Countdown to Christmas… How To Wrap Gifts

I hate the holidays.

I mean, I think we’ve established that I hate pretty much everything. And everyone. And myself.

But I really fucking hate the holidays.

Some of you may or may not have been around here long enough to know all the fun details of my relationship with my mother. In a nutshell: it’s dysfunctional. It’s mom abandoned dad and I when I was only 10 to move across the country and have an elicit affair with a married man, which turned into 20+ years of bad relationships, childhood traumas, and other assorted maladies.

What is making this holiday season particularly horrid is that my mother is around. Her new husband lives in New Mexico, so I’m not sure why she is here. To compound things, I didn’t ask her to help plan my daughter’s birthday party, so she was a bitch to everyone there (for which I had to spend the entire following day making apologetic phone calls); then today she screamed at me about how this was the equivalent to me stabbing her in the back with a knife, and destroying her sense of place in the world. And by the way how dare you go shopping for Christmas gifts with your mother in law so she gets what you guys actually need, instead of shit that will just get wasted or donated. And my God you are such a bitch why aren’t you buying me more dinners and inviting me over for more free lunches, and what the fuck with your not coming to visit me two or three times a week to play puzzles and color with grandma.

Other. Assorted. Maladies.

This is making me really fucking hate the holidays even more so than usual. It’s adding another layer of shit to my plate that I don’t want to deal with, and quite frankly – after 20+ years of this shit – I’ve essentially had it.

It’s very complicated.

In any event, I am counting down to Christmas. In a big way, because (obviously) I just want the damn holiday to be over with.

This year Thanksgiving and Christmas were closer in days to each other than they have been in years. Decades maybe – what the fuck do I know on the length of time it’s been since the two holidays ran this closely together. I just know that’s the case because (a) my mother in law told me so, and (b) it seems like Thanksgiving was just over a week ago, because it was.

This compacted time, along with compounded stress, means even more fuck it all I hate my life God why are you doing this to me-feelings are rising to the surface.

Are any of you feeling the same way?

So this is how I wrap gifts.

(Sound insane, I know.)

First I take all the bullshit that my mother, and other assorted family or friends throw at me, and I crumple it up and shove it in a bag. A gift bag of anger and hostility, you might say. Then I cram as much of the stress and the strain and the holiday nonsense bullshit bake cookies decorate a tree clean for relatives fuck this I’m getting drunk and wrap it in paper with a pretty bow.

What I’m saying is that I take out my aggression on two, maybe three, nicely wrapped gifts. You can tell I’m extra stressed out if I do shit like make my own wrapping (which I did this year).

This looks so pretty because all my rage and hostility and crazy is being channeled into something – GASP – productive (versus my usual channeling, which involves alcohol, cupcakes, and Netflix).

After a couple of nicely wrapped gifts, I take a break to eat lunch. By that I mean emotionally eat.

Does anyone remember that scene in the beginning of The Bell Jar when she’s sort of losing it and she cracks an egg into a bowl of raw red meat and stirs it up and eats it? Because she’s suicidal, so why the fuck not?

When I took my break from this pristine wrapping today, I ate three turkey and cheese sandwiches. And I thought it would be just yummy to cover them in red pepper.

Not sure why. Made me think of that scene from The Bell Jar, minus the suicidal tendency.

At this point in the game, my channeling of anger has all been spent and I then turn to letting go of all life’s stressors through gift wrap. Because none of this really is in my control – holiday stress, family problems, psychotic and likely histrionic mother hellbent on giving me an ulcer… these are not things I can control.

So I let go. I let go of being so upset. I let go of being stressed out. I let go of feeling the expectations weighing down on me like an anchor attached to the very top of my skull.

(This isn’t entirely true, I don’t let go of anything I just symbolically do it through gift wrap.)

And I no longer give a fuck about the way the wrapping appears.

I mean I really really no longer give a fuck. Here are two gems from this evening.

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And then, by the time it’s all over and the last CVS bag has been adorned with bows (because fuck you, I ran out of paper and fancy bags)…I feel better.

I don’t really feel better. I do, however, have everything wrapped and ready to go under the tree.

Countdown to Christmas. There’s like a week or some shit left. Are you ready? Show me your worst wrapping job…it may be featured in the next step of this most horrific of countdowns.

Reason #123 why I shouldn’t be allowed to raise children…

… is of course that they turn into me.

My darling Pookie home schools and so never gets much exposure outside of daily ME. Being gifted and stuck in a state with an awful paradigm of education, right now this seems to be the best choice, except for in one instance: all this time together means she’s quite obviously turned into me. What does that mean, faithful blog followers? It means she’s snarky, sassy, sarcastic, and jokes around constantly. She also tells it how it is, and rather bluntly I might add. I find these to be among the greatest qualities a human being can possess, although I’m finding myself now in a position of having to tell her to tone it down a bit because – quite frankly – I don’t want people to hate her as much as they hate me. Being me often comes at a high price.

So today, sitting at Quizno’s while eating sandwiches and talking about the Christmas party we’re hosting tomorrow, Pookie turned to me and made the snottiest face I have ever seen and announced loudly that she doesn’t believe in Santa Claus. She said it’s far fetched. She said that the idea of a “fat guy coming down a chimney is just absurd,” and that she refuses to leave out cookies when they’ll just be thrown out because Santa doesn’t exist. This apparently came because she found one of her gifts wrapped up and labeled “From Santa,” and despite my explanation that I put “From Santa” on everything so that no one feels embarrassed if they didn’t get her as many or as quality of gifts as others do, she apparently figured it out. Just like me, since making the discovery, she has sat and thought on it, overanalyzing it until all of the inconsistencies in the entire Santa Hypothesis are now blatantly obvious to her.

I feel sort of bad for her, actually. Not only am I the worst present-hider and liar when said presents are found, but the last few years she has had to endure one drunken Santa character after another when getting the yearly picture at the mall. She doesn’t like eating meat either (that’s right … she calls herself a vegetarian) and year after year prime rib and other such meat-centric dishes are forced down her throat on Christmas Eve when we attend the annual family events. Christmas is a rough time for little Pookie.

Did I mention she’s only seven?

We should consider that this is coming from the kid who told me this past April that the Easter bunny is “…nothing more than some psycho dressed in a bunny costume. What kind of a kid likes to sit on the lap of that kind of a weirdo?” See what I mean by blunt? She has a point, though. The concept of the Easter bunny never made much sense to me either. How, exactly, our culture went from Jesus to a pink bunny leaving behind colored and inedible eggs is still beyond my level of analytics. Back to the kid, sometimes I think she tries to be snarky and funny not because she actually is, but because she knows how much I am – more proof, though, that she’s turning into me whether it be directly or indirectly.

In the end, you’ll see Pookie still dressed in her Ho Ho Ho pajamas and insisted on leaving some carrots in the front yard “just in case this whole shenanigan is real and the reindeer are hungry” – said flippantly as she rolled her eyes and tossed them on the ground. (We celebrate on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day…so the nonexistent Santa is due to come tonight.) Then she walked inside, lecturing me about how Christmas isn’t about the gifts anyway before leaving some carrots and a bottle of water near the tree. “What are you doing, Pookie?” I asked – legitimately bewildered. “Like I said, if this whole Santa drama is real, I should leave something. But Santa drinks too much and has clearly eaten too many cookies in his day – as evidenced by his increased belly size in Santa Buddies. So I’m going to leave him carrots and bottled water instead. Maybe then he won’t drive his sleigh so drunk anymore.”

Okay, darling…

Mrs. Claus Likes Her Whiskey Sour

Today when we went on our annual trip to get a photograph with Santa Claus at the mall, I realized that this is the last year we’ll be making such a pilgrimage.

When we got there, I was quickly reminded of last year’s experience where Santa Claus continued to stumble around, making it apparently clear that he was drunk and it was only 11 o’clock. This year, Santa seemed sober, only for Mrs. Claus to take his place at the throne of Mall Drunk. For thirty minutes, we stood in line waiting for our turn and I watched her as she stumbled around, her eyes even rolling once. When in close proximity, the smell of whiskey sour was so overpowering I was legitimately concerned that if she were to belch, the Christmas candle lit next to Santa’s chair would actually ignite the entire mall. At first, I couldn’t really pinpoint why “drunken debauchery” always seems to come of dressing as the fictional couple.

But then I began to look around.

The mall decided that instead of a really big Christmas tree that you get to walk under as you go up to the platform where Santa and Mrs. Claus are waiting, this year they went the more traditional route and installed a nativity scene. It was your standard, run of the mill, life-sized nativity set, only in the place of the baby Jesus was a Macy’s shopping bag.

Really? I thought to myself as we rounded the corner to the last leg of the never-ending line to sit on the fat guy’s lap and be on our way. Yes: really.

I’m sure Mrs. Claus (and last year – Santa, himself) wasn’t actually drinking because of the sheer consumerism of the Macy’s bag-Jesus nativity set (well, if they are anything like me they might be…).  But beyond that, as I looked around while standing in line to pay $38.95 for five minutes and three photographs, I saw the utter humanity baring itself for all to see – a sight usually only reserved for Disneyland and funerals.

There were people arguing in line about what picture package they were going to get – because they had to make sure to send photographs to every single goddamned relative that expected one. This raises other issues that are beyond the scope of this blog, but as to the bizarre-factor of this situation, one couple actually began to scream at each other. Not talk in raised voices, not yell – actually scream. I was surprised the mall cops didn’t show up (although when have mall cops ever actually policed the mall?).

Further down the line, there was a pregnant woman who looked like she was actually going to give birth right then and there waiting to take her 2 year old son to visit Santa Claus. I don’t know if I have ever seen someone so pregnant before. She kept rubbing her gargantuan belly and moaning – at one point she kneeled and I almost fainted at the thought of her birthing right then and there.

Children were screaming everywhere. Some were wearing their pajamas still (which seemed ludicrous at roughly $13 per 4X6 print – but who am I to judge?). In the time we stood in line, my feet were smashed by some lady’s stroller no less than five times and I set my hand on the banister holding the line together once to learn a child had been gnawing on it (leaving my hand slobbery with some stranger’s spit).

In the end, standing in line for thirty minutes had my own mouth salivating at the thought of drinking heavily upon returning home. If I had to stand there for eight hours a day, pretending to be happy about the most material, consumeristic, and generally fake holiday of the year; all the while wearing an outfit that is hot, itchy, and absolutely ridiculous, and being put in the position of having to allow strange children to stomp on, hit, and kick me for the sake of this grand, holiday charade – I would probably be drinking before work every day too. Actually, I would probably start every day off with a whiskey sour and a handful of Xanax.

This is all nothing new, though this year I realized it was time to bid adieu to the time-honored tradition of visiting the local mall Santa Claus. As much as one may want to be understanding of the alcoholism which plagues the holiday characters each year, it is still an overwhelmingly sad situation (when you really think about it, which I try not to) and sets a horrible example for children. Why this year did I finally draw the line, you ask? Because for a two year old or three year old, or an infant – you don’t notice. Santa just has “bad breath” or Mrs. Claus is just tripping. But as we walked away today, (seven year old) Pookie acknowledged that she knew Mrs. Claus was drunk when she loudly pronounced, “…well, at least Santa wasn’t the drunk one this time…”

So drink on, Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Drink on. But we’ll be staying at home next year.

Four Holiday Mantras

Well, faithful blog followers, it looks like it’s going to be a long holiday season.  Hunker down – just yesterday I saw some idiot had put up and already lit his Christmas lights, including a large Santa face on his roof.  Everywhere you go, you are already inundated with holiday ads, holiday music, holiday sales – so get in the spirit because they are coming whether you like it or not.

If you are like me, your response to “whether you like it…” is in the not.  For me, the holidays have always been a matter of feeling forced to spend time with people I would otherwise never associate with, buy gifts for those that as a general rule tend to act relatively ungrateful or who don’t need anything, and just all-in-all turn in to two months of exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed.  It was only until recently, though, that I realized there is no reason any of us should deal with some of the drama that comes along with the holidays – for the majority of us, it is not only unhealthy but unnecessary.  So I’ve created these four holiday mantras for us all to say to ourselves every morning as we go in to the busiest time of the year.

I will not pretend that things are perfect for the sake of holiday unity.

Nothing is more obnoxious than a group of people that gets together and acts like a perfect group, when they all spend the other months of the year talking shit and treating each other like the absolute scum of the earth.  I imagine it to be like a perfectly constructed ice sculpture – every edge is delicately carved so that the fine sculpture of snow and ice does not fall apart.  But underneath, it’s nothing but dirty ice that is going to melt and become a pile of dirty sludge the moment things start to heat up.  For our first mantra, let’s vow to take a chainsaw to any group events this holiday season – and chop that perfectly structured sculpture to pieces.  Note:  this doesn’t mean to cause drama when everyone just wants to have a nice holiday.  It just means be honest to who you are and how you feel.

I refuse to participate in family gossip.

If your families or in-laws are anything like both of mine, there is such uninhibited levels of gossip going on during normal times of the year that the holidays only makes it worse.  As a general rule, we should all vow not to participate in family gossip all the time; however, it is all the more important during the holidays for the sake of minimizing stress and avoiding unnecessary holiday drama.  There are a lot of things that shouldn’t be discussed with family – from finances to living situations, to marital problems, even to problems conceiving.  The thing about families today, though, is that they have become enmeshed family systems that are so over-involved in each other’s lives that they often do not even believe that what they are doing is gossiping.  Especially during the holidays, talk about something intelligent – books, films, art; stay off the gossip.

I will stop comparing myself and my life to the lives of others.

There is a current phenomena going on called Facebook Depression.  It states that many people spend a lot of their time on Facebook and other social network sites comparing their lives to others, and successively getting more and more depressed.  One of my friends recently told me that this is exactly what she does at holiday parties:  watches other people in the perfect lives, all-the-while she is getting more and more depressed because her ass is just a little bigger than someone else’s, or because her job is not as exciting as the next guy’s.  Just after the holiday season, statistical rises in depression and suicide have been reported for decades in the United States – quite obviously for this comparative mode of thinking, as well as general loneliness.  Don’t depress yourself by spending the entire holiday season comparing your miserable life to that of everyone else.  Remember:  what is on the surface is very often not what is inside.  Life sucks.  Life sucks a big, fat snow dick.  Take your chainsaw to the comparisons as well.

For the entire holiday season, I will reserve judgment on the homeless and look at them as people in need, rather than as worthless, alcoholic bums.

The funny thing about people that judge:  they often do it as a way to make themselves feel better about their own insecurities.  This actually applies to all of our mantras, but is particularly important in this final one.  From now until the end of the holiday season, force yourself to reserve all judgment when encountering homeless people in your community.  Rather than assuming they are irresponsible, lazy, alcoholic, or crazy, consider the horrible economy and the hardships people have had to face in recent years.  Have a little charity and at least try and remember that you could one day find yourself in a similar position.

Ultimately, faithful blog followers, the holidays are a miserable time in which many of us dread doing things we don’t want to do.  Set some boundaries, do what you want rather than what you feel obligated to, and remember that life is way too short to deal with some of the crap that always seems to come up every year.