Random equations in the mathematics of life

Posts tagged ‘me’

Following the Rules

There are so many rules we follow every day.  Some are very “black and white” like speed limits, wearing clothing in public, and not killing your obnoxious coworker.  Others, not so much.  Those can be influenced by a myriad of factors including religious upbringing, political views, past experiences, and even our current environments.  Peer pressure doesn’t end with college.  But, at the end of the day, the rules that truly matter are the ones in your own heart – the ones that you have solidly in place, to guide and govern your own behaviors.  Those are the ones we answer to in the mirror.

Sometimes our rules can be bent, and others even broken.  This shows growth and potential for change; a willingness not to sit, stagnant and rotting in our own insecurities.  It can be confusing to tell the difference at times, and no one really masters the finer details of the process.  The barometer is basically how it feels when you’re done.  If it feels uncomfortable, but kinda good, like it has potential to be a truly positive thing, then it was right.  If you look in the mirror and can only say, “What the hell were you thinking?”  Well, you can pretty much conclude that you scored one in the “Oops” column.

So let’s say you effed one up.  What do you do with it?  Some would cry, remind themselves what a horrible person they are, demonize their ability to even choose their own socks, and elude forgiveness for the next decade or so.  Productive?  Uh, no.  Time to grow up, put the big kid under-roos on, and face it.  Spend some time in your head, figure out why you made the bad move.  Then comes the tough part.  Beating the snot out of our own psyches is incredibly damaging, but it’s actually a heck of a lot easier than the alternative.  The tough part is learning the lesson, moving on, and letting go.

This is about where I am right now.  I’ve faced myself in the mirror, with a rueful, “Niiiiice one there, Mick.  Well done.”  I’ve also spent some time going back through – why did I make the choices I made?  What made me choose one path over another, especially when I knew damn well what I was doing was wrong?  (Remember, now…it doesn’t have to be anyone’s definition of “wrong” but your own.)  I found that I disliked the answers I found even more than actually coming to the conclusion that I’d scored myself an Oops.  This is not a fun process.  But now it’s time for the real work.  It’s time to learn it, figure out how to not do it again, and to then let it go.

Why is it so hard for us to forgive ourselves?  We would never treat our friends or our family with such derision, such disdain.  Why can we not figure out how to accept, learn, and let go?  No one can do this part for us; it’s a learned skill that takes years to hone.  And I’m still working on mine.



What if A doesn’t imply B?

This weekend, The Scientist and I wandered off through the western part of the state.  He needed to hit a few specific geocaches (Click here.) and Alejandro needed a good workout.

To give an overview of what caching weekends can be like when you’re going for specific ones, this is the deal — we drove around 675 miles in under 40 hours to hit a mere 20 caches.  Yeah, it’s crazy for sure.  But it’s also a lot of driving.  It gives us good one-on-one conversation time, but it is not exactly strenuous.  To balance this, a few hikes are thrown in for waterfalls photos, virtual caches on the top of Mount Mitchell, and other such reasons.  For normal people, these are quick little jaunts (the two we did were each about 1.5 miles total), with terrain over which you need to pay attention, but not excessively so.  But as we all know, I’m not exactly normal.

For me, these hikes were extremely challenging.  I had to go slowly, looking down the whole time to carefully consider each step.  The Scientist was poised to catch me should I slip/trip/fall, and I did all of those.  I beat the snot out of my knee, for which I will pay dearly for the rest of this week, but it was well worth it for the photos I got, and for the sense of pride and accomplishment that I felt doing something “normal” for a change.

That being said, one very abnormal aspect of my attempt at normalcy, is that I hate meeting people along the trails.  Normal people move faster than I do, so I just stop and let them by.  I make a joke about it, smile, and hope it just ends there.  But sometimes people stop to tell me how “brave” I am, or how “inspiring” I am, and how they admire me for doing what I’m doing.  This is so incredibly disconcerting to me, not because they’re being nice, which I appreciate, but because they could not be more wrong about me.

People, I am not brave, I am not noble, and I sure as hell am not worthy of being called an “inspiration” to anyone.  My reasons for doing stuff like hiking up the side of a damn mountain stem from nowhere else but this: I know what is coming down the pike for me, and I am not ready to face it.  I don’t feel like it’s denial, because I do know that it’s inevitable, and I have already started to peruse the “everyday” wheelchairs.  However, I am rebelling against that which will be, to me, a catastrophic loss of my sense of self.  My independence is imperative to my self-concept, and that wheelchair, no matter how cool, threatens it.  And yes, I am well aware of all of the platitudes that remind me that it isn’t who I am, that millions of people use wheelchairs and are independent.  Please don’t waste my time or yours by retyping them.  Because yes, while I can be independent, I will lose even more of what I used to love so much.  I used to go for 10 mile bike rides just because it was a nice day.  I used to hike in the woods for hours to find the right tree in which I would then perch with the book I’d brought.  Playing softball until I was sweaty and grimy and sore was a favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  All of those are slipping away, and I’m just not in a place of acceptance yet.

But in the meantime, I’d rather be honest with myself and others.  I’m not anything you might think on first glance.  I’m just a flawed, occasionally bitter and resentful, stubborn pain in the ass who isn’t ready to give up her life just yet.

Off on a tangent

OK, so not really…but the math concept works.  Shut up.

So last week, I posted a blog on why I hate marriage.  (Read that one first if you haven’t yet, or you’ll be clueless as to what the heck I’m talking about here.)  I got some interesting responses, almost all of which were sent privately.  (No, I would never call those people out!)  I guess reading a hard topic is bad enough, but agreeing with it in public is even harder.  Not that I blame them, really; it was hard enough for me to write!

One question that came up, and I guess I should’ve clarified in that previous post, is whether or not I am not filing for divorce.  The immediate answer is “No.”  It would be interminably stupid of me to screw us both over financially at our ages when we work just fine together as friends.  And yes, I do realize that it kind of flies in the face of my last post to say that.  Our relationship  is non-traditional enough to support the boundaries that we set to it, so if we find other things that need to change, we can work it out.  The Scientist dates whomever he pleases, as do I, and at the end of the day, the friendship that we built, destroyed, and built again stays solid.

But then, how do I find a balance between straining against the leash and leaving the stability alone?  Not sure yet.  I know I’ve been unhappy lately, and I also know that it is almost entirely due to my work situation.  I’m trying to change that, but the simple fact that the unemployment rate in my state hovers around 10% is rather detrimental to that goal.  So while I have seen other people around me getting new jobs, I have been unsuccessful so far.  I’m working really hard to make it happen, and won’t rest til it does.  In the meantime, I find joy in the rest of my life.  My kids are, as always, my whole world.  I love talking to them, laughing with them, just watching them mature into the amazing adults I see.  I also seek solace in spending time with Alejandro, which is always a Very Good Thing(tm).

As for the rest of it, I still feel like I’m wandering in the mist.  I can’t see the path, and I don’t know where I’m headed, but all I can do is keep moving in a direction that I think is forward, and deal with any obstacles I encounter as I meet them.  I’d like to think I’ll find my way out, but for now, even that’s wholly uncertain.  I have to reach the clearing eventually, right?


A “thank you” to the Christian parents from my kids’ schools

This post is an open letter to all of the Christian parents from my kids’ schools, who helped me become a better mother.

Dear Christian Parents Whose Kids Were Around Mine,

Teenagers, while shaped by their parents, make their own decisions and have their own opinions about life as they age.  But younger kids are almost parrot-like in their behavior.  They see their parents act, they hear the words they speak, and before you can “Mini Me” the parent can see themselves without a mirror.  This is apparently especially true for Christian parents, and I was able to reap the benefits from it.  Allow me to explain.

When one of your darlings put a drawing of my son (very neatly labeled, even!), lying on the ground, battered, and being stabbed through the eyes with a pitchfork by The Devil (also neatly labeled!) in his cubby, the accompanying message of, “If you don’t love Jesus, The Devil will stab you with his pitchfork and drag you to hell forever!” was almost unnecessary.  This gave me the chance to explain to my son that, despite being a work of literary fiction, the bible never portrayed Jesus as getting pissed off enough to hire a Mob contractor to haul his enemies off to hell.  The culprit claimed that he wanted to “save” the Ambassador, and that this was the best way he knew.  This added to my conversation with the Ambassador, in explaining that some people’s idea of “saving” other people was to commit unspeakable acts of abuse on them, all in the name of religion.  I did tell him that while he was free to research the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Witch Trials, it was best to wait til he was older and could handle the nightmares better.

When my daughter was called “Devil’s Whorespawn” and a few other creatively created phrases, it offered me the opportunity to teach the Professor about patience with people who were not as intelligent as she was.  She learned that when someone cannot manage calm, reasonable discourse, that mud-slinging and pejorative phrases were their only resources.  She gained an understanding of just how threatened a person can be by someone who is “different,” despite the differences having no effect whatsoever on the instigator’s life. The Professor learned to have a sense of humor about people who fail to separate facts from lies, history from fables, who listen to outrageous rumors instead of merely speaking to the person involved.  These people can be dangerous, for sure, but at the end of the day, they’re really just kind of pathetic and amusing.

I will definitely admit to having a bit more of a challenge when the Ambassador was shoved against lockers, or knocked down on the playground, with threats to “kill the Devil inside” of him.  The Professor and the Artist can snark as well as any big sister can, but when their brother is threatened, hell hath no fury like my daughters.  So when they flew into a rage of vengeance at “those stupid Christians,” declaring their outright hatred for the same, I am ashamed to admit I was tempted.  I was tempted to allow myself, and through me, my children, to sink to the same despicable level as your children, and through them, you.  Because at that moment, in that second in time, I allowed myself the luxury of hate.  But that isn’t me, and that is not the way I chose to raise my kids.  Instead, I stopped them.  I told them that hatred was never acceptable, and neither was physical retribution.  I asked them if they thought it fair that blanket statements be made about non-Christians based on the actions of a few, and they said, “No.”  So I pointed out that that was exactly what they were doing, and it was wrong.  I further explained that there are Christians out there who walk the walk, and in later months, I tried desperately to seek some out so that my kids would have some decent personal examples to prove my words.  I found some, thankfully, and I’m grateful for their influence.  Through them, my children learned that just because the kids at their school, and the parents who were raising them, were a waste of blood and bone, doesn’t mean that all Christians were worthless.

Looking back, I am so glad that you helped me to become the mother I wanted to be.  Through your hatred, your violence, your bigotry, you helped me to raise children who think for themselves, who explore and consider other sides of situations, who celebrate the differences that make us unique.  You reminded me not to let myself slip into the temptation to retaliate, as that would make me no better than you were then, and most likely are now.

And now?  I have seen some of your children recently.  A few are dabbling in drugs, one had criminal charges for shoplifting, one (possibly two?) were pregnant.  My kids?  My amazing, Devil’s Whorespawn kids?  Mine all started college at 16, after graduating high school with honors.  They have paths that they have chosen to follow, and are making all the right choices to make it happen.  All three have chosen careers that serve and help others, albeit in very different ways.  They are strong, mature, confident, intelligent young adults who are a delight to their father and me every single day.  They make us proud just by being themselves.

So for every time your wouldn’t allow your kids to play with mine, I thank you.  For every time you chose not to discipline your kids for being cruel bullies, I thank you.  For every time your kids stole my kids’ homework, threw their textbooks in the trash, started another rumor, physically abused one of my kids, I thank you.  For all the hate filled words that you said that came out of the mouths of your children, I thank you.  I thank you for showing me exactly what I did not want for myself or for my kids, and for giving me the impetus to raise the amazing family I have.

Repeating patterns

Omnia mutantur, nihil interit.  Ovid was a wise, wise man, and not just when it comes to aspects of Love.

This phrase has always had meaning to me, but lately it’s come to some higher importance.  There are aspects of my life that have changed over time, whether it was deliberate or not, and there are aspects that I have struggled to change, but have failed thus far.  They say that the first step in solving a problem is to acknowledge it.  I feel like I’ve done that, but then what is the second step?  I am quite cognizant of my character flaws, trust me.  There’s no denial here.  But fixing them has proved to be a challenge I’ve yet to overcome.

In addition to being involved in the process of my own attitudinal evolution, I can generally step back and almost view it on a time line.  My opinions and perspectives have shifted over time, through circumstance and experience, and it’s almost like some of the beliefs I used to have were from a stranger.  It’s like some other person that I don’t always recognize shaped my life, and that can be a scary realization.  I look back and think, “What in the hell was I thinking?”  Some of it was a lack maturity, I’m sure, along with the perspective that comes with those life experiences, that made me think, say, or do things.

So along that line, why have I been unable to take the same logical, detached approach to the things I want to change?  There are two major flaws in particular that I would really like to fix, so should it not follow the same basic pathway?  I have matured, become more patient, developed a more objective eye, and certainly a less judgmental one.  Yet for all that quiet logic, I am still beyond vicious when I feel cornered, and I still have multiple trust subscriptions (as opposed to just having issues!).  Both of these things are inherent parts of me, but I am nowhere near proud of them.  I really feel like I need to change them, and I’m feeling lost as to how.  I did make some progress in the realm of trusting people, and started to reach out to people.  Bad move.  I got burned, and found myself retreating once again.  Kind of like the song lyrics: one step up and two steps back.  At this point, I am relatively content in not reaching out to people anymore; instead, I let them come to me if they choose.  But it’s still that next step where I falter.  I still cannot manage to make myself hand over the trust anymore, and I worry that the lack that resides in me winds up hurting others.  It isn’t their fault, but they take the hit anyhow.

The viper side of me has been here as long as I can remember.  I can sit and analyze it all day long, tell you points in my childhood that contributed, explain why I feel the way I do, and therefore, why I keep a tight leash on my temper.  But as we all know, awareness does not equate to change.  The rage that lies within me is quiet most of the time, like a silent wraith, just waiting for an opportunity to escape.  As a child, I did a lousy job of necessary restraint.  If pushed over my tolerance limit, I answered with my fists, and generally without follow up control.  As I grew older, my fists were stilled in favor of my words; but the damage done to the other person wasn’t all that different: the bleeding and bruising just happened on the soul instead of the body.  I still had the power to wound, and wound deeply, and I still didn’t like it.  I tried kickboxing classes: theory being that if I channeled the anger, I’d do a better job of keeping it in check.  It worked to a point…and I still use physical exertion to clear my head when my temper threatens to flare out of containment.  But I can’t say that the rage is gone, or that it doesn’t flare.  Meditation helps too, but again, it alleviates the symptoms and not the underlying disease.

I do know the benefits of positive thinking, and I do try to focus on seeing the changes that I have made in myself.  Many of them, I like, even if some other people don’t.  And really, not giving a rat’s hindquarters about what other people think about the person I am is one of the changes I like.  I grew weary of denying who I am, pretending to be what everyone else wanted me to be.  I’m done with that.

So the people who matter know my flaws, and they stand with me anyhow.  I’m grateful every single day for that, and for the support they give as I struggle to make the changes I want to make.  As for the people who no longer find me good enough to be around them?  Have a nice day, and please drive through.

Integral options

The whole “New Years Resolution” thing doesn’t do it for me.  I guess I just see them as things that get broken easily, leading to feeling like a failure, and what’s the point in that?  Nada.  I’ve explained before how I choose three gifts to give myself, and then I see it as a positive thing to work towards achieving.

Last year, my gifts dealt with improving my health and strength, getting a new job, and increasing my photography skills.  I successfully gave myself two of the three.  I truly, truly tried to give myself the new job, and almost had it there back in September, but didn’t quite make it.  Thus, it rolls over to this year.  This is especially important as everything I read in the news from the economists says that gas is going to hit $4/gal this summer.  In short, it will render my job cost INeffective.  I spend so much money in gas every month that money is tight before payday.  If gas is going up by $1/gal?   I don’t know how I will be able to balance that.  It has me profoundly worried, to be honest, since the job market has been so scarce that I have been stuck here this long.

I lost more weight, and made it to my goal jeans size (as opposed to a number on the scale).  I’m happy with it; but I would like to tone a bit more, and improve my core strength some more as well.  So this will partially roll over too, but it will also include getting rid of this stupid ear/sinus mess that no drug has been able to get rid of yet.  Still not sure about that surgery, though.  There’s just something a little too daunting about people playing with knives near my airway.

My photography skills definitely improved this year; obviously there is always more to learn, more to master, more to explore, and I’ll continue to do so.  But the third gift is going to focus solely around getting the Project off the ground and running.  I made some good headway while at the beach, and I need to keep on that.  It just needs to be made a priority, and be kept there.

I’d like to work on streamlining and simplifying a bit as well this year, so we’ll see how that goes.  I cleaned out a bunch of crap and trash from our room, and plan to do more as I can.  When designing quilts, I’m really trying to use fabrics that I already own instead of traipsing off to Joann’s every time.  Not that Joann’s isn’t a blissful hangout for me, but when the finances are stumbling, as I mentioned above, it doesn’t make good sense.

I like giving myself these gifts; it makes me prioritize myself sometimes, which I am so not good at doing.  It forces me to look at my life on a daily basis, and ask myself if this is where I want to be in my head, in my heart.  I don’t always like the answer I’m forced to give, but when I face it, I can make the changes I need to make to fix it.

There are definitely things that weigh on my mind, still.  Questions linger, and doubts erode my confidence.  I guess those are the things I still need to confront, though, if I have the courage and the strength.


Imaginary Numbers

Nearly two years ago*, I had an idea.

I played with it, refined it a little, and broached it with a few certain friends who would have a very informed opinion on it. and who would also be brutally honest about it.   They raved about it.

I then casually mentioned it to a few professionals in the field who could possibly have use of it.  They too, raved about it.

I explained it in some detail to an expert in how to Make It Happen, and she raved as well.  She said it was original, and extremely marketable.

So why the hell isn’t it in play?  Because I sabotaged myself.  I have no other excuse but that.

There were circumstances, yes.  My father died, my marriage hit the wood chipper, there was dissension among some family members, my job became even more toxic both emotionally and physically, my mother’s health started to slip, and the list goes on.  But the bottom line is that I failed to prioritize something that has the potential to solve the job issue, and to make me really, really happy.  I have the chance to do something that I would truly love to do, that would have a real impact on real kids in the education world.  And yet, I let it sit, dormant and yearning to be realized.

Erika Napoletano is a blogger whose writing I avidly follow. She posted a link on her Facebook page the other day to this incredible article that really knocked me on my ass.  I read it twice, three times, and realized just how badly I’d crippled myself with my unbelievable fear of failure.  What if I do this and it doesn’t fly?  What if I invest all of this time, energy, creative passion into, and it gets laughed back onto the street?  What if, what if, what if?

I decided then and there that I was done living so far up the ass of fear that my own dreams slip away.  That is not the example I want to set for my kids.  The Professor is majoring in Entrepreneurship for fuck’s sake.  How much more courageous do you get?  The Artist is diving headlong into a double major and a fascinating future path.  And my Ambassador?  Like his sisters, he graduates at age 16, and after his requisite stint at community college, plans to cross the pond for his university experience.  So apparently, I’ve raised independent, courageous, amazing kids.  How the hell did I manage it when I haven’t gotten my own fears conquered?

It’s time.  I have the basic structure sketched out, I’m pondering the details every spare second (my hour-long commute makes for great think-time!), and my beach weekend over Christmas will be spent putting the model together.  Then to work on the marketing and outlines for continuity.  It’s time for me to make this happen, and come hell or high water (or frigid temperatures, right now!), I will have this.

*an absolutely shameful amount of time!

On a mobius strip

I kinda feel like the ant, walking on August and Johann’s famous toy.  There’s really no beginning or ending to my world, and I’m never really sure when I’m “done,” or even if there is such a thing as being “done.”  My job contributes to this, as even when we send one test cycle to print, we are already in the midst of processing the previous one’s data and starting to create the upcoming one.  Many moms feel like this as well, when faced with piles of neatly folded, clean laundry, only to turn and find a child with a stained shirt in hand.  Same goes for cabinets full of clean dishes, with a dirty plate slipped onto the counter.

I’ve felt what could almost be described as a sense of panic at this realization, the dawning of the idea that it might truly never end.  When you have kids, you sign on to care for them for 20ish years, and that’s totally cool with me.  No matter what mistakes I’ve made, or decisions I’ve regretted, that is one that I have never second-guessed.  If I had to do my life over again, I would change a lot of it.  But that?  No way.  If I knew that making certain choices would get me my kids again, I’d jump in with both feet.  It never bothered me to be in the midst of that chaos and stress, because I knew it was finite.  At first, they’re totally dependent on you; you do literally everything.  As they grow, the balance slowly shifts until they not only can care for themselves, but want to care for themselves.  So on the path to their independence, I find myself walking nearly parallel to them as I reach for my own.  As they leap into the adventures of their own desires, I will get that same chance.  After going from my parents’ house to college, to marriage, my life will finally be my own.

Or will it?  My mother’s health is declining, and there’s already enough guilt flying around to pave a highway.  Having been dragged kicking and screaming through parochial school and the shackles of Catholicism, being selfish was beaten out of me at an early age, to the point that I started to see my own health slip before dealing with my own needs.  I’ve gotten better at resolving that particular character flaw, but the guilt weighs heavily.  My mother’s increasing dependence on her children wavers between genuine need and carefully crafted manipulation.  (Interesting that while being selfish was a mortal sin for us, my parents were experts in the art of their own gratification.)  Unfortunately, my sister bears the brunt of this, as she is the favored child and the oldest, not to mention being a nurse.  My mother has little use for me unless there is a purpose for it, and then I’m her best buddy.  But my sister is the one called at all hours of the day and night for everything from  something bleeding to she can’t find her reading glasses.  I have scratched and clawed my way to where I can back away a little, and prioritize my own family first, but my sister hasn’t.  I feel for her, in that her stress level is sky high all the time, but it frustrates me to see her neglecting vital aspects of her life simply because she is ruled by my mother’s intricately woven, guilt-ridden remarks.

So now I wonder what will happen at the point when I reach my own familial finish line.  As I triumphantly reach to embrace my freedom, is it going to be yanked back like Charlie Brown’s football?  And to what extent will I allow that to happen?  No way to tell, of course.  Who knows what will transpire between now and then?  But it does weigh on my mind sometimes.  The idea that I would be trapped here, stuck indefinitely in a life I resent, makes it all the  harder to trudge through the days.  I know there are those, much better humans than I could ever aspire to be, who would relish the intrinsic spiritual value of fulfilling that familial duty.  I’m just not there, and after the way things have been in my past, I don’t myself ever even coming close.

I suppose, to a point, I also worry about the Scientist and me.  There are days when I’m pretty sure he will choose to remain here when I move to the islands.  His own father’s health is failing, and I’m not sure how self-sufficient his mom would be if he dies.  Plus, he is incredibly sensitive to the heat, much preferring the cooler temperatures that my islands don’t experience.  On the flip side, what if he does decide to fly the coop?  Do we sentence ourselves and each other to a life of celibacy, without romantic entanglements?  At this point in life, I am totally fine with it on my side, but I worry about what it does to him.  The last thing I want to do is deny him happiness, but sometimes I feel like he’s trapped in his own version of this never-ending conundrum.  He wants the happily-ever-after with me, and that isn’t going to happen. Not like it does in the fairy-tales.  I feel like I will wind up hurting him no matter what, whether we stay together or not.  Times like these, I wish I could see the future to know what path would be best.

As I can’t, I suppose for now, I will try to keep my balance as best I can, as I walk the never ending spiral.

Off on a tangent

Every year, the “holiday” stuff seems to come out earlier and earlier.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love the holiday season.  All of it.  The music, the lights, the decorations, the food…but the one little irritant for me is the timing.  I like to revel in each one of them, to immerse myself in the fun and the spirit of them, but I like to do so one. at. a. time.  Halloween is a favorite holiday of mine.  I don’t want to hear Rudolph and his one horse, open sleigh while I’m carving pumpkins.  No, no, and no.

Thanksgiving was just perfect this year.  I worked at home on Wednesday such that I could supervise my amazing sous chefs.  They helped me get the stuff that needed to be cooked in the oven done, along with a few other things.   That way on Thursday, all I had to do was do the turkey and a few other last minute things.  My family had gone to Golden Boy’s house, so it was just us and the Teacher.  She has been with me every Thanksgiving for several years now, since her family is on the west coast.  I love having her; she is part of my family.  The Artist’s ex-boyfriend came too, because his fucktarded parents went to spend the weekend with family in NY and left him home, despite the fact that he loves going up there.  Why, you ask, would they do such a stupid, mean thing?  Because someone had to watch the dogs.  It’s too expensive to kennel them.  *blink*  Yeah.  That’s what I said, too.  So anyhow, it was the 7 of us, and it was blissful.  No stress, no drama, just relaxation and great food.  The Teacher and I hung out on the couch and chatted, I did some online xmas shopping, scoring Black Friday deals without setting foot outside my door.  (More on this later.)  The Professor worked on calculus and a paper, The Ambassador watched football with the Scientist and trash talked his friend.  The Artist chilled with The Ex and all was mellow.

I have been absolutely bound and determined that I would have a low-stress holiday season.  People bitch and whine every year about “hating the holidays” and whatever; I don’t really listen because I don’t really care.  I have three coworkers who are notorious for this; it’s almost become comical now, because we make fun of them quite a bit over it amongst ourselves.  The holidays, like any other day, are what you make it. If you allow it to be an overwhelming thing, that’s your own fault.  No one forces you at gunpoint to do anything.  One of the coworkers is particularly fond of regaling us with stories of how stressed she is because she has to host a craft party for her neighborhood, and she has to have an open house for her entire family the weekend after Christmas, and it goes on and on.  Stop acting like a damn victim and take some responsibility in your life.  If you’re overscheduled, learn to say “No.”  There is no excuse for getting in a snit over a season of friends and family and joy unless you personally get caught up in the bullshit that’s out there.

I know that my schedule is generally chaotic; I have an hour commute each way every day.  Physically, my legs do not tolerate jostling crowds and long lines well.  And really, my budget cannot handle doing all of the shopping that I choose to do for people in one month.  So I get stuff ahead of time, I scour online sales, and I have nearly all of my shopping done.  I  scaled down my card list — if I don’t get a card back after two consecutive years, I drop your name.  I’m not doing it to be snarky, but I truly want to exchange cards and photos and letters with people who actually want to hear from me and want me to hear about them.  Like most people, I can be slack at letter writing and such, so the Christmas card can be used as a “catch up” kind of thing.  Facebook has been a great toy that’s allowed me to reconnect with old friends from HS and college.  I love hearing from them!  So even if I don’t necessarily exchange cards, we can keep in touch there.  I decorate in small doses, wrap in small doses, and refuse to succumb to the crap.

The holiday season is about friend and family.  Take the time to tell the people you love how you feel.  Stop whining about how you have to do this, and you have to go there.  If your entire season is about you bitching about how you hate everything, then you, not everyone else, is missing the entire fucking point.  Do not give a gift out of obligation.  If you choose to give a gift, think about it.  Give something that reminds you of that person, or something you know the person would love.  Have a budget?  Stick to it.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive to mean something.  Don’t want to give gifts?  Then don’t.  Sometimes your time is more important.  There doesn’t have to be anything to it.

As for me, I have tube lights wrapped around the length of the ski racks on my van.  People will make snide comments and roll their eyes at me, but then there are people on the highway who do a double-take and smile and wave.  I’ve just improved their day for a second.  We make a family outing out of going to the mountains to cut down a tree; it’s not about getting the biggest or best tree.  It’s about spending the 2 hour drive with the kids talking, tramping around in the snow being goofy, arguing over the tree, coming to an agreement, and then spending the 2 hour return trip talking and laughing as a family.  It’s about time, people.  It’s about my kids remembering that their parents stopped their busy lives to focus on them for the whole day.

So my point, after all of my obnoxious bitching, is that the holidays are what you make them.  And my holidays will be about the people I love knowing how much I love them.  So the laundry will wait next Saturday while the Professor and her two best buddies come home for the weekend to bake cookies. I will choose sappy “mom” gifts for all three of my kids that they may roll their eyes at now, but somehow I think they will keep forever.  I’ll stop on the way home to help my mom put up her decorations.  I’ll hold my silence and attend the Scientist’s holiday dinner with a smile, despite my absolute abhorrence for his boss.

I wish everyone a fun, joyful, and peaceful holiday season, whether or not you choose to accept it.  =)

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