Well, we've got a beautiful tree - check, wonderful ornaments - check, presents and cards for all - check, dozens of delicious homemade cookies - check, plus one case of the flu and one case of raging holiday stress syndrome - check and check!
Why is it we women always turn into our mothers? And not the older, wiser versions, but the ones who made the mistakes we swore we'd never make? This is me at Christmas, my first one in my own home with my own significant other: trying to do 500 projects I don't have time to do in order to make Christmas "perfect", i.e. making myself and everyone around me unhappy trying to make myself and everyone around me happy.
My mom used to be that way. Dozens of boxes of cookies for everyone she knew, parties and feasts, presents and gingerbread houses and crafted wreaths and even a Christmas tree made out of chickenwire and boughs. And through it all, there was me as a kid, helping her and feeling like I was special doing it. Now, my mom was a stay-at-home mother way back when, and she expressed her creativity that way. As the "creative" child, and the youngest, what was the time of year I got the most attention and praise? You got it, Christmas project time.
So here I am, knowing my mother gave up stressing herself unduly years ago, especially when she stopped having kids around to help her and started working herself, but trying to be her at my age. Technically I know it's different: I have two jobs instead of none and no eager little fingers to help me. But there's a little girl inside of me that still wants the same safety, love and attention a "perfect" Christmas brings, with the whole family close together (not scattered around the country) and me in the center of it all, being told I was good. So, on the year I first try to have a relaxing Christmas by staying at home with the woman I love and doing our own thing, I find myself desperately trying to please... whom? Some inner critic who tells me I will not be good and safe and nobody will love me if I don't make everything just right. And, as a consequence, falling apart.
I know this now, and I'm getting a grip on it (and hey, I've finally got almost everything done, anyway), but it disturbs and fascinates me how the emotions of a three year old that I thought were well resolved can come around to smack me in the face thirty-one years later. And it's not like I can make it "perfect," anyhow - whatever that means. The stress and the weather mean somebody is always sick on the holidays - this week it's Marci, I'm hoping to squeak by without getting ill, if I'm lucky. And we're all adults now, with another generation of kids in the family and no one big enough to lift me up to put the angel on the tree anymore. I guess it's just that, despite my age, facing creating my own adult traditions of Christmas unearthered some desires unfulfilled, wishes that our nuclear family hadn't exploded before I was out of my single digits, that can't be dismissed no matter how much I want to be "healthy" or maturely blasé about them.
So, I'm working on it. And next Christmas will probably be a whole lot better - the bridge will have been crossed, and so on. In the meantime, I'm planning on scheduling a good amount of rest for myself over the holidays. And I'll put up the angel myself.