So This is Christmas…

“Father Christmas, give us some money. Don’t mess around with those silly toys. We’ll beat you up if you don’t hand it over. We want your bread so don’t make us annoyed. Give all the toys to the little rich boys.” ~The Kinks, Father Christmas

When I was little, I loved Christmas. I’ve always been a morning person, but I was an especially early morning person on Christmas. I would wake up before the sun, sneak out of my room with my pillow while trying not to wake up my sister and walk as fast as I could to the tree careful to avoid the creaky spots in the floor. I was a Christmas morning ninja. I would scope out the presents and see what packages had my name on it…all from Santa who’s handwriting looked suspiciously like my mom’s… No one was awake in my house. It was just me, presents and the tree. I would grab a blanket and lay down by the tree until I heard someone else in the house wake up. It was usually my mom. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t interested in talking that early in the morning, but that didn’t stop me. I couldn’t help telling her Santa ate all the things I set out for him and showed up again with presents even though our fireplace was fake. Slowly but surely my siblings would wake up. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I would go wake up my dad who was still sleeping off the Christmas Eve festivities at my grandparents house. (My mom wouldn’t let us open presents until everyone was in the room, so someone had to do the dirty work.)

Christmas morning and day was always a nice time when I was younger. I’m not sure really why my enjoyment of the holiday faded over the years. Perhaps it was just that my holidays slowly became only getting to celebrate one or two days rather than a whole month planning and prepping with my family. Traveling was annoying, expensive and stressful. It could have been financial stress, observing people being assholes to each other in parking lots and stores over frivolous merchandise, listening to kids act like brats over not getting all the toys they asked for that they weren’t nice enough all year to deserve in the first place, parents trying to out-gift other parents…or just a nasty combination of all of those things. Everyone always seemed too anxious and tired for a day in which we were supposed to have fun. It didn’t, and still doesn’t, make sense to me. The adult in me no longer saw the beauty of the holiday because I focused on the people that seemed to lose perspective of what celebrating time with family is all about. That’s why I fell more in love with Thanksgiving. But I digress…

I’m near family again, and they are REALLY trying to make me love this holiday again. I decided to be open and give it a try. I don’t think I will ever love it like they do, but I can refocus in order to enjoy it, right? Right. Here is what I have done so far:

  • I bought a tree. No one could believe I didn’t own a tree. I could. You know why? I have two cats. One of them thinks the tree is his personal jungle gym where he can climb up, swat off ornaments and watch them fall to the ground. The last time I had a tree I would come home to mangled branches and busted ornaments. I bought a motion alarm, but the only good that ever did was scare my sweet dog, Chopper.
  • I decorated said tree. I didn’t have many ornaments to fill it since most are somewhere in a landfill, but there are things hanging from branches! I have it against a wall so you can’t walk behind it and see there is nothing on the back side. I also have a room to put it in where I can close the door. No cat destruction and the family can see I tried when they come over. Strategery.
  • I’m hosted a party. I hosted Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve always seemed like the fun party night before the Christmas day family time. It seemed like the more adult celebration of the two, so it makes sense it’s me who hosted this night. I’m made lots of food and had lots of boozes. The only presents exchanged were for a Rob Your Neighbor game, so it almost felt like Thanksgiving. Except…
  • I decorated other parts of my house. My sister brought over boxes and bags filled with extra Christmas decorations. Her “extra” decorations are four times the amount of decorations I owned. Maybe more. Who knows? It’s not really traditional Christmas stuff, which I don’t like anyway, so it works for me. Festive without being cheesy. Baby steps, I tell ya…
  • Playlist. I made a Christmas playlist that was over three hours long. Full disclosure, 90% of Christmas music is annoying to me. It’s like the romantic comedy of music genre’s. Listening to the lyrics make me roll my eyes at the absurdity of the content. Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but some Christmas songs are so creepy! “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” I’m sorry…what? That has to give kids nightmares or some form of anxiety. “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus.” So, mom’s cheating on dad…and on Christmas of all days? I will say I was surprised to find a lot of artists I love put out Christmas songs. So, while my Christmas does contain Ms. Darlene Love, it also has Sex Pistols, Queen, Run DMC and Madonna. I can work with that.
  • Presents. I always buy these. This isn’t new. I’m not sure why I’m mentioning it other than to say I love you Amazon Prime. Thank you for existing so I don’t have to go to the store and deal with crazy people. I had to go to the grocery store and, that alone, was reason enough for me to want to set my Christmas tree on fire.

I think those are a lot of strides made in a short amount of time. I make an effort to help myself be less of a grump this time of year, but I also did it because I love my family. Celebrating and taking care of each other is supposed to be what the holiday season is all about right? Next step…convincing people to do this all year long! The being nice part…not the Christmas music, crowded stores, yada yada….

I’m Not From Here Anymore

“I’m dying to tell you this kills us forever. We were already dead. And I’m just fine. I haven’t called you but I haven’t had the time. These thoughts are stale. I’ve been revolving like turnstiles.” ~The Lawrence Arms, Turnstiles.

When you return to the place you called home for many years for the first time, it’s an odd mix of emotions. I took a trip last week to Chicago for several days. I can’t say I wasn’t anxious. I also can’t say I wasn’t excited. It was two extremes at once resulting in me having an anxiety attack before I went. Cool, right? I had just finished up taking a relaxing bath and reading when I started to think about leaving. All of a sudden I felt like I was going to have a heart attack while streams of tears started flooding down my face. I went through the emotional ringer the last two years there, so…you know. It happens.

I’ll start with the excitement part. I’ve been away from my friends, whom I consider the family I chose, for what feels more like 11 years than 11 weeks. I miss being in the company of people who know me – the good, the bad, the ugly and both sides of crazy. In that regard it’s been a long two and a half months. I needed their energy, conversation, laughs, tears and love. I am enjoying my time in my new environment, but only having conversations at surface level is becoming exhausting for me. I needed a break from feeling like a stranger. It was fantastic. I say this all the time, but the one thing I have kicked ass at in life is picking my friends. I didn’t feel like an outsider for a few days. I saw Jerry Seinfeld perform, my friends play music at the Double Door (quite possibly the last time I’ll ever be there since I think it’s closing), ate my face off at my favorite places, drank too much and got to walk as my main form of transportation. All good things. It was clear to me that deep down Chicago is still beautiful to me in many ways.

So, why the anxiety before leaving? I wasn’t sure if I was going to walk down those streets I called home and feel like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t sure if the memories that would flood my mind would be happy or a source of great pain. I’m happy to report it was not a source of pain. When visiting friends like mine, that’s sort of impossible. I should have known! However, it did confirm for me that moving was the right thing to do. I don’t think I could have truly reset and started over in Chicago. I’m not sure why I was mentally stuck there. Perhaps I was attached to what used to be and wanted to recreate it. All I know is sometimes you have to walk away and get some perspective. I’m woman enough to admit when something isn’t working, no matter how crushing it is to my pride.

Moving has allowed me to reflect and focus on the good, and that gives me peace. I’m not saying I reflect on my failed marriage and the emotional aftermath as a thing of beauty. Fuck that noise. It was the worst. I’m saying I now have physical distance and my own space to see that it doesn’t matter anymore. I have a clean slate, and I don’t think I could have generated that for myself in Chicago. I don’t know if I was capable.

I feel warm inside knowing that when I go back to see my friends, it will be concentrated on the people, places and spaces I love. I get to go where I have good memories, whether it’s in a dirty dive bar drinking terrible beer, seeing my friends who are oh so talented play music, walking in neighborhoods for no particular reason other than I love the buildings or stuffing my face at Sultan’s Market. (Seriously. Can Sultan’s move to Kansas City?) It’s refreshing to appreciate my old home again. I didn’t want that chip on my shoulder.

Ok, Kansas City. I’m refreshed and filled with love from my old friends. It’s just the boost of energy I needed so I can start putting myself out there to make some new ones! My new neighborhood may never be the same.