Sunday, November 21, 2010
Over the past few weeks I have turned into the biggest blubber-butt ever. And I'm not talking about fat, because thankfully, my booty continues to shrink - woohoo!
I'm talking about being an emotional mush bucket. For a person who has walled-up her emotions for most of her existence into this tough exterior, believing that to cry (especially in public) was a sign of weakness, I sure have turned a new leaf. The floodgates have opened my friends. Be careful what you say, because if it reeks at all of sentiment, you might set me off.
I cry at EVERYTHING now. Sheesh. Not only am I shedding my physical layers of emotional protection so that these raw feelings are closer to the surface, but we have also entered THAT time of the year in which it is the American Way and the goal of every marketing company known to exist to pull at the heartstrings of poor little people like me. Pass the Kleenex.
Christmas is a VERY emotional time of the year for me from the get-go. I was born into it. My birthday is December 23rd, and I was born at 11:49pm so I was ALMOST a Christmas Eve baby. I popped out of the womb crying "Carol of the Bells" - I'm sure of it. They brought me to my mother wrapped in a stocking and wearing a tiny knit hat (that she still has pressed between the pages of my baby book). There is so much "special" in my life rolled into a 3-day window every year, that I can't help but get a little verclempt when the first chill of winter hits the air.
And while we're on the subject of my mother, let me also mention that she is OBSESSED with Christmas. When she was still a stay-at-home mom, she made a crafting business for herself by selling hand-made Christmas decorations. I remember all too well helping her in her shop. She would have me hold up two fingers to help her tie tiny red bows, since my little pinkies were just the right size. Forget Christmas in July - it was Christmas in my house 365 days a year. Years later, after she went back to work full time, she insisted on hosting the extended family every year since she was the only one with children at the time and it wouldn't feel like Christmas any other way. I became accustomed to lavish party after lavish party with both sides of our family and a number of family friends. Christmas always lasted a week at least and culminated on New Year's Eve when all our neighbours would join my family around our player piano and sing songs late into the night. Nowadays, mom has switched to insisting that she DOESN'T want to host Christmas every year and how much she wishes that someone else would step up and take the responsibility. I hate to tell her that the real reason no one does is because we all know how much it would break her heart if she were stripped of the annual duty. The planning and prepping and baking and fretting about every little detail have become so much a part of the person she is, that without it she would seem sad and broken. That can't be an easy existence. Living your life for Christmas. Every year I watch her wind up like a top, and every year I watch her deflate when it's all over. It's like the most depressing movie you've ever seen. And for 25 years of my life I have tried to avail her of some of that burden. I would wind up with her. Spin through the appetizers, and the Christmas crackers, and the presents and music and guests and dishes. And every year I would eat more and drink more and sink myself into the same depression when the party was over. I lived my life for Christmas too. Until I started seeing my therapist and coming to terms with the fact that Christmas for me is a big mixed bag of hope and hurt. Every year I hope for it to be something that it never turns out to be and every year I walk away a little more hurt.
Last year, in a fog of a feeling that I hadn't really experienced before, I baked 8 different kinds of Christmas cookies. Just me, in my apartment, by myself - I laboured for hours on shortbreads, and nut bars, and gingerbread and peanut butter bon bons. All of the same cookies that my mother makes every year (though I stopped at 8 variations, when she typically does at least 14). I ended up with about 10 cookie platters. A couple I brought to work. A couple of gave to friends. But at the end of the day I still had about 5 plates that I ended up eating all by myself well into the New Year. It wasn't until later that I started talking about my feelings and beginning to understand why I needed to make those cookies. Even though I consumed most of them, the real reason I made them was not in an effort to binge, but in an effort to love. Those cookies to me WERE love. And last year when the seasons turned and my emotions started coming to the surface I needed that love to get me through the intense loneliness. I needed my mom - and baking all of her cookies was, at that point, as close as I could get.
This year I am not baking cookies. I'm not decorating, and I have sworn off television for the time being since every dang commercial that even hints at bells and snow makes me cry. But I can't avoid Christmas. And being that this year is my 30th birthday, I can't avoid that either. So I am coming to terms with the fact that I'm a blubber-butt for holiday sentiment. I just returned from the opening night of my theatre company's annual production of Miracle on 34th Street. I literally walked in the doors of the theatre and started welling up. There's something about the sight of red and gold ribbon that creates a perpetual lump in my throat. And I can't hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas" without bawling like a baby. I am intrinsically linked to Santa Claus and Frosty The Snowman and I don't know if that is ever going to change.
But what I can change is how I deal with my emotions and the yearly pull to drown them in a vat of eggnog (with rum please). I know now that I am lonely. Everyone is at some point in their lives. And though food is and has been my friend in times of need, it's not really going to help me in the New Year when Christmas is back in a box. The January blahs will still exist, and there will always be Christmas again next year. And as much as it sucks to pop the balloon on Christmas, it IS true that Christmas happens every year, so why must we continually live it up year after year as though it's our last day on the planet? Eat, drink and be merry? Or eat, drink and be sorry later.
So this year - bring on the tears. I'll cry every day if I have to. What I'm not going to do is soak up those tears for the loneliness that we all feel around the holidays and the great expectations that they bring with fruit cake, or shortbread, or venison tortiere (my absolute holiday favorite). This year I am making a pact to be honest with myself and honest with my family about my emotions. Because they're not ALL about loneliness. Honestly, most of them are happy tears. Christmas with my family is a joyous and wonderful time (I'm crying writing this, just so you know). It is warm, and inviting, and delicious. It smells of all of the things Christmas should smell of - a fire in the hearth, food in the oven, spiced cider on the stove, pine trees and berries and my grandmother's perfume. So if I get a little emotional at the overwhelming spirit of it all, I think that's only normal. And it's my plan this year to let it all out. Cry, love and tell my whole big, happy, crazy, annoyingly wonderful family just how happy I am to be home.
A phrase we hear often in the theatre while rehearsing a play:
Now once more; with feeling!