I do it to myself every year, but this year was probably the worst in my memory.
Starting December 1, I toss myself into a feverish holiday frenzy. I plan. I plot. I make list after list - this is the list of foods I want to make. Here's a list of gifts I need to buy. Here's the Amazon order list. Here's what I need to get at the mall. Here's the list of teacher gifts. Don't forget to make a list of foods for the gift baskets. Make a list of cookies to bake, breads and candies.
No one makes me do these things. I'm not trying to keep up with anyone, not trying to be a Pinterest mom, or the best parent at the school ever. (Hello? Have you seen those women? I can't even fathom being on the same planet as most of those ladies, so I just don't even entertain the thought.)
Let me repeat - I DO THIS TO MYSELF.
And I don't know why I do it - I don't have anyone to keep up with, no one to outdo - just my own self. I want, so badly, to be able to put on the Best Christmas Ever. I think it must be vanity, this desire to be just FANTASTIC at it. I think it's a fine example of self centeredness, this need to be the very best I can be. I don't do it to hear accolades from other people, because, if I'm being honest - I don't believe what people say when they compliment me - I can always find fault with myself in a crystal clear fashion.
For whatever reason, I never feel as if I do enough.
The days leading up to Christmas were filled with butter, basting, rolling, icing, kneading, pounds of flour and sugar. I worked a full day every day, and because I work in a cyclicial business, the end of the quarter is very busy - and the end of the fiscal year is exceptionally busy. But I was driven to do more, more more - and so after working, I worked four or more hours in the kitchen. We had two full weeks of Nutcracker performances. We had a straight week of Messiah rehearsals and performance. I took photos of Messiah and processed them - an act which took two nights of staying up until 1 a.m. to accomplish. Why? No one asked me to do it - I just wanted to do it. My friend's father died and I served the funeral and spent the day (it was a Saturday) serving and cleaning up the reception. I planned the very best foods, some of my favorites, for the family get together on Christmas Eve and an equally dynamic list of favorites for the actual Christmas dinner. I cleaned drawers and closets, got rid of bags for the thrift store, cleaned the medicine cabinets (wtf, anyone who snoops in those deserves whatever embarassment they receive), wiped floorboard trim and made sure the Christmas decorations were just.exactly.right. I moved pictures around and freshened up the set up of the house.
And the last week before Christmas was fraught with lists, crossing off items bought and adding gifts still needed to be purchased. I juggled money until it was a fine art worthy of a college degree. I created and sent Christmas cards. I tried, as hard as I could, to buy gifts that were special - favorite restaurants for people, the shirt she wanted, the cologne he asked for, the gift cards for the fast food places I knew they liked, the candies each one craves. I slept way too little and felt crazier than ever by Christmas Eve. When I fell into bed at 1:30 Christmas morning, I felt GOOD about what I'd done. It was all exactly the way I'd wanted it to be. I'd gotten the gifts I wanted. The first family function went off beautifully. The teacher gifts were perfect, the neighbors loved their goodie basket, the Christmas cards were well received, I'd bought everything I thought would make everyone just - esctatic - the next day. The hard part is over, I clearly remember thinking as I drifted off. You've done a great job. Tomorrow will be easy.
Hubris, man, Hubris will be the sin that sends me to hell.
And, the next day, right when everything was supposed to be absolutely perfect, because I'd worked so very, very hard, sacrificing sleep and running myself into an absolute frenzy and I felt as if I'd break - someone from whom I'd never expect an issue just snapped, threw an monstrously epic fit that caused an absolute spiral of anger and hatred and regurgitated fury from just about every member, ending in tears and harsh words that can never, ever be taken back - and as everyone retreated to neutral corners and we all were alone -
I stood and stared and realized I'd almost killed myself for - nothing. Because, in the end, none of what I did mattered. As hard as I'd worked to make everything perfect - it was for naught.
To be clear, the epic fit was not due to me - it was another person's issue, different people have different expectations, and the catalyst to the fire was something that I was not even involved in - but I clearly remember standing in the kitchen as the warm water ran over my hands, because while everyone was nursing their wounds of course I must be cleaning up the breakfast mess (I'd even made a special breakfast wreath and hashbrown casserole, and was ready to scramble eggs for everyone)
and I was just - in shock - that it all happened so quickly, so terribly, and so fiercely, everything I'd worked for, stressed over, lost sleep over and internally struggled with
And things smoothed over later, as of course they do with families, after all, who else loves you like a family, who else forgives your absolute loss of sanity and welcomes you with open arms and a pat on the back that says, it's ok, we all lose our shit once in a while
But I spent most of Christmas day, as well as much of today, pondering things and staring off into space quite often. I don't think I've been this exhausted since I was caring for my father in law and sister in law, before they passed, last year. I am literally at the end of what I can tolerate, and so, much of the past two days, I was just in - recovery mode. Being kind to myself. Spending time just - being.
I don't regret anything that I did to get ready for Christmas, but I do have some heavy thinking to do over the next few weeks.