Friday, December 26, 2008

After Christmas Blues

Christmas has come and gone.

The glittering diversion that makes winter bearable is now over, the wrappings recycled or burned, our unwrapped trophies stacked beneath the tree. The holidays are not completely past: we still have a few warm candle-lit nights of Hanukkah left, and there’s New Years Eve, a decidedly low key affair in our house, and then winter settles in for good, with bone chilling cold, beautiful but difficult snows and endless grey days. Spring is a long way away. We awoke today with a coating of ice on everything. I decided not to risk driving, but fell three times walking and taking the train to work. The headline on the paper this morning was Too Many Accidents to Count…….

I need the holidays to face the winter. I need all that expectation and bustling to bear the darkness that clutches at my heart, and to force me to get up in the morning. Those twinkling lights hold the abyss at bay. Was this the holiday I wanted it to be? Never! We ended up with part of the family in one location, the dogs and my husband in another, and after trying to make everyone happy, in the end, I made everyone unhappy. Santa’s low budget offerings were not particularly well received, and I am a complete failure at bringing my family to an understanding of the principal of gratitude. Actually, after Christmas, I usually feel like a complete failure at everything. The expectations are too impossibly high, and Hallmark, I ain’t. But I self medicate with spirits and chocolate and I manage to get out of bed each morning which is counter to every instinct in my body. I am part bear in temperament and inclination and I could be perfectly happy taking to my bed for the next quarter.

Whenever I am faced with an unwinnable task: trying to create a lifetime of memories for my children when I am working 60 hour weeks in the summer, or trying to fulfill the overly hyped visions of sugarplums that make up everyone’s holiday expectations, I clutch a checklist like a lifeline. The checklist is the 10 or 15 things that have to happen, that must be fulfilled for me to get a passing grade for the season or event. It’s my rubric. For example, last summer we had to eat a picnic outside, go to an outdoor concert, have Horse Camp, eat at Super Dog, see fireworks, eat ice cream and swim in Lake Michigan. I got it all done, so in my mind, I got a passing grade. I did NOT exceed expectations and this was not an honor roll summer, but in the end, I passed. This year’s holiday season included the following assignments: Latke party, live tree, home made gifts, some family baking event (this I delegated—note the Gingerbread fantasies, including a fish house) see our cousins, be with people who are important, donate, sing carols. We are not totally done with the holidays, but I have completed my assignments.

I have forgotten to put things like SLEEP on this list. I did not get my traditional holiday nap done as I was running around, and I sure feel it today. But some days, the human condition is such that you get by, by the skin of your teeth, by the accumulated guilt of your tribe, by the checklist that becomes your driving force, your talisman, your mentor to get you through. Whatever it takes, whatever it takes.

1 comment:

2KoP said...

A+++++++++++++++++++++ for you.

Memories are made despite what we do, not because of our plans and dreams and efforts. It's the tales we tell that reveal the memories we made, and we don't know what those tales will be in the moment. I do know, however, that you are a great storyteller, so I don't worry about you. My advice — get rid of the lists.