Do you want peace on earth? Would you like to spread good will toward women and men? Then please, for the love of god, reindeer and all that is sacred and sane, stop asking that damned question! No, seriously, stop it. What are you thinking? What is wrong with you people? Stop asking others, “Are you ready for Christmas?”
My scenario today : I was going to leave around noon to “finish my shopping,” but after being up for a couple of hours this morning, I found I had a bit of a headache and so, it being Sunday, I crawled back under the covers for a while, thinking when I got up I’d have some more coffee and sit at my kitchen table with my little notebook and pen, and scribble out my list and make my plan. I mean, I knew I’d probably be popping back out again before Christmas for a couple of extras, but I figured I could finish up the “big stuff” today. I also was aware that the Sunday before Christmas would probably be a bit busy at the Mall, but I would have plenty of time, right?
I know I need to plan better. I know I do. I hate crowds in the first place. As much of an extrovert as I seem to be, I don’t like crowds. I enjoy a small crowd, in my house, or in a place where I know and like people, and know that I can leave anytime. Heck, I only enjoyed amusement parks for a short few years in my life, while my sons were small. And the older I get, the less I like crowds and traffic, and thus, the less I like Christmas shopping. I like the idea of Christmas shopping, but when I wait until the last-minute, the actual experience can be a small nightmare for me.
You see, if I have my plan, and I have the time, I remain calm and cool. I even enjoy it. But if I am thrown off, like I was today, I risk an inner meltdown, leaving me staring at the shelves in Spencer Gifts, wondering why this stupid mug is in my hand, and when did my oldest son start liking Batman, and why can’t I even think of what I was going to get Brian for Christmas?
But back to that nap. I woke up and realized that we had missed a family emergency call. I had to wake Brian up from his nap and tell him to call his mother. I had to plug my phone in and found there was another unexpected situation that also needed my attention. Naturally, that means I missed the coffee, and the calm alone time, dawdling at the table with my pen and notebook. And before I knew it I was out the door, and heading toward the area of town with the mall and all the shopping centers.
It wasn’t until I got there that it sunk in that I had planned nothing, and I hadn’t even brought a notepad and pen. And now I couldn’t remember what I wanted to get, or from where exactly. I am ashamed to admit it, but I panicked a bit. Quietly. I mean nobody would have known. Nobody would have seen any hint of it or felt compelled to call mall security. It was just me standing there, standing there, standing there. Still standing there after at least four different employees at the same store asked if they could help me find anything.
It threw off my entire day. Happens to everyone, sure. And it would be fine if it were just a normal Sunday, and I had decided, screw this, I can’t concentrate, I’ll go home and have supper and do this tomorrow. But it’s Christmas week. And if you didn’t do your Christmas shopping in August (I hate you when you tell me you did that, by the way), it can compound the stress when you realize that your carefully planned Christmas shopping trip, five days before the 25th, is happening without a plan.
When you need to keep to a budget, this is even worse. So what were those things? Who liked what? Where was I going to go first? Where can I park? And in the midst of this, people are sending me casual text messages, asking, “So, are you ready for Christmas?”
Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Do you not realize that to many of us this is like saying, “How do you like that weather today?” when there’s a GODDAMN HURRICANE going on and everything I love is sliding into the sea! So, friend, it doesn’t help to remind me that I wasn’t prepared.
Ask something useful, something kind. Ask if my family would like some extra gingerbread cookies, because your family made more than you could eat. Wish me peace and happiness, say anything but don’t ask that question, that question which piles on the guilt and shame that I already feel so thoroughly.
I’m okay. No, really, I am. I’ve been fine. I’ve been reminding myself that Christmas isn’t supposed to be stressful. I even got most of my cookies baked last week, and in my own time, and by golly, I even enjoyed it. Today wasn’t that big of a deal. Yet, the timing of it, going blank, having a minor panic attack in Barnes and Nobel, being distracted by family worries I could do nothing about, not right then, right there. And now I’ll have to go back out, hopefully, more prepared, and more calm, Monday, after work.
But before I do that, I swear, no less than fourteen people at my place of employment tomorrow will casually ask me, “So, David, are you ready for . . . ?”