Friday, December 16, 2011

Reflections on Christmas 2011--Number One


How I have looked forward to Christmas 2011! The promise of an unharried, calm and cozy holiday season is the carrot for which I have reached since we made the decision to give up the restaurant, way back in October 2010. I’ve anticipated this season like a lifer unexpectedly granted parole. How I was going to revel in it! What delicious fun I would have decorating my house! The events I would attend! The shopping I would do! I foresaw hours of leisurely retail therapy, soaking in the electric holiday atmosphere at every mall, big box and local shop within striking distance. After five years of trying to squeeze fragments of a family holiday in between the constant barrage of demands that was the café, I was utterly stoked at the idea of being completely free to enjoy Christmas any way I wanted.

Ah, but those last eight months! I could not foresee what kind of a toll they would take on me. Initially, I thought I was getting off easy. I had expected to feel unbearably sad and defeated as we wound up what I had thought was going to be the greatest challenge/triumph of my life. Instead, the time went so quickly, and I was so exhausted that before I knew it, the last of our Last Mothers’ Day Brunch guests were collecting their roses and their leftovers and heading for home. The crushing sadness and defeat never really materialized. When we closed the doors, I was overwhelmingly…done.

But the actual closing of the restaurant was the task from hell. I wanted nothing more than to be finished and away from it, but I could not seem to scrape it off. There stretched before me seven weeks of cleaning, tearing down and paying bills; dealing with vendors, the landlord, the city, the cable guy, old employees, old customers, insurance companies…it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of what was left of me—which was not very much. May 8 through June 30, 2011 were the longest 53 days of my life.

Even then, I wasn’t done. I had to jump right into the challenge of three major events for the concession business. By the end of August, I wasn’t merely running on empty. I had turned the tank inside out and scraped every molecule of available energy from the lining. There is not an English word for the degree of exhausted I was.

And it’s been a slow road back. In September and October I spent my days happily accomplishing not much of anything. Sure, there was a backlog of things around the house and around my head that needed to be dealt with. But not Right Now. Nobody was holding a gun to my head to do anything, and I was enjoying my liberty with a vengeance. The end of October rolled around and I knew the day was coming when I would have to reel myself in and begin tackling Holiday Preparations. I should have been excited. I should have been revved up. This was what I had been waiting for, what had kept me going at my lowest, most overextended ebb.

But I wasn’t excited. In fact, to my surprise, I was…resentful. I wasn’t done playing. I wasn’t done doing nothing. I was not ready to take on a new “to do” list, no matter how happy or fun the things “to do” promised to be. The mere fact that there were things that needed to be done, and that there was an element of time sensitivity involved, took much of the fun out of it. I’d been living with the impossible hanging over my head for so long that I wanted nothing to do with anything even slightly resembling a deadline.

So I attached baggage to the tasks to make them meatier. Maybe “decorating for Christmas” didn’t hold enough weight to spur me to the necessary action. I made decorating a corollary of cleaning out and organizing the garage. Unfortunately, that little gimmick had exactly the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of giving me a false sense of how important the job was, it put me off it almost entirely. I’d created a little voice in my head that said, “Now you have to get this done!” and my response was to fold my arms, turn my back, stamp my foot and pout, “Make me!”

I did eventually buckle down and dig in. I shuffled through box after box of holiday decorations out in the garage, trying to figure out what had had its day and was destined for Goodwill, and what I could not part with. It was impossible. I sent away maybe three boxes out of the fifteen that filled every cranny and empty shelf space in several locations around the house. Thrown into the mix of my own 35 years of holiday excess were several boxes of things I had bought to decorate the restaurant. Augh.

We’re now into the second half of December. The Christmas cards I had determined to send (because I was going to have the time!) are still sitting in boxes in the kitchen. All the baking I was going to do has distilled down to one stale loaf of cranberry bread deteriorating in the pantry. NONE of my shopping is done—not even for the party I’m hosting tomorrow for former staff of the café.

But the decorating…by god, the decorating is done. Outdoor lights, multiple Christmas trees scattered around the house, satisfying displays of my many collections of holiday chotchkes. And I have to say, it doesn’t look half bad. But it was quite the journey. I learned that my well of creative juices has not yet recovered to the place where ideas will spring forth merrily and prolifically. I need to drop the bucket deep, and I’m never quite sure what will come up. And while patience was never my virtue, what little I had of it has completely evaporated. More than once I had to stop myself from flinging a recalcitrant string of lights out the back door, or taking a handful of tangled plastic snowflakes and tossing them into the fire.

And time, which for a few weeks, politely paused long enough to let me almost get my breath, has shifted into high gear again. Christmas will be gone in a little over a week! I have been focused on “doing” this season, really, for over a year. Now, I’ll have to gird my loins and step off into the Next Chapter.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m relieved or completely cowed.

This is going to be another series (yay!), as I have identified a few topics I want to write about under the general heading of "Chrismas 2011." Hope you'll join me for the rest...

FR mantle for journal


  1. Let there be lights!!!!!! Loved the kitty in the birdhouses. Where there's birdhouses there should be birds. Right? Even if there aren't birds I found this spot first. Neener, neener, neener. Heck the cats probably think you did it all for them. New places to explore, see if they fit, or almost fit.

    Hugs, lots of hugs.

  2. Your mantle looks gorgeous.

    And I'll be here, reading.

  3. Beautiful decorationg. I have found this season of Advent to be very intense!

  4. Your mantle is so, so pretty! I hope as the day gets closer you'll feel your enthusiasm (and holiday spirit) growing.