The Reason for the Season

Standard

I have been debating what I should write about today because it has been an incredibly long week, which is not over yet, so I don’t want to take the time to come up with something “profound” and try to peddle it to all of you.  Being Christmas Eve, I thought it might be appropriate to say something meaningful about Christmas and the holidays and whatnot, but I’ve become quite a cynic in recent years, so I’m not sure anything I have to say about this holiday would be the sort of uplifting read you’d like to read this holiday weekend.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  It narrowly beats out Thanksgiving (the day of Awesome Food) and Halloween (the day on which it is socially acceptable to go out in public in a costume without coming up with a damn good excuse and getting a lot of weird looks–yes, I’ve tried it on other days and no, I’m not telling you my excuses).  My favorite things about Christmas have changed over the years, but I’ve always loved it, loved the whole season.  I love the smells of cinnamon and peppermint and pine, the sounds of Christmas music and the hush of falling snow (I’m still hoping for a white Christmas this year, the weather report promises a good snow storm later today…), the warmth of a fire and new PJs, the taste of pumpkin and wassail and cocoa and eggnog and homemade candies and cookies, and all the lights and the bright red and green and silver and gold.  It is a beautiful time of year.

When I was a kid, I was always excited for the presents I would get Christmas morning.  I admit I was spoiled.  My parents never gave us really big-deal things like video game systems or our own TVs or whatever, but they always liked to go over the top.  As I got older and started earning my own money and getting better at making things, I learned the joy of giving gifts.  It is still fun to get things, but these days, I mostly want useful stuff, like a job I don’t hate or a book contract or new dishes.  The real fun is in figuring out the perfect gift for each person–now that I’m all grown up, I get why my parents get so carried away with gift-giving.  I love figuring out that one unexpected gift that would surprise someone and make their day and show them that I notice them and see who they are and what matters to them.  We’ve always passed around lists in our family, so we know what things people need or are hoping for and I usually get at least a little something from people’s lists, but I also like to be creative and come up with something outside the box.  And, if at all possible, I like to make those gifts.  I can cook, sew, knit, crochet, and do a variety of other craft-related things.  I enjoy making things.  Personally, I would much rather get a gift that someone had put time and thought into making than something they just went out and bought.  I have had a few things that were bought that were amazing and wonderful and I always appreciate a gift with any thought at all, but there’s something extra special about gifts that someone has taken the time to make.

This year, there isn’t really anything I want.  Usually half my list is books, but I’ve bought a lot of books in the past few years for school and the books I already own are still living in boxes that are cluttering my room from when I moved into this house almost two years ago, so even though there are a lot of books I want, I’m trying not to acquire more until I get some bookshelves up and deal with the books I’ve already got.  I also need a lot of practical stuff, like a new car and my credit card bill paid off, so I can’t really think about adding more stuff to my house that I don’t need when I really need money for other stuff (and it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to Loot Crate–btw, if you want to join, shoot me a message and I’ll send you a link so we can both get $5 off!–so I’m basically filling my house up with useless crap I don’t need anyway, so not much point in asking for more).  On top of that, I’m crazy broke this year.  I’m usually a really great gift-giver, but with limited resources, I feel like people are going to be disappointed with my offerings this year.  So, I’m not particularly excited about getting anything this year.

Normally, I’d be happy at the prospect of getting stuff, but not particularly focused on it because I would be absorbed in my projects for everyone else.  This year, I am in far worse debt than I have ever been in my life.  I was dealing with my final semester of grad school, which mean finishing my Thesis (319 pages), then finishing my Process Paper (20 pages, written from scratch 3 times this semester), then finishing all my Graduation Paperwork, then submitting my Final Product (which is basically all those things, plus the other two major papers I wrote during my program–which still needed revising, btw–combined into PDFs and uploaded to the school’s digital archives for final approval and which is required to graduate).  All of which, I finished about two weeks ago (I think? I can barely remember yesterday, let alone a week ago or whatever).  And then I doubled my hours at work.  I sorely needed the hours.  I told my boss I was available for more and then started covering other people’s shifts (I was rewarded when I got my paycheck yesterday and realized I would be able to afford my basic expenses for January, even though I won’t have an income that month because I will be across the country waiting to go to a writing conference that I really hope will be worth it).  With all this craziness, my budget for Christmas gifts is basically zero and I’ve had a week or two to think about what I might do, and far less time to gather supplies and do projects.  Here I am, at 2am on Christmas Eve, and I’m only about half-done with the things I’m planning to do or get or make or whatever else.  I have one day–one day of complete insanity as everyone else in my position is running all over creation trying to find those last few things they need–to finish preparing for Christmas.  There’s also the issue of decorating the tree that showed up in my living room last night, but my mother got into town a day earlier than expected (by which I mean an hour ago), so I’m leaving it up to her–maybe I should move the ornaments out there, just in case anyone is inclined to decorate…  Even eliminating non-essentials from my to-do list, I have far more on my plate than I can handle for this holiday and I feel that even with all this effort, people are going to be disappointed in the results because of what I’ve been able to do in the past.  If we could just push this whole thing off for another three months or so, I would be past all my major deadlines so I would have time to do a proper job of things, plus I would have a higher income (not a great one, but better than what I’ve had the past six months, which doesn’t even break even).  Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

I know Christmas lore is filled with stories of struggling people who do their best to do good for other people and it magically all turns out.  I should note that I have always hated “The Gift of the Magi.”  I love O’Henry.  He was a brilliant writer and has quite a lot of great and entertaining stories, but that one I never liked.  It’s about two people who sacrificed the thing they valued most to give a gift to the person they loved.  Then it turns out that the gift they sacrificed to give is now useless because the other had sacrificed that thing they loved.  So now they are left with nothing.  As an adult, I read the story and in they end they laugh about it or something stupid.  The story always made me feel sick with disappointment.  It still makes me feel sick.  So “uplifting” stories like that are no good to me now.

I know you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make someone happy, but I haven’t had time to offer either.  I feel like I’m being selfish this year because I don’t have much to offer.  I don’t have much to offer because I was focused on finishing a degree for myself.  It has absorbed most of my time and money over the past few years.  The timing couldn’t be helped.  Finishing the degree now was my priority–and a reasonable one.  Unfortunately, I have not had time to catch up from that.  I don’t have hope for something magical to save the day, but I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got and I hope things will at least turn out well enough.  I will be glad when the holidays are over and my life can fall into a better routine.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

J