Monday, December 27, 2010

'Tis the Season

Another Christmas under the belt. Hooray. WWIII was averted, barely. The only good thing about the holiday season around here so far is occasionally being able to sleep in. Darn it, I feel like I am Bah Humbugging, when everyone on my SpaceBook page seems to be happy and full of cheer. I tried to be like them, but it just didn't work out for me. In this case the social network peer pressure failed to elevate my Scrooge like holiday mood.

It started with a Christmas Eve blowout with the wife. I was in the mood to hang out at home, and watch old black and white movies. She, on the other hand, wanted to go downtown to see a new release movie. Instead of registering my disappointment then pleading for us to have a nice quiet evening at home, I went along with her desire to see a movie on the big screen. We were going to see The Kings Speech. Unfortunately, we started sniping at each other immediately after getting in the car. Apparently, I was taking my bad energy with me, and she wanted me to leave the evil one at home. Fat chance.

After several events en route, wrong turn here, road construction there, parking garage full all the way up to the 6th floor, we solemnly arrived at the movie theater. We could have used Rudolph's red nose to light our way.

We went inside the movie theater. Phyl went to buy the tickets, and I, as was my custom, went to get myself a Chai tea. Before I was able to order, Phyllie appeared like the Ghost of Christmas Past rattling its chains, "The movie doesn't play until TOMORROW."


Glumly, we tromped back to the parking garage. After climbing all six flights of Mt. Everest stairs, we drove home. "I should have known we weren't in the flow," was all she said.

I remained silent thinking anything I might utter would undoubtedly be perceived as negative.

After liberating the poodles from their kennels, I sat down to watch a Christmas movie. The title escapes me now, but I was beginning to get into it when the phone rang.

"Hi mom, are you going to get the kids their Christmas jammies? I know you like to give them their Christmas pj's."

After a moment of hesitation, I quickly jumped at the chance to change my negative energy. If I couldn't change it, at least I could share it with the rest of the merry holiday shoppers. With all their frantic shopping for their own loved ones, no one would know it was me bringing the dark cloud of nastiness as I drifted by.

I tried one last ditch effort to get Phyl to participate, "You want to go with me? I am going shopping for the kids Christmas pajamas."

One look on her face told me that was a no go.

When I first entered Kohl's department store, I expected the radar package detector at the door to scream my presence. I felt like a Harry Potter Death Eater in holiday drag. No alarm bells went off, so I stealthily headed to the kids department for a little shopping therapy.

After about 30 minutes of looking for the perfect Christmas pajamas, I had an epiphany. The black clouds of delusion parted, and I realized I had lied on the self assessment survey I took only a week prior.

I am a guinea pig for a local university psychology program. Actually, I will receive some valuable in-service credit towards renewal of my teaching license when I complete this course. The class is supposed to assess how I dealt with stress both before and after reading a book on the subject. So far, I haven't actually seen the book, but I have taken several on-line surveys designed to get a baseline of the coping strategies I use when I am stressed.

I felt pretty good about my responses up until the moment I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. I realized without any doubt I had lied about "Using shopping to alleviate my stress." Despite being reassured every time I took the numerous previous surveys that there were "no right or wrong answers," it appears I was quite adroit at lying to myself.

Right there in the department store's children pajama aisle, I realized my Negative Nelly status was being transformed into a Jolly Santa.

Note to self, next time I take that darned survey, mark 5, strongly agree I use shopping to avoid stress in my life. I wonder what the guys in the psych department will do with that discrepancy? Do they have a curve that includes holiday stress? Hmmmmm.

I completed my last minute shopping, and headed to deposit the Christmas jammies at the daughter's house. After a short exchange about her Christmas Eve activities, I headed back home.

I pulled into the garage. I gave myself a pep talk, "No more Negative Nelly. Go in there and have a good Christmas Eve."

It didn't take me long to realize I would never make a good motivational speaker. I couldn't motivate myself.  Well, I did admirably well in delivering the motivational speech to myself, it's the follow through that desperately needs assistance.

When I opened the back door, I could hear the TV blaring. I entered the living room. Phyl sat motionless in her LaZboy recliner with the remote aimed at the TV like a shotgun. Eyes narrowed, laser like, as they scanned the menu.

I tiptoed past the front of the television just as she selected her show. It was the comedienne Monique. Her raw language did not suit my recently hyped up Ho Ho Ho mood. Somehow listening to the language I hear from my students every day brought out Mz.W, aka Thug Nasty.

Mz. W is the persona I use for work. Once, Mz. W appeared on vacation when there were some naughty gangsta children in need of correction. Phyl immediately banished Thug, and the rest of the vacation was saved.

Not so easily done for this Christmas Eve.

I did not miss a beat as I headed into the kitchen to retrieve the tape, scissors, and a hastily made Christmas cheer concoction. After I gathered up the goods, I headed for the spare bedroom. I still needed to wrap the presents for the kids before the morning.

I sipped, wrapped, and mentally went over the day's events. Again, I gave myself a Merry Ho Ho motivational speech.

I ventured out of the back bedroom, and was headed into the war zone. 

Apparently Monique's performance was over, and now it was time for Vin Diesel. I believe it was the movie Fast and Furious, at least that was what I was witnessing on the flash of TV I saw as I furiously replaced the tape, and thankfully the scissors.

I decided it was time to refill my cheer glass.  After the refueling, I grabbed the original version of A Christmas Carol movie I had purchased for Christmas Eve festivities.

Back in my bedroom bunker, I sipped and watched the movie on the tiny TV. I contemplated the numerous times I had seen the movie. I also thought about how many other people had seen the same 1938 movie, or were watching on this Christmas Eve as I was.

I also thought about the synchronicity of the events in the movie as compared to my own circumstances. I could really relate to Scrooge. I did not identify with his stinginess because I am very generous, but I did identify with the feeling he was portraying. I felt like I was separate from what was going on around me. I tried desperately to get on the Merry Ho Ho float, but nothing seemed to work. I could not grab the magic ring.

About a half hour into the movie, my standard poodle, Lula Mae, busted open the door. Tito, her sidekick, was in tow. Both dogs were extremely intuitive about the events going on in the household. It was only a matter of time before they left the living room in search of their other mommy. I guess I had left the door slightly ajar, thus their breaking and entering had occurred.

I welcomed them into the darkened room. Lula put her paws up on the bed, and looked at me beseechingly. Tito gave me a quick drive-by lick, and then he was gone. Lula stayed. I invited her up on the bed with me, and together we watched the rest of the movie.

Without saying another word to Phyl, I decided to call it a night. I went to bed.

In the early hours of the morning I was visited by The Ghost of Christmas Future. At least that is what I prefer to call it. 

I got out of bed, and headed to the shower. 

I like to think of taking a shower as both a physical and a metaphorical cleansing. On this fine Christmas morning, I was not able to wash away my resentment.

Unfortunately, it grew. And it grew. And it grew. To epic proportions.

By the time I finished getting ready to go to breakfast at my daughter's house, and talking to my son who was in Santiago, Chile, I was loaded with nukes.

While I was happily chatting away with my son, Phyl sat in her LaZboy chair, and listened to the conversation. It was she who had now turned into the Negative Nelly. As I lied to my boy, "All was well. I am having a quiet Christmas," Ebinezer, aka Phyllie, lobbed in snipes in a Grinch like voice, "Liar."

When I got off the phone, all the pent up hell inside me broke loose.

We call these types of events in this household, bringing out the BIG energy.

Phyllie and I have, as all couples have, had arguments in the past. This one was a doozy.

I am not proud of myself for unleashing on her like I did on Christmas day. As a matter of fact, I am ashamed I let my little frustrations act like plugs in a volcano. I allowed them to build up until they could no longer contain the red hot lava of hurt, and resentment any longer.

I opened my mouth, and the torrent was unleashed. It was like Mount Vesuvius on Christmas Crack. If Santa had heard me, he and all his elves would have sneaked back into our house, and retrieved all the presents, had there been any to retrieve. 

Weirdly enough, that is not one of the reasons why I blew my top. Phyllie and I decided not to buy presents this year. We we did buy each other one gift. She got me a great Skagen watch which I have been wearing for a couple of weeks. I got her a nice pair of boots. I know, very romantic, but hey, we LIKED our gifts.

Back to Mt. Vesuvius.

I put Scrooge to shame with my torrent of Bah Humbugs. When I completed my rant, I asked Phyl if she was coming with me to breakfast at my daughter's house.

She chose not to come. Of course.

I arrived for breakfast with a false smile on my face. I delivered the presents to the children, my daughter and her boyfriend. 

Everyone wanted to know where Phyllie was. I told them she wasn't coming because she did not feel well. Before breakfast was served, I asked my daughter to broker the deal. "Please call and invite Phyllie over. Maybe she will come over if you invite her."

Thankfully, a detente was called.

Both Phyllie, as well as myself, conducted ourselves as adults in front of the children. I was glad she chose to come over. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I did not want to wage war on Christmas. 

After the official celebration, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. It was a glorious, albeit cold, day. We had to visit several parks before we could find one where they both could run with reckless abandon. When the dogs tongues hung to the ground, and they refused to chase the stick one last time, we headed back to the house.

We decided to try for the second time in as many days to see The Kings Speech. We got ready, headed downtown to the only theater showing the movie just in time to find the rest of the world had come out of their Christmas fogs as well. The movie was sold out.

We got back in the car, and headed home again. The streets were so eerily quiet compared to the day before. Apparently the only place, other than at home playing with new gifts, people could be seen on this day was at the movies watching their favorite flick.

Again, we missed the flow, the magical current of bliss we imagined everyone, except us, floating along on singing songs of merriment and joy. We had started to mend the tectonic plate shift which occurred in our living room. The great divide needed a river of cement poured into it before it would stabilize. We needed more time.

The time came the day after Christmas. 

We started our day off like we generally do on weekend mornings. We got up, took the dogs for a run in the freezing cold, came back and then had some breakfast. We acted as if nothing in the past 48 hours had been real.

After showering, we got into the car and headed for the third time to the movie theater downtown. The trip went smoothly. No bumps, no snipes, no bruises. We found our regular parking spot on the second floor of the parking garage. Phyl bought our tickets, I got my Chai, she got her popcorn, and together we agreed on side by side seats.

The movie was worth the wait. We were inspired by the story of the King who stuttered. I figured if he could overcome such a daunting obstacle, and go on to deliver such an important speech, I could let go of the petty hurts and missteps of the past few days.

After the movie, we went to dinner at a restaurant where the slowly drifting snow flakes piled up on the pines just outside the window by our table. As we chatted about the movie, unpacked the events of the last few days, and planned our New Year's resolutions, I thought what a picturesque setting for a delicious meal.

All was right with the world again. We were in the flow.

Maybe the events of the previous two days weren't real. Maybe all the shit occurred in an alternate universe.

I have this strange idea it's true.

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