I’m realizing that I have real trouble with holidays but I have no idea why.

This is strange for me because I am generally pretty in touch with my demons and know from where they have come. But this time. I’m kind of at a loss. All I know is that as Christmas approached I got more and more unhappy, anxious, and emotionally raw.

At first I just thought it was a reaction to what happened in Newtown two weeks ago. I was a complete wreck from that, crying a lot, feeling angry a lot, and feeling more anxious than I have in months. But it had started improving and wasn’t getting worse.

Then on Christmas Eve I was just a complete mess of easily triggered anger, impatience, and sadness. I felt hopeless and empty. I didn’t want Christmas to happen at all.

I thought I was just tired and over worked.

But the next morning was worse. I heard my children awake and wanted to be excited to go open presents with them, but I wasn’t. Getting up was a chore and I was incredibly disappointed by the presents I got. I know. That sounds so childish. But I was.

My husband and I aren’t particularly materialistic and so there isn’t much that either of us wants. I also tend to be a bit tight with money which makes buying meaningless purposeless gifts feel like a waste. This makes holiday time kind of difficult in terms of exchanging gifts. My husband helps the kids get me things and I do the same with them for him. But, somehow the two things he helped them pick out for me were awful and I felt let down by them in a way I never have before. Then, his gift to me was such a let down because not only was it not at all what I was expecting, but it was something that I have absolutely no interest in.

After presents I made breakfast, starting prepping the food I had to take to my sister’s house, and cleaned up the mess in the living room. I don’t think I smiled once. By the time I got the chance to sit down I was so unhappy I felt as though I was completely filled with despair. I started fearing for my emotional stability as we progress deeper into winter.

Surprisingly, getting to my sister’s house made me feel a little better, and by the time we were through with lunch I was feeling more like myself. But later in the afternoon, as we prepared to leave,  the feelings of emptiness and unmet expectations began to flood over me again.

I feel so lost, not knowing where any of this is coming from. Those feelings of despair used to hit me in the middle of winter. Then they started creeping back to New Year’s. Now it’s Christmas. This year I felt this way on my birthday and that was in August!

Part of me suspects that it stems from the fact that I have small children and I don’t ever feel as though I have a moment “off”. I’m always the one working to make the holidays nice for everyone else and I’m just burned out. I think people who don’t have children, or who have children who are all grown up, don’t realize the constant, non-stop, relentlessness that goes along with being a parent to small children. Every moment that they are awake is a moment where I need to be actively engaged. Just once I’d like the holiday responsibilities to belong to someone else.

We left my sister’s house and after a quick put stop at home were on the road again heading to the beach for the week. Yes, it’s cold but it’s the only place we really feel relaxed so we go every year. About an hour into the drive my fingers started to feel swollen and itchy and my hands felt sticky so I slipped my wedding and engagement ring off my finger and into my lap. An hour later, my daughter had to go to the bathroom so we stopped by the side of the road, in the dark, so she could pee. Six miles later I realized that my rings were gone. When I’d climbed out of the car to help her I’d completely forgotten about my rings and they had been flung into the darkness on the side of the highway.

The only way to describe my response would be complete and utter panicked desperation. My husband got behind the wheel and got us turned around. He calmly talked me through the landmarks that would help us figure out where we had stopped. He crossed a grassy median on the six lane highway to get us pointed back in the direction we needed to go. We found the spot and I got out of the car as he drove at 2 mph behind me shining the car’s headlights on the shoulder while I crept along in the cold staring at the gravel trying desperately to see something shiny.

After resigning myself to the reality that I was never going to find them, and my husband resigning himself to being stuck on the side of the road for hours searching, I found them within moments of finding the spot where we had stopped, shining up at me from their resting spots after having been cast aside.

The relief that flooded through me nearly knocked me off my feet. I felt so overwhelmingly blessed. Blessed that my rings were found. Blessed that we didn’t have an accident in our hasty return to the “scene”. Blessed that this amazing man I’m married to was calm and collected and never once (during or after) made me feel bad about having been so careless. Blessed that that man would have been willing to spend hours on the side of the road, in the cold, on Christmas night, with two small kids in the back of the car searching for my wedding rings. Blessed that things worked out.

I’m retelling all of this because even though these things all seem pretty separate they are actually all connected. This whole experience of this day feels like a metaphor for my life.

See, I spend so much time and energy focusing on making sure that absolutely every little thing goes perfectly that I wind up not having the energy or focus to take care of little things that do require a bit of attention (like myself). Then, something goes wrong and I feel lost at sea. But I have resources, rays of light in my life, that make it ok and despite a bit of struggle and uncertainty things work out. Then I realize that I didn’t need to be worrying so much about the little stuff to begin with.

The panic and relief I felt last night was like a catharsis. All of that built up tension, anxiety, and despair exploded out of me in a super intense volcanic eruption that lasted for about a half an hour. Once it was over I was spent and relaxed and pretty quickly ready to see a different perspective.

After finally arriving last night, the back hatch on our car freaked out, opening and closing spastically without being able to run through it’s cycle properly and in order to get it to stop I had to force it open and I think it broke. Well, at least it made a sound as though it were broken. I don’t know. I haven’t gone back to check it again.

Normally, I’d be freaking out about that. But I don’t really care right now.

Normally, I’d be freaking out that it’s noon and my kids and I are still in our pjs and the TV has been on for the past 4 hours. But I don’t really care right now.

Normally, I’d be worried and driven to get to the store to buy food for the week we’re here. But I don’t really care right now.

Normally, I’d be distressed that my son just ate a rice krispie treat before lunch. But I don’t really care right now.

I’m just feeling relaxed and letting myself off the hook for once.

If there’s something to be learned from all of this rambling it’s that this moment is what I need to hold onto. Not the fear of what might come. Not the stress of what has to be accomplished. Not the emptiness over missed opportunities or chances. Just this moment.

This moment can be peaceful.

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