So we survived Halloween by keeping the shutters closed and the porch light off. Oh what a party pooper you may say, but hear me out. Mr. Husband and I are the babies in our neighborhood. The majority of our neighbors are elderly and the only time a house goes up for sale around here is when someone died. There are no houses with children near us.
Any kids that show up here are bused in from who knows where and swarm all over the block scaring us half to death when they dart out into the street from between parked cars. I don’t like it. When I’m in a cynical mood I wonder if the parents are hoping for the opportunity for a juicy lawsuit. I prefer children that I at least know in passing, as in I trip over their tricycle when walking my dog, they throw a Tonka truck at my head, etc.
The holidays are always a weird time for me. It is particularly stressful for me because I have in-laws who have entirely different expectations of when and how to celebrate holidays. After going through this for years I have developed a deep-seated resentment because my in-laws tend to ignore the fact that I have my own family with their own expectations and ways of doing things. This is mostly my fault because I haven’t put my foot down and explained that I have a right to celebrate my way occasionally. Instead I’ve piled up a humongous debris tower of resentment.
I have bowed out a few times over the years and gone to be with my family for Thanksgiving. I always have a lot of fun even though my family gatherings can get a bit wild and crazy. So… what to do…what to do?
I’m going try to plan a bit this year and decide what I am willing and capable of doing. I’m going to send out Christmas cards this year. I haven’t for a few years, partly because I received a snippy reply from one of the card recipient’s informing me that I was wasting the earth’s precious resources and killing trees by sending out Christmas cards. Well, how rude! I removed them from my list and in an attempt to take the high ground I refrained from calling them and sharing my opinion that they should take up residence next door to the Grinch who stole Christmas.
So here I am facing the holidays again. It occurred to me while ruminating about this subject for the last few days is that Mr. Husband our past 10 years together has not joined me with my family for a holiday even once. It’s been his way or the highway, year after year. I’m not quite sure why I put up with this, but it’s starting to piss me off. Why do I do this to myself? I’ll just grin and bear something for years or even decades and then suddenly it’s a Mt. Vesuvius eruption of anger and resentment. Then I decide that I’m not going take it anymore and Yee Haaa, here we go.
So it’s not too early to plan for the holidays. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to do the Christmas card thing. But, for Thanksgiving I’m going to visit my family in New Orleans. What the heck, maybe I’ll just stay there for Christmas. I haven’t been with my family for Christmas in maybe 20 years. It’s high time to do something about that.
Nobody is really sure when it happened. People just stopped what they were doing, put down their arms, or their reports, schedules, phones, parked their car, or walked away. It started as a gentle stirring of the breeze, or the caress of the master’s hand on the piano keys, a soft slow peaceful melody coming to life.
The event wasn’t on the news, people didn’t panic. There was no run on the stock market or the bank. No looting or rioting. People still went about their business to some extent. Children played, school happened, dinner got cooked, the laundry got washed. The necessary things happened. It happened so gradually that it almost went on unnoticed for quite some time.
It may have gone unnoticed for a while longer if it hadn’t started in the late fall, before the Christmas rush. What did come to the attention of those who track such things was that there was no Christmas rush. There was a small uptick in sales, but what was missing was the frenzy. No one maxed out their credit cards, took out usurious payday loans or careened around town in a mad lemming’s rush to purchase, purchase, purchase.
At first, as usual, businesses stayed open late nights or even all night in anticipation of the shopping rush that didn’t come. What little shopping people did happened in the afternoon or evening and then people went home. After a week of this the employees gave up and for lack of customers went home also. Left with no customers or employees for these longer hours, stores closed earlier, no more late night, 24/7 frenzy.
The December holidays found people off the street, dining with family and friends. Restaurants and bars, usually jammed with lonely people escaping the holiday madness found themselves bereft of customers. By the last week before Christmas small shops and eateries threw in the towel, declared a holiday and sent employees home to their families.
December came and went. In January the talking heads started to panic. Since very little shopping went on in December there was no rush to return or exchange gifts. People weren’t in the store so the January “slashed prices everything must go” sales never quite got off the ground. The nation failed to meet its quota of consumerism.
By February, the talking heads came to a startling realization. No one was listening to them except other talking heads. You can’t con a con; the heads were starting to figure this out too. How you use shock and awe…and fear to sell the news when no one was buying, no one is watching their “news?”
No one heard or cared about their sage instructions saying “now is the time to buy” that new car, buy that spring wardrobe, and buy a better house, although the house lived in now is fine and dandy and holds many happy memories.
March came and a new trend developed. Driving around any neighborhood and it was obvious. Instead of buying things people where giving away. Something more profound than the usual spring cleaning was going on. Garages, storage sheds, and packed quest rooms emptied out. Piles of items, furniture, clothing, knick knacks and gadgets, grew on the curb and overflowed the charity bins at the local grocery store. Thrifts shops were inundated with donations.
By April, manufacturers were in a panic. How are we going to sell all this stuff if no one is buying, what will our stockholders say? Production, sales, prices must always go up, must always improve. That is the way of business. If sales and prices go down then we are in a recession and must buy our way out it at all costs. They calmed down somewhat when they realized that with all the improvements and “just in time” manufacturing and inventory policies, there really was not as much of the huge mounds of unsold inventory as they initially feared.
In May the trend watchers heaved a premature sigh of relief. Ah, it’s vacation time, people will buy clothes, and summer gadgets, and gas, and plane tickets, and on and on. People will begin to consume again in a “normal” manner. Everything will be fine; the stockholders will clap their hands and count their beans, except it didn’t happen. Families decided to have family time at home instead of hauling the family and half their possessions elsewhere, only to ignore each other at their destination.
June came and it was just the summer lull. The economist decided to stop freaking out about it for a month. July came and went without much fanfare.
By August it was becoming painfully obvious that something, only who knows what had happened. It all happened so gradually that the average Joe and Jane didn’t really notice it. They were too busy living their lives.
Wouldn’t it be nice?
My head doc is encouraging me to do a life timeline, it’s sort of an auto-biography on a graph. It is geared towards tracking what was going in my life during or immediately before a severe high or low.
It’s a good way to figure out what might trigger depression or mania so I learn what to watch out for and prepare ahead of time. These episodes can some out of nowhere more often than not, but it’s still a good idea. Dawn of the Dead In laws coming over = make sure I have pillows scattered around the house so I can grab one and scream into it. Come to think of it, a lot of my pillow cases have lipstick on them.
Haven’t put anything on paper yet, but I have rough draft going developing in my mind. What I started to also notice was a pattern with mentally ill friends and relatives. Why did it take me 57 years to figure this out? Oh who cares, at least I figured it out now.
This scenario usually plays out as follows: a couple of weeks before a birthday, Christmas or other event where societal pressures demand that you pay out the nose or be thought of as stingy and selfish. It starts with a seemingly innocent phone call.
- The Butter Up: Ring, Ring – A tiny little sheepish voice will say “Hello my beloved parent, grandparent, friend, ex-lover, sibling, etc. I love you soooOOoo much, I miss you, we don’t see each other often enough. It’s so good to hear your voice.” Yada Yada and Yippee Ki -Effin-Yay.
- The Set Up: How are you? (they don’t wait to hear your answer, or if they do, ignore it) Well I’m fine too….except for… this teensy little problem or set back. They are hoping you offer a solution at this point, usually involving large sums of cash. If you don’t offer a solution then – wait for it – within 24 hours the next call comes.
- Baiting the Hook: Hi it’s me again. I’m really in a bind here, my ass is caught in a bear trap. All I need is a little help and X amount of dollars and this will all go away. At this point you start to feel like you’re the one with their ass caught in a bear trap. It’s also starting to feel a lot like blackmail. The pseudo crisis escalates. The time frame tightens up and in 6-8 hours the next call comes.
- The Clean Jerk: (This when the hook goes through your cheek and you hear the fishing line whizzing by your head) They do this by saying “If you don’t help me then I will; go to jail, get evicted from my apartment, lose my car, kill myself, lose my job, lose my kids, my house, I’ll never speak to you again, you’ll never see me again”….or the worst possible threat of all “I’ll have no other recourse than to come camp on your couch for 3 months, break all your dishes, leave cigarette burns on your furniture, and steal everything that is not tied down.”
- Gotcha: this is always a no win scenario, no matter what you do you are screwed, you either 1) accede to their demands , they get what they want and then they disappear for year. Any attempt to contact them after the debacle via phone, text message, or letter is unsuccessful. Or 2) you refuse, they don’t get what they want and then they disappear for a year, but the upside is your wallet remains intact…for now.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If it does then you were born in to a family of master manipulators. Welcome to the jungle, Baby. Don’t go down without a fight!
All I have to do to face this Grinch is look in the mirror. I knew that there was trouble the other night when I watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Mr. Husband and agreed with the Grinch. All the buzzles and bangles, ting tangles and cartoongles, the glitzes and proppringles, and the ho ho ho hingles. The slingles and slappings, and comercializapings.
But I really do love Christmas. Perhaps for me it’s more of an interior celebration. It also harkens back to my days as a practicing Catholic. Christmas is not one day but a season that starts on Christmas Eve and lasts until the Epiphany in January. All of this Christmas industry hoopla, that starts on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and rapidly escalates into an all-out commercial shopping frenzy Armageddon, is like screeching chalk on the blackboard of my soul.
So yesterday I decided to be an emissary of peace and finally went out shopping. I took my time to just enjoy being out and about, if the traffic is heavy, so what? Everywhere I went I looked people and in eye, smiled and said “Merry Christmas.” It’s amazing the instant gratification this brings. When I said it to a sales clerk their face softened and they smiled and returned my greetings.
I watched other people as they shopped. At the register they were already on the phone planning their next acquisition and never even looked at the person behind the counter. The clerk may as well been a mannequin.
After wandering around the mall for a couple of hours I reconnected to that feeling that it is in other people we can find joy if we’re looking for it. A smile, a kind word, holding the door for someone with arms full of packages. It really is a fountain of wonder if you chose to perceive it this way.
Peace on earth and good will to all men is the meaning of Christmas. No one can take this from me. I just let it slip away. But, I’m taking it back and keeping it safe in my heart where it belongs. Hug your partner, tell them that you love them and tickle your kids. I wish all of you out there the blessings, love and peace of this holiday season.
And no, I don’t mean the naughty kind of self-soothing. Sometimes it’s necessary to dig way down deep into your bag of tricks. And sometimes you just get lucky.
Hubman’s cute little blond spitfire of a cousin sent us a Christmas present in the mail. A tiny little Cyprus tree about 10 inches tall. I smelled it and something clicked in my head.A small glimmer of “mmm, that smells good, like a real Christmas tree” hope was born.
Another thing I did was drag out my favorite dysfunctional family Christmas movies. 1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, 2) Four Christmases – Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and 3) Mixed Nuts – Steve Martin.
Also, Mister Husband managed to lure me out of the house for the first time since we got home from the road trip, except to go to the drug store for refills. He bribed me with steak, OK. I can be had for a price, but you have to aim high! We went to Texas Land and Cattle steak house.
It turned out to be funny because our poor little teen-aged waiter, sporting a Robert Pattinson of the Twilight Saga hairdo, was a bumble fuss and spilled a tray of drinks on the people in the booth behind us. In an attempt to make him feel better, I told him about the time in my younger days that I spilled a tray with a pitcher of beer and 8 full glasses down the back of a guy wearing in expensive suit. Hubman left him a $20 dollar tip to cheer him up.
So I guess Christmas cheer can be had, but sometimes you have to work at it. On the way to the restaurant Hubman and I had the annual “do you want to put up the tree this year” discussion. I decided to negotiate this time instead of going along with it without ascertaining the specifics.
I asked him “define exactly what you mean by putting up the tree please. Because in past years it meant that I climb up in the nasty, dusty attic and hand things down to you, because you’re too big for the ladder or the hole in the garage ceiling. Then I get stuck with the majority of the actual decorating to boot.” I’ve given up asking how the stuff that was already there when I moved to this house 10 years ago got up there. I guess it was elves.
In past years after I climb down out of the attic, he assembles the giant electric tree with lights already attached. Thank you, God. I hate stringing lights, because it brings up child hood memories of getting electrocuted every year when testing them. This happened because back when the dinosaurs roamed the lights had real, made of foil, tinsel stuck in them and my mother was afraid to plug them in. So she gets her kid to do it instead, go figure.
Anyway, after Hubman assembles the tree, by his unspoken decree he usually decides his work done, goes in his office, shuts the door, and plays computer games. Leaving me to figure out what to do with the five thousand ornaments and various decorations.
Some are of sentimental value and some are complete junk and should be discarded. But no one remembers anymore which is which, so I can’t throw anything away unless it is obviously eaten by insects. It’s a daunting task and I immediately begin to harbor thoughts of either homicide or running away to another country, or both. I tried getting tipsy one year to do it, but it ended up a near disaster for both me and the tree. Although I did have more fun than the plastic tree did.
I’m not the seasonal decorating kind person. I would be happy with hanging a wreath on the door and placing a few cutesy pieces of Christmas deco on the fire-place mantle and call it done. So I decided to hold him too his desire to have a fully assembled and decorated tree and insist that he play fair and do his share of the tree decoration.
No coming down with the bubonic plague or developing a sudden allergy to Christmas ornaments! Also, this time I’m going to put aside all the junk that I think are candidates for disposal and enforce the “when in doubt, throw it out” clause. My version of the Santa clause.