Merry Meltdown

It’s official. I had my annual Christmas meltdown last week. I had been running around trying to meet these ridiculous expctations that I had set for myself when I finally sat on the top stair and burst into tears. I’m glad to have gotten it over with so early. I usually like to have my Christmas meltdown a little closer to the actual holiday, but I had out-of-town relatives coming in to visit, and for crying out loud (har har), I couldn’t not be ready.

I blame my family entirely, of course. My sisters are excellent cooks, my sisters-in-law handy with the gift baskets, my brothers are wine connoisseurs, and my mom a champion of holiday cheer. That’s a lot to live up to. Plus my youngest brother flew in from New Jersey last week with his wife and four kids, and we all had to scramble to be ready for our annual holiday gathering, more than two weeks early.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving — none of these do much for me at all. I really enjoy making gifts or shopping for clothes or specially chosen items for my children. I look forward to holiday baking all year. I love the scent of evergreen and nutmeg and wood smoke and cinnamon and peppermint all together. I love candles and holiday music and singing carols in the car. I especially love wrapping presents, gathering stocking stuffers and decorating the tree.

And I must admit, although it is just icing on the cake, I do like to open a present or two (who doesn’t?). Last year I cried (a lot) over two gifts — a handmade candleholder my youngest made me, and a portrait of my eldest that she had taken. Boo hoo, it’s Christmas!

This year, for some reason, I haven’t been able to catch up. Since early November, we have had one cold after another, are in the midst of our fourth round of the stomach flu, with a side of kidney stones thrown in for extra special fun. I had grand visions of whipping up some Christmas gifts for my sisters and my brothers’ wives, plus some stuff for my kids (which can’t be mentioned in case I actually get them done). I made three very expensive trips to Beverly’s and have these giant bags full of fabric and rick-rack just staring at me from the corner of the room. I had hoped to have these gifts done before my brother arrived. I kept thinking, tomorrow, tomorrow, definitely by this weekend, and suddenly I had one day left.

With three hard deadlines for Friday, no time to run out shopping, and an evening party to attend with Patrick, I was, in a word, doomed. I had to junk the entire sewing fantasy. I moved quickly to the kitchen where I frantically began sifting and whipping and creaming, running back and forth to the computer to finish various projects. It was when my Internet crashed, damning any possibility of meeting my deadlines, that I had my meltdown. I reached for the phone. I give Patrick extra credit for listening patiently to my boo-hoo. “…And I can’t get anything done!”

Ah, you’ve gotta love the holidays. They just reach out and grab you by the lapels and say, “What did you expect — perfection? You think everything is going to be like a Santa snow globe? Do you think the universe is going to stop in its tracks because you didn’t make the perfect gift basket?” Well, yes, I rather do think that some days.

As it happens, I got a bucketload of cookies baked very early Saturday morning, cooled and packed in gift bags with bottles of wine. With a couple of other special additions, they were just fine. The gifts I had planned to make are still unmade, but the family is none the wiser (until they read this entry, kof, kof). I wasted a lot of time fretting over what could have been instead of just enjoying the process.

Is there a lesson here? Yes — start earlier next year. Drink Red Bull. Don’t sleep. Perfection matters. Your entire happiness depends on it.

Just kidding.

How about just take a deep breath and try and enjoy the holidays in whatever form the universe brings to you. It’s really not so bad. Take it from the town crier.

Advice for Aspiring Writers: Meltdowns, five for a dollar. Or in other words, mine your pain.

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