Last night, I returned home from a rehearsal, that was proceeded first by: work, then picking my two youngest daughters up from school, driving 26 miles to Topeka, quickly dropping by McDonald’s for a snack, dropping the youngest off at her own rehearsal, then taking my 11 year old daughter to the doctor, followed by dropping off a prescription at the pharmacy, meeting my husband so he could take them home, and finally………. Christmas shopping. When I arrived home, I promptly started fuming over the fact that the dishwasher wasn’t cleaned out, the living room picked up, or the laundry folded. I sighed a lot. For me, sighing is like the whistle on a tea kettle….it means I’m letting off steam. I once read that women sigh as an alternative to screaming. I believe that.
Anyway, when I finally finished everything that needed to be done to satisfy my increasingly OCD need for order, I sat down on the couch. Shortly after I sat on the couch, I started to cry, and rant, and express my grief……over Christmas shopping. I lamented why Christmas shopping, and shopping in general, has become such an emotionally difficult task for me. During a brief break in my blubbering, my husband said something he never has in the past. “That would make a really good blog post.” When I added ideas and tangents…..he simply said “See, that would make more to write about in a blog post.” My husband is a smart man, and he very well could have just been diverting me a little (to get me to be quiet and stop crying, so he could finish watching the football game in peace), but it did get me thinking….that yes, this would make a good blog post. So, here are my thoughts on Christmas shopping, social interaction, anxiety, and zombies.
I promised myself something this Christmas season. I promised I would look for the joy in everything. I promised I would look for the beauty in the everyday, in the people around me: in forgiveness, in basic human goodness, in nature. I promised that I would take every negative thought and attitude, and turn it around, remembering the meaning of Christmas. As a first effort in keeping my promises, I created and wrote special messages in two Christmas cards, to apologize and attempt reconciliation with people who really, are the ones to blame. Yet, I simply cannot live with the thought that someone is angry with me, with the thought that I am carried as a black mark in the hearts of by a few people …or that I dwell in someone’s negative thoughts. Yes, I need to get beyond that, but, I do want to know that I have done all I can to make the situation right. In my second effort, and most frequently, I have had to take my negative thoughts, and replace them with positive, warm fuzzy ones….a lot. Sometimes, on a second by second basis.
Even with all of my best and most diligent efforts, keeping those promises to myself this Christmas season has been one of the hardest things I have done in recent times. It’s so much easier to fall into the black hole and stay there. It’s easier to fall asleep there….living in the cool, dark, negative space. When the night has fallen around you, you have to look really hard to find the light……and holding on to that sliver of moon is an effort.
And that brings me to Christmas shopping.
The last few times I have gone out into the masses, and shopped at an actual brick and mortar store (I shop a lot online), I’ve felt like I am in a post-apocalyptic movie…sometimes with zombies. The people I see around me are sometimes angry, and very frequently, empty. In a building filled with dozens, or hundreds of people…..I feel alone. I never, ever used to feel that way, and I honestly don’t know what’s changed; me, or the world around me. Really, it is probably a little bit of both, but I wonder. Admittedly, I suffer from social anxiety, and I’m pretty sure I have my whole life…I’m just now beginning to recognize and face it. For a person who loves the stage, who loves attention, this is strange, I know, but it is always hard for me to face a crowd of my peers. Lately, I have had so much crazy and stressful stuff going on around me, in my personal, and professional life; that I am pretty sure that has a big effect on how a perceive the world moving around me. I used to LOVE to shop….to feel the energy and excitement of the people out and about. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t putting on an angry face…..but maybe I was? Most of all, though, I wonder about this anger and emptiness in people……especially during this Christmas season. Sure, I’m pretty irritated about the fact that I have very little extra money (okay, none) to throw toward gifts for those I love and care for. Maybe those angry people is see, are without jobs, or without insurance, or without much hope for the future. Let’s face it, watching the trending news is frightening, and disheartening. Those of us who are in our thirties grew up when economic times were at their best…..when the sky was the limit. These days, the sky is pretty dark for those of us who have dreams of moving up in the world.
When I started this post, I searched for a photo of “people Christmas shopping during the Great Depression.” Interestingly…in 20 minutes of searching, I came up with one, and it wasn’t too compelling. I did learn something important from my search, though…people didn’t really shop for Christmas gifts during the Great Depression. This article gives a pretty interesting glimpse into the world of the people that grew up as children of the Depression. One quote that was a little heartbreaking to me was: “every year the kids knew Christmas was coming, we’d get all excited, looking over the rooftops to see Santa,” Lyons said. “We always hoped, but it just wasn’t to be.”
Though I can lament that I can’t really give everything on their wishlists to my children this Christmas, and I would love to be able to…but they will have gifts under the tree. Santa will visit our home. The quote in that article, from an 84 year old woman in a nursing home ” “Things don’t make you happy” really strikes a chord in me. A happy chord. Major…with a 7th added for razzle dazzle. (Yes, that’s musician speak…if you get it, a gold star for you today).
Really, I am not too wrapped up in “things.” A few years ago, I started the tradition of giving my girls each a handmade gift for Christmas. I really started the tradition to save money, but honestly…I think those gifts have been some of the most memorable they’ve received. If it was up to me, we’d celebrate Christmas by giving one gift….or no gifts at all, but I am kind of stressed out easily by gift giving. 🙂
All in all, I *do* hope that I am the only one that faces the zombies while Christmas shopping, that it is a completely unique experience, reserved for the mentally ill and exhausted. In keeping with my Christmas promises (and hope to do as Dickens wrote and “honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach”) I offer a smile to the angry and zombified masses. Yes, it hurts when they return it with a frown, or pretend they don’t see me. It honestly hurts quite a bit. But when they do return it in turn, I see a fellow living, breathing human being…hopeful, on a unique journey, as I am. “God bless us, Everyone.”