What really goes on this time of year is people are extra stressed. They rack up credit card debt buying people things that those people don’t really want. They spend time with people who criticize and make them feel terrible about themselves.
If you’re part of my family, one brother hogs the food while another gets drunk and yell at his step daughter. The nephew builds “sand castles” in a potted plant. Your grandma will ask when you’re having kids (“Remember last year, Grandma, when I told you ‘NEVER’?”) while at the same time (like, the exact same time), your grandpa will inquire about your car’s tire pressure. It is loud. Things are breaking. People are yelling. Probably someone needs a diaper change. Your mother will pretend everything is fine. She is putting the finishing touches on the floral center pieces and cutting homemade fudge.
I try to avoid going home for major holidays. I love my family, I do. But I only like them in small doses. As a staunch member of the Introvert Party, I’ve found a good rule of thumb is to avoid situations where I am in a room with more than three people with my last name.
Personally, when I look around the mall, when I talk to friends and family, when I eavesdrop on strangers (guy at next table at lunch today, panic taking over: “She wants sweats, like workout clothes, I guess. I don’t know!”), I just never really seen anyone over the age of 12 exuding Christmas cheer. Nobody’s happy-excited, everyone’s just anxious-for-it-to-be-over manic.
This year, I’m like 600 miles from madness, and I’m happy to have two days off to wander around, look at Christmas lights, read books, drink wine, journal, maybe get my blog up-to-date (that would be a Christmas miracle!) etc.
Today, when I went in to work though, there was a baggy of caramel corn with my name on it on the back counter. From: Jenna. Before I could finish it, my boss tapped my shoulder. “This is for you!” She handed me another bag of treats: See’s Candy. I ate some treats and went about my day. When coworker Jeffrey was done for the day, he asked everyone if they worked tomorrow or not (some people on our team work Christmas Eve) then wished everyone who didn’t a Merry Christmas in advance. Not unheard of certainly, but this is shy, works-in-the-stock-room, doesn’t-speak-to-other-humans Jeffrey.
A few hours later, I’m grabbing my wallet and heading to get a cup of coffee, when I run into Shelly. She is leaving for the day. “Oh, hey!” she says. “I left your gift on the counter downstairs.” A gift?
After sipping my soy latté for a few minutes, I return to work to find a gold glittery gift bag with sweet smelling body wash and lotion inside. It’s like, an actual gift.
To be honest, I almost felt uncomfortable. Was I supposed to get her something? Is she going to ask me to switch shifts next week? I guess I’m just an awkward receiver of gifts. Do I perhaps feel undeserving?
I don’t want to delve into my psyche too much here, but let’s just suffice it to say: this is what Christmas is about. Or at least, should be about. Like maybe I wouldn’t dread it so much if I felt like it really was just about filling our days with extra cheer and homemade treats instead of meaningless obligations of obscene amounts of time and money.
For the first time recent memory, I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are doing it right. Just wishing people well and giving little gifts for the sake of giving little gifts. Not going to lie, I left work with a little Christmas spirit in my step today.