I would give anything to sit and watch movies with the kids
and this guy for a whole day.
and this guy for a whole day.
Life is just not having that, though.
We got our Christmas tree up last night, but I would be lying if I wrote about it like some kind of idyllic Norman Rockwell moment. It wasn't fun. I didn't feel well before we started, and it ended with me in tears, crying about how I just can't handle my life right now. I had a migraine Monday night and the meds made me groggy all day Tuesday. Heavy. Head-swimmy, on top of the post-residency tireds. And honestly? I hate decorating for Christmas. All I can think about while we put everything up is how in ten days we will have to take all of it down again. I don't hate looking at Christmas decorations, sitting around, snuggling with my family by the glow of the tree. I love them (the fam and the decorations). But the work? No thank you. I didn't like it when I was a kid and I don't like it now. I want to have Christmas, but I don't want to do Christmas. So there you go.
Especially not this year. God, I'm tired. I don't have anything to give. I feel like I'm trying to rejoin a life that's moving at seventy miles an hour and I'm at a dead stop trying to work up the nerve. I'm sitting here wondering when I get the time I need to feel the things I know I need to feel. The things that if I don't feel, will end up coming out of me sideways. I just need to get to the end of this week and finish my grades at the high school and somehow (when?) buy those Christmas presents I haven't purchased yet and make it to all the family stops we have planned between now and 12/26. I feel pressure to love doing the Christmas decorations--to make things cute and homey and spend a ton of time and energy on something that I'm not really that into because it's a "mom" thing to do. Because other moms like it. And, of course, this gives me the Crazies.
But let's be real. I feel too much pressure right now about everything. Be the good mom, be the good teacher, be the good shopper, be the good cook, be the good wife, be the good writer. I know about half of this is internal, the constant, ridiculous pressure I put on myself to be HSP, the one that everybody thinks can do it all and do it all well, with perfectly coiffed hair and a big smile. That. I told someone at school after hearing for the third time, "Heather, you must never sleep..." that it's my defense mechanism. I feel inadequate, so I make up for it by going overboard. When I was dancing, I saw consistently that the people who got ahead weren't the ones (necessarily) who had the most raw talent. Sometimes they were just the ones who showed up, stayed the longest, never appeared to be tired.
But I'm at a loss about what to say to the kind souls who keep asking me where my Christmas tree/lights/presents are and why they're not done yet. I almost lost it twice yesterday when I got that question at work. Number one, Thanksgiving was uber late this year. Number two, I was gone for almost two weeks in that little tiny window so I could put the finishing touches on my master's degree. Number three: I'm trying my best here, people. I get it that my kids "need a Christmas," but they also need a mom who isn't in the looney bin. I am barely hanging on. I mean barely. And really, let's just pause for a minute to recognize that having a Christmas is about exactly none of the things that hang on my door or decorate my tree. And is there anyone out there, really, who thinks I'd let my two monkeys not get Christmas presents?
The worst Christmas I had was 2008. Eric and I were separated and planning to divorce. I had a tree and I had lights and I had presents under the tree. Eric came over and we faked our way through a Christmas morning for the kids, and it was awful. Then I sat on my couch, alone all day after they left, watching Law and Order in my cold house. And none of it--the tree, the presents, the damn lights on the house, none of it mattered one bit. After that, the things of Christmas just don't matter to me as much. It's the being with people that's the thing. All of the pressure to decorate, the show, it just feels arbitrary. That's not to say I want to undermine the positive image my kids have of Christmas, or that I don't want them to have positive memories. It's just that I think holidays are more complicated than a lot of people would have you believe. So much expectation to feel a certain way. Or to look like you do.
One of the editors I met with last week asked me the simplest question. "What are writing about in your collection?" It took me a few minutes to come up with an answer, but it was this: my whole life is about trying to balance an exterior that looks under control with an interior that is not. I write a lot about ballet dancers and teachers--two professions where the external is carefully controlled, where the "show" is a carefully constructed facade that's about perception rather than truth and you have to keep all the hard work hidden from the audience. And I write about hoarders. I'm fascinated by hoarders, since it seems like that inner turmoil has spilled out for them. It's beyond control. They feel like they're on the losing side of that battle.
My balance is off right now. No, I'm not a hoarder. But my "to-do" is longer than my "done", and I don't have a lot of energy to get after it. I'm not keeping the ugly parts on the inside so well. What I want most is rest. Rest first, so I can be good to my family. That feels weirdly selfish. But there's a crummy thing that happens when you're trying to give yourself to your family and you're not ready. Right now everything feels like it's coming out wrong.