ribbon. But I also want the time and more money to do these things and right now they are both on the endangered species list. Of course I know Christmas isn’t about money and gifts but I can’t seem to get myself to appreciate it when it feels so forced and so rushed. Sadly I gave up sending Christmas cards a few years ago because between the photo taking, card selection, address researching and envelope stuffing I found myself pissed off and exhausted. Nothing says happy holidays more than a card shoved into an envelope under duress.
Ironically 2 mothers that I know, acquaintances, expressed genuine surprise when I told them I was an incompetent idiot who is falling apart. “Really, I thought you would have it all together!” said one mom. Oh Hell no, and I have no idea what would make them think this. Want me to keep it real? There is a molding, rotting pumpkin by my main entrance door. I pass it every day, multiple times a day. Yet as much as it drives me crazy I can’t seem to spend the 2 minutes needed to scoop it into a trash bag. This is not because I find decomposition fascinating. It’s because I know in its place I want a beautiful winter urn, filled with a stupid piece of a birch tree, evergreens, and probably some holly berry. I’ve saved about 223 photos of them on Pinterest. I’ve even bought the green foam stuff to stick in my urn that may or may not still have a dead mum inside of it.
It’s not just the stuff I can’t (or subconsciously won’t) get to. It’s also a blockage of my brain to be present, and not just in the zen yoga way of being present. I am talking about being so preoccupied and unaware that I spent 35 minutes the other morning frantically searching for my car keys which are clipped to my wallet. After ripping apart bins of dirty laundry, clean and folded but not put away laundry, and 6 different bags I gave up and decided to use my husband’s set of keys and to go to work without my wallet. When I got to my car, parked in our detached garage, my keys and my wallet were staring at me from the driver’s side roof. Really????
What makes me the most upset about all of this is that I know my life is blessed and really pretty easy. I love my job, it doesn’t determine anyone’s life or death, and thankfully due to my existing domestic limitations my family has very low expectations of me so they are very rarely disappointed. So what exactly is keeping my brain so distracted that I can’t throw out a pumpkin or put away my keys?
Sadly I know I am the problem. I am my own worst enemy. I don’t even really worry that much what other people think of me (as long as I am not letting anyone down or hurting anyone’s feelings) because I know, from the amount of women in my life that I encounter through work, sports and school, that every other woman is busy stuck inside her own head too. Even worse, and this is my shameful secret, if I can’t do something the way that I see it happening in my mind then I don’t even want to try. I’m mad at myself for being a stubborn brat who won’t put forth the effort if I can’t get the full result of what I pictured in my head. Why can’t I gain control and just paint a damn different picture? I know this is wrong so of course I add this to the list of things I’d like to change about myself. Even if I was a prize fighter I wouldn’t dare take on my negative alter ego because she is a nasty person that plays dirty. I spend too much time beating myself up long after the referee would have called the fight. I wish I knew why. I also beat myself up for beating myself up. (Crazy, right?) There are voices in our heads (yes, really) that keep a constant running dialogue.
You shouldn’t have said that. You can’t decorate your house right. You need to eat better. You should lift weights for your arms. You need to spend more quality time with your kids. Why don’t you read more books? You need to focus on your career. You need to get more sleep. You need to stay up and get more done. You have wrinkles. You have to stop spending so much. You need to start saving more. You are so disorganized. You should cook your kids dinner, or maybe even breakfast. You need to go back to yoga. You need more date time with your husband. You need to answer your emails quicker. You need to answer your texts faster. You need to respond to Facebook and Instagram messages. You need to up your social media presence for your business. You need to get off of social media because it’s a time suck. You’re not pretty. You’re not smart. You are doing it wrong, all of it.
Let’s hit pause. Pretend you are on the phone with your best friend, or your sister, or another mom waiting for their kid to finish practice. If she said these things what would you say? Unless you are truly sick, I highly doubt that you will nod your head in agreement and say, yes, that’s right you need to get your shit together and you suck. I agree that you need to lose some weight and start a garden and cook your own vegetables. No. Normal humans, especially females, are built with compassion. Hidden underneath our rage at the grocery store when there are 2 lines open out of 12, is a soft, quiet calm that wants to help. You would tell this other woman that they are enough. That they are being too hard on themselves. That nothing is perfect. That she should let go of her Pottery Barn vision of Christmas, even as she grips to it ever so tightly because that is what she really wants her house to look like. You’d tell her to breathe deep and to take her time, take inventory of what went right and what is good. Can it be better? Sure. Can it be worse? Always. What if you are right where you need to be? The biggest challenge sometimes is teaching our brain to be quiet. Maybe the Nike slogan “Just do it” is right. Stop thinking so much and just get it done.
The other day I was in Marshalls. If I am being completely transparent than I will tell you that I was searching in vain for a set of undergarments that might possibly fit and match. I had my husband’s holiday party in Philly the following night and we had reservations to stay overnight. I thought it would be nice to put forth the effort and not wear the Costco granny panties. Could I have gone to Victoria’s Secret or Soma and made my life easier? Yup, but I thought I’d kill multiple birds on my gift list and find a Flyers pillow, a hostess gift, and pineapple string lights for my daughter’s room in one trip. This is when I should have ignored that positive, loving inner voice that goes “Really! Go into Marshalls and HomeGoods! They will have it all and you will find gifts for everyone!” But there I was searching awkwardly thought the underwear and bras. That’s when I heard the kid screaming. Not screaming for help but screaming and whining out of protest. The conversations went like this.
Get in the cart. (Mom)
I don’t want to get in the cart. (Kid)
Maybe he doesn’t want to get in the cart. (Grandmom)
I don’t care – get in the cart. (Mom)
If I get in the cart I’m going to scream the whole time. (Bratty Kid)
Oh let’s not put him in the cart. (Enabling Grandmom)
I don’t care if you scream at the top of your lungs. I’ll ignore it. I am putting you in the cart right now. (Exasperated Mom)
I care if you scream at the top of your lungs. I want to scream at the top of my lungs but I can’t because someone would put me in the loony bin. Which, come to think of it, might not be that bad of a gig. (Me, in my head)
I care if you scream. I don’t wanna hear that crap. I had a long day. Take care of your kid and shut him up. (4’2″ lady dressed all in red, hanging up new underwear inventory in Marshalls.)
At this I start to laugh hysterically. The little lady in red didn’t realize I was on the other side of the racks. She looks like a teeny tiny Amish woman, gray hair up in tight bun. But her voice sounds like Tyler Perry’s Madea character. I was fascinated. She immediately apologizes and tells me that she didn’t know I was there and that she didn’t mean for anyone to hear that. I told her I was thinking the exact same thing. I don’t want to hear that kid scream either. She said she was getting off at 5 and couldn’t wait to get home. I mentioned that usual stupid conversation dud about “So are you ready for the holidays? This teeny tiny woman, with the scrappy voice, said the best words of wisdom I’ve heard in a long time.
Imma just gonna do all that I know how to do.
Whoomp, there it is. YES! Why am I trying to change me? I don’t know how to do a lot at one time. I never have. Multi-tasking turns my brain into the 4th version of Michael Keaton’s character in the movie Multiplicity, you know the idiot one that just keeps saying ” I like pizza” while he rubs pizza all over his face.
Point being that stuff starts to get messed up. And you know what? At the end of the day most of it is out of our control. That holiday party that I planned and packed so carefully for? Mother Nature and the salt trucks must have decided to take the afternoon off and go get drunk at an early happy hour last Friday. The two or so inches of snow we got was enough to cause dozens of accidents and turn even all wheel drive cars into sleds. Traffic was gridlocked and after over an hour we had to abort our mission for a fun night out in the city. I was angry, disappointed and annoyed. But you know what? Life is good. We were safe, our car had gas, and we were together. We still got out to a wonderful dinner close to our house. Our kids were still out for the night. We still got in our date. The snow, as treacherous as its rush hour blanketing became, was absolutely beautiful. It was that kind of snow that was fluffy and quiet, perfectly white and dropped on tree branches like a decoration. I couldn’t help but think of a snow globe.
In my 20s I worked at a mutual fund company. One of my coworkers, whom I still adore, collected snow globes that he displayed near his desk. Snow globes are pretty on their own but the real beauty shows after we shake them up. It’s almost instinct if you see one. You pick it up, shake it, and then you watch closely as the snow falls so perfectly, so beautifuly, so contained in a miniature winter wonderland. If we take a minute, to pause, to take notice, this is what happens in life. Stuff gets all shook up. It falls, sometimes it even falls apart. But if we look really carefully there is a kind of beauty to the fall. Each time it falls it leaves the landscape below different from what it was before, setting a unique setting of peacefulness to the next shakeup.
*Insider Tip – Do More With Less
Life is short. Love your clothes. It’s pretty simple really. Would you rather have 4 amazing, loyal, loving friends or 24 acquaintances? Do you want a closet full of clothes or a condensed wardrobe where you know you love everything and it loves you and your body right back? Get rid of the noise. Don’t be scared. With less you will wear more, I promise. You will wear more because you will have to. It will become clear and you will use what you have. No more waiting for a special holiday party to wear that dress you bought. Dress it down with ankles boots or ballet flats and go shopping or even out for coffee. There are no rules except one – wear what you love. When the snow globe gets all shook up you will be happy that you are happy in your clothes.
Happy Holidays – Be Kind, especially to yourself.
Much love and thank you so much for reading,