We Give Thanks For Many Different Things

Cake made of chocolate mousse.

Cake made of chocolate mousse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am the meanest person on earth, or at least the most honest and outspoken but I give thanks that Thanksgiving is over. Yep, I said it. You can judge me all you want but holidays can be stressful. Family dynamics,  emotional baggage, demons from the past, they all get rattled and those emotions escape. They slip from your unconscious like slithering snakes darting out without your permission. Filters don’t work, the id, ego and superego are all in repair.

Families members regress, the dysfunctional aspects of relationships become unglued, it seems like anything negative that you can rein in for most of the year just gets ignited during holiday celebrations. Forgive me, don’t judge me. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I used to be the person who loved holidays the most, it WAS my favorite time of year. I sang along with every song on the radio, happily. I loved to shop for hours getting just the perfect present for each member of my extended family. Now, I beg my kids to tell me what they want, preferably with a link online. I don’t feel like celebrating, when did I become Scrooge?

I’d rather appreciate my family as I do, every minute of every day instead of on one particular day.  All the work you have done to prep and prepare and cook and bake is finally here; by the time you sit down to eat, you are exhausted and then the meal is over in literally five minutes. Tops.

You take a breather and move to a different room, everyone moaning about how full their tummies are and the tension moves with you like invisible cloaks. The young “adult” children text, the older generation talks about  people who have died or are very sick  and all I want to do is change into my soft flannel polka dot pajama pants and tee-shirt and climb under my blankets and go to sleep.

However, the chocolate cake with the layers of lighter chocolate mousse winks at me and soon we go back to eat dessert. A lot of dessert. That incredibly delicious chocolate cake with edible sugar ornaments, my vegetarian daughter grins as she eats a sugar “turkey.” There is also apple cake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, chocolate rugelach, banana bread, apple pie and assorted cookies. I’m ashamed to say that the fabulous chocolate cake, with an ice-cold glass of milk cheers me up. I can see the women of Weight Watchers “past” shaking their heads at me, tsk- tsking all the way to the scales. Sorry leaders, I haven’t gained any weight, in fact I lost more weight.

My daughter drives her grandmother home, with a care package that will last her at least a week to finish, complete with forbidden dessert since she is a not-so-so-strict-diabetic, it’s a treat for her, one bite or two at a time. The fact that my sister and her family aren’t here was felt by all, it just seemed empty without them. I missed my sister and the “cousins” being together. My husband’s parents are coming tomorrow, does that make any sense to you? Fill me in if you can figure it out, I can’t.

I see myself going away for a few days this year or next. This time I will go someplace different to be alone, to have some space, to smile at the sun and do some thinking.  It’s my turn now. I’m tired,  physically and emotionally. I need to get a good night’s rest and maybe when I wake up tomorrow morning I will feel just more hopeful. I give thanks for my family, my friends, for the food on the table. I give thanks that the holiday is over and for my pretty polka dotted pajamas. I am grateful for the sleep that is sure to come quickly. Good night.

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Optimist or Pessimist?

Just call me a “wide-eyed POPTIMIST.”

Bird Houses / 20071230.10D.46705 / SML

I think the word to describe me would have to be “Poptimist.” Let me explain. On the outside I am, without a doubt, a pessimist. I worry, I feel stressed, I imagine the worse. I annoyed my college friends when I thought for sure I had failed a test and then got a 98. I used to be so nervous every time I took a test that I thought for sure I had failed miserably. I held my breath when the professor handed the tests back. I sweated and trembled and thought I would vomit with anxiety. I always expected a 54, circled in bright red marker to further call me out as a loser. Honestly, that is what I really believed. I’m a horrible test taker and I never knew how I did. I just assumed I had failed even though I studied for hours on end. It was always such a welcome relief to get, not only a passing grade, but a really good grade. Self-protection? Of course. Defense mechanism? ABSOLUTELY! As I got older I became more of a pessimist; my mother is a die- hard pessimist and I know I got a lot of that from her. Nature and nurture. My father was an optimist for most of his life. Perhaps I have a tiny, hidden bit of my optimistic father deep inside me. I worry BEFORE I know the outcomes of things, call it anticipatory anxiety if you will. Yes, I do meet worry half way. I actually go up and greet worry and practically invite it home for lunch. But, way deep down, once in a while, there is a small voice, like a tiny, quietly chirping bird, hidden by a brightly colored bird house, that makes me feel if I make it through the stressful process, it just might turn out to be alright in the very end.

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Lost And Found

Tulips from Keukenhof Gardens, Lisle, Holland.

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t been writing at all and I don’t know why. It’s always a bad sign if I don’t write. Now, I need to question myself, in public, about what’s going on. The past week has been filled with pain, intensely painful legs out of nowhere with nothing to help dissipate the pain. Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, even Tramadol which I have been taking twice a day. Of course, I thought, I jinxed myself when I wrote that I was “lucky”that my pain was less intense than some.  Past tense. Now I have a new pain that I didn’t think was possible and I don’t know where it came from or why it still exists. That new pain jolted me to a new reality and I hate it.

I’m bothered that my sister is my sister and not a friend I would pick and that the best friend I had picked has completely lost herself,  in her marriage and her children and has not resurfaced for years. The stress in the house has become unbearable at times, with my husband unemployed and a Junior and Senior in High School. They have essays to write, exams to study for, colleges to apply to, jobs, appointments, homework, studying. We all feel the stress around us, inside us, despite of us. My children and husband are what keep me going; I not only love these three people, I adore them. They make me laugh, they make me smile and when I was about to cry today, they knew it long before I did.

Yesterday I laughed so hard I had a stomach ache, my kids put up a fake unicorn tapestry to prank their father for going to the Cloisters. After dinner with our friend Janis from California we all ate chocolate, one with a spice called cholula. We laughed and gasped through the pain and I downed two glasses of Arnold Palmer lite iced tea and lemonade afterwards. I went to bed smiling, the laughter being a delightful and unexpected present.

The holidays are almost upon us and I start thinking of my dad, who passed away 8 or 9 years ago. Why is it that I can never remember the year he died? Not being good with numbers has nothing to do with it, it’s a mental and emotional block that I can’t seem to get over. My father was the buffer in the family, the diplomat, the peace-maker. Without him the rest of the family is a triangle of raw emotions.  I was the one who lost the person who understood me the most and who thought identically like me. There is a gaping hole in our family and as everyone who has lost someone they loved knows, there is nothing to heal that pain. It’s like a festering, open wound and once in a while someone tosses in a cup of salt every now and again. There is before and there is after. Your whole world changes forever.

My birthday is coming up and as much as I used to love my birthday this year it feels like a dull ache. I don’t care that I am another year older, I was never concerned with age. Whether I am 53 or 54 doesn’t mean much to me at all. I don’t hide my age and I don’t erase my wrinkled forehead. These fine lines come from experience, both good and bad, they are here to stay. Earlier today I was thinking of my “bucket list”.  The first thing that came to mind was a tour of the tulip season in Holland and snorkeling in  some Caribbean Island so I could escape the long, cold, snowy winters.

Life is short, I am trying to make it fun. Every day is a gift and I should appreciate it but sometimes I get swept away by all the negativity and I need to pull myself up and out of that empty hole in the musty, brown earth, inch by painstaking inch. I think I have found my voice again so after I dig myself out, I will be facing the sun.

On Sickness, Stress and Candy

I’m discombobulated, anxious, confused. I feel funny, like there is something wrong, and there is. It’s not me though, which is worse, it’s that my son is sick and my daughter is disappointed. I hate it when my kids are sick/unhappy. I have a feeling this never ends, the worry moms have for their children. My husband is as involved with the kids as I am, but not in the same way. It’s a completely different style. He isn’t worried, he takes things in stride, he lives in the moment. I wish I could do that. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I wake up and feel that something is wrong. My stomach feels uneasy. Something just doesn’t feel “right.” I don’t think it’s because my daily routine has been jarred, I think it’s my heart. The inside part, the one that cracks a tiny bit, the one that is directly connected, like the umbilical cord was, to my offspring.

There is also this: the incredible stress of unemployment, for my husband and myself. I have been really good, patient, relaxed (as much as one can be) but now these other factors are making my anxiety index reach the sky. I know that things are out of control in my brain, when I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s bothering me and than realize everything is. I try to breathe slowly, it doesn’t help.

Months ago I had lung problems and a non-stop cough. It was horrible. I was then given a nasal spray to help me but I did not know that the taste in my mouth would be vile. VILE, in capital letters, on purpose. I thought that buying some candy would somehow dissipate the gosh-awful taste in the back of my throat but it didn’t. The Good n’ Plenty that I bought for a remedy did not work but at least it reminded me of easier times, when I was a child, eating those pretty pink and white candies, swinging on the swings in Forest park, surrounded by my friends and their moms. Everything was easy then, at least to us kids. Our parents, well, they probably were experiencing what I am experiencing right now. Being a grown-up.

I will get over myself I’m sure, when my children are healthy and happy.  I think then, I can handle my own stress, my own illness, manage my own pain. As long as it’s not the pain of my children, I can handle anything.