One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

January 5, 2011

Failure to Christmas

“My deepest fear is failing at Christmas.”
– Me

My cousin reposted that quote on Facebook commenting “true cousins”.

You know, the line was a wry aside, a justification for the panicked money I spend in December (& a weak attempt to differentiate it from money spent just for consumerism’s sake), but it is quite true. I mean, except that “deepest” part – maybe I fear tragedies happening to my family, and also Clowns, a little more than failing at Christmas. But those are all Quite Terrible Things.

Quite Terrible.

For example, I know the Christmas season has started for me once I’ve had my first Christmas-Failure nightmare. Like one where it’s Christmas morning and people are filtering into your house and you can’t find the present you bought for someone and then you think, “oh I think I forgot to wrap it” so you’re frantically searching through the house trying to find it before more people arrive so you can discreetly wrap it, but then you can’t remember whose present you’re looking for and then it’s a couple of presents you’re looking for and then you think, “Oh no, maybe I didn’t even buy anything for those people,” and then the whole dream is just a panicked mashup of all the hiding places in your house framed with your own mounting horror and sadness.

And then I wake up and reassure myself, “I would never let that happen.” And I get to work pretty immediately to make sure it doesn’t.

Early in my relationship with Ian, he was staying over one night and I woke up in the middle of the night after one of those nightmares. It was a pretty commonplace thing for me, so I just said, “ugh, I had that dream where it was Christmas and I couldn’t find anything and half my presents weren’t bought.” And Ian laughed – laughed! – and he said, “I bet for you that’s a pretty traumatizing dream.”

I just stared at him. That was the first I’d really thought about how maybe other people don’t have those dreams. I’m still unconvinced. Even if Ian doesn’t have those dreams, that doesn’t mean it’s not a universal anxiety for normal people.

So then, this year, because of all the handmade gifts, the organizing was quite insane. We had so much more to keep track of than just “this gift is bought? Check.” It was, “Okay, you go out to the garage and finish putting crown molding on that shelf while I antique these trays. Then I’ll have to leave them for a day to dry, so I’ll move to another project like quilting.” So it was a lot harder to track and there was always more that could have been done, so nothing was ever truly checked off, and maybe that led to more scatteredness and anxiety.

So this Christmas Eve, we all went over to my Aunt’s house for my cousin’s birthday supper (Christmas baby!) and then came home. I didn’t have any presents wrapped, but that’s cool, I always have a lot of wrapping to do on Christmas Eve. And I did have to fry up a batch (or three) of crepes for next morning’s breakfast. So I got to work, and then I think the crepes took much longer than I thought they should. And then I turned my attention to wrapping. And somehow it had become two in the morning. And I knew I had a couple more gifts to wrap, but I had become so exhausted that I got easily dizzy and I couldn’t keep a thought in my head. I walked around my house, poking in my various hiding places and finally stood in the middle of my livingroom, disoriented and dismayed, wondering whose present I was missing, and whether I would be able to remember and find it and wrap it before they arrived or whether I had maybe forgotten someone entirely.

And then I woke up!

Just kidding. I didn’t. But I did laugh at myself and how I had let things get bad enough that they resembled my Christmas anxiety dreams. And then I resolved to start next year’s Christmas prep in February so that would never happen again.

Well, that’s your introduction to my psyche. That moment exemplified one of my deepest fears for sure.

Obviously there’s some pretty basic stuff going on there, psychologically speaking. Fears of letting down your family. And compulsions to take care of people being channeled into the big occasion that brings them near every year.

And then there is the simple psychology of my being, at heart, an orchestrator. And I think that might be common in my family. I like putting plans together. And I love the Big Reveal. Not big obligationy plans, but, you know, plans. Special plans. Things that bring a lot of beautiful elements together or things that make someone feel special. And throughout the year, there are so many times when I’ll be planning a surprise for the kids or someone, and my big reveal will be screwed up because of the lack of a shared understanding about surprise and timelines. At Christmas, we all know what’s coming, we have a shared understanding, and we are all bound by the Christmas code to a) not ruin our own or anyone else’s surprises and b) not mess with the timeline of the Big Reveal. Plus it’s an opportunity for craft and beauty – to show off your talents and admire others’.

When you’ve got something that awesome, it’s only natural to worry a little about screwing it up.

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  1. gish

     /  2011-01-09

    I asked my mum once if she had nightmares about spiders, and she thought I was crazy. But there was an episode about Spongebob where Patrick was having nightmares about spiders, so it clearly happens to some people. So I’m sure other people have nightmares about Christmas as well…


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