Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Conundrums

This is turning out to be the Porsche Christmas Season—compact and fast, like the car.  Impossible to believe that the month is already nearly half over, and it’s less than two weeks until Christmas. 

This season has represented for me a bit of an opportunity to review my traditions, preparations and expectations.  I thought that last year was an anomaly.  I thought that the lassitude and distinct sense of “un-excitement” I felt for all the things I had “missed” about Christmas during the café years was simply due to some kind of post-traumatic depression.  But even though I’ve felt like I’ve been rolling along in a much better state of mind this summer and fall than in 2012, I find that, with Christmas staring me in the face, my outlook has reverted to almost exactly what it was last year.

The hyper-decorating in which I have traditionally indulged seems to have lost its appeal.  Decorating four Christmas trees in various rooms of the house has become a monumental challenge, rather than the eagerly-anticipated Christmas bender it once was.  I still love the decorations, and can’t resist acquiring more when I fall in love with something in a gift shop or a resale store…  But I just can’t muster much enthusiasm for the physical act of erecting and arranging all the paraphernalia once the season rolls around.  If I could wave a magic wand and everything would leap out of the boxes and arrange itself, all glowing and Christmassy, I would be on board.  But it seems to take more time (of which I have an abundance, so I don’t know why this should be a problem) and creativity than I am generally able to muster these days.

And then there are the other Christmas traditions.  Like Christmas presents.

Over the course of a long-term relationship, much of everyday conjugal life just becomes rote.  Habit.  Eventually, years and years of always doing the same things transform them from habit to mandate.  We have to do this because we’ve always done this.”  But some things fall victim to random moments of clarity about who you are and what you have been doing together for all these years.

Such a random moment was our “discussion” of last June, wherein the husband declared that he had spent the past thirty-six years doing everything he could to make ME happy.  And that I had it pretty good—I pretty much got everything I asked him for, so why was I not happy??!?  So astounded, hurt and mortified was I over that revelation that I believe those words will come back to haunt me every time, every time he asks me, all innocence and magnanimity, “What do you want…?”

So about a week ago, when he broached the “What do you want for Christmas?” subject, I backed away from it as if I were facing a crouching tiger.  Unfortunately for me, it is my nature for my true thoughts to bubble directly to the surface in moments like first thought was to snap, “You actually think I’d ask you for anything, ever again?!?!?”   But I knew that would never do, so I hedged.  I feigned ignorance.  Told him I didn’t know, didn’t need anything, he should just use his imagination.

But , don’t you know, he couldn’t let it die.  He started throwing suggestions of what he might do or buy out there…hoping for a negative or positive response from me to get him headed in the right direction.  Eventually, I understood that the only way to get out of this gracefully was to propose that we come to a mutual agreement not to buy gifts for each other this year.  Always the brave one for face-to-face confrontation, I sent him an email—“For many of the past several years, neat little stacks of gifts  we chose to give each other, either in stockings or whatever, have sat around unopened and unused for months, and then as often as not end up going to Goodwill.  Seems like kind of a wasteful tradition, at this point, n'est ce pas?”

It worked, I think.  We agreed to take a couple hundred dollars to our local grocery store and buy food for the food bank instead of blowing money on things we did not need and probably would not use just because we’ve “always done that.”  It’s a good idea, and I’m proud of us for making that decision, and proud of myself for avoiding an argument that would not have produced any positive result.

Still…there are moments that I really do wish things were different.  That Christmas was still a time of magic and joy and the comfortable knowledge that there was one special person in the world with whom you were going to share that magic and joy forever.  Christmas isn’t joyful or magical anymore.  It can and will be other good things, though.  I’m sure of it.

I just haven’t completely figured out what those things are.  Yet…   

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