Thursday, December 31, 2015

And a Happy New Year

I missed another week of blogging, thanks to Christmas.  I'm not really complaining, and I'm not going to beat myself up for it.  It was another wonderful Christmas, in spite of everything being way more complicated than originally planned.  But I spent time with family, my boyfriend, and got a Grinch onesie, among many other things.  So I'm not complaining at all.

And now it's New Year's Eve.  In just a few more hours, I will have officially survived December.  I made it.  You made it.  Congratulations!

I don't even know where the year went.  It feels like I was just ringing in 2015, yet so much has happened since then.

I know a lot of people had a rough year.  So I'm not bragging when I say that mine was pretty great.  I'm actually thrilled to be able to say it because, as Mark and I discussed the other day, any year that's not a repeat of 2014 is a good one in my book.  If I survived that, and my crazy ex-husband, I'm pretty sure everything else is a cakewalk.

And it's not like 2015 has been the easiest.  As I've discussed, I'm far more prone to crying this year than ever before.  I spent the first three months of 2015 being mostly unemployed and vaguely depressed.  And now I'm busier and more sleep-deprived than ever before.  I owe my parents a significant amount of money.  I spent Christmas Eve helping my boyfriend take pictures of his ex-girlfriend's surprise wedding, at her request.  (Yes, you read that right.)  My apartment looks like a bomb went off in it.

But it's been a full year of freedom and love and happiness.  Freedom to make my own decisions.  Freedom to not feel guilty for having fun.  Freedom from second-guessing my sanity.  Freedom from being told that my memories were wrong.  Freedom from being stalked and controlled and manipulated and abused.  Freedom to be completely and ridiculously in love.  I own my car.  I pay my bills.  I have my old name back.  I wrecked my wedding dress in the best photoshoot ever.

It seems like it's been longer than a year, in many ways.  Mostly in that I find it almost impossible to believe that it's only been a little over a year since I've been divorced.  That part of my life seems no more tangible anymore than a bad dream.  After all, there's no way I could have spent seven years that way.

But there's still proof that I did, in spite of throwing away or replacing nearly everything I could from when I was married.  There's still a hole in my bedroom wall from when I flinched away from him touching me.  There's still the fluttering panic when I think about him ever being near me again.  There's the memories I don't quite remember and don't want to about nights I was encouraged to drink too much so that I wouldn't say no.  There's the shame that I was weak enough to be manipulated so easily and for so long.  There's the fear that everything he said about me was right.  There's the fear that my honesty about my life will have consequences.

I joke about it a lot.  He's become more of a caricature for me now, but I suppose it's how I deal.  I make him less threatening, less real, and it helps.  Maybe it's not the healthiest way of dealing.  But it works.  I think.  Maybe.  Obviously, it's not foolproof, since I'm still talking about it, still finding ways to deal with what I went through.  I still have nightmares.  I still question my memories.  I still wonder if I made it all up.  That's when I'm grateful for the proof I have, and for those who tell me I'm not just crazy, for every person who told me they didn't like how he treated me and that I deserved better.

At the very least, it makes me so much more grateful for what I have now, for the past year, and for all the years to come.

2015 has brought me stronger friendships and support groups, more time with my family, a job I love, random spontaneous adventures, countless brunches, and more happiness than I feel I possibly deserve.  I couldn't ask for a better year, ups and downs included, because it's still all so wonderful.  I know I gush a lot about my life (on here and in person), but it's because I'm still in awe at how great it all can be.  I honestly had no idea.  I feel like one of those videos of dogs or babies experiencing grass or snow or bacon for the first time.  I feel like Dorothy seeing all the technicolor wonder of Oz for the first time.  Why did no one ever tell me there was something so marvelous?  Why did it take me so long to get here?

I don't ever want to go back to the girl I was before this year.  And I don't think that's even possible anymore.  I like to think I've learned my lessons.  At least a few.  I like to think that things are going to continue to be better and better.

I'm not perfect.  2015 wasn't perfect.  2016, for all the future as-yet-unsullied potential it holds, won't be perfect either.  I'll cry.  I'll be stressed.  Things will be bad, and good, and everything in between.  It will be life.

And I think that life sounds just about as perfect as it's going to get.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December Status Update

December is officially half over.  And how am I doing, you ask?


I joked with Mark back in November that I could give myself gold stars for all the days in December when I didn't cry. Luckily I didn't follow through on this, because I would have fewer gold stars than I would like.  Between holiday stress, too-litle sleep, and my continuing efforts to deal with past emotional damage, there have been more tears this month than intended.

Operation: Drinking through December, on the other hand, is going much better.  I should probably have decided to give myself gold stars for that instead.  I would have way more stars.  Hindsight, right?

I actually have accomplished a decent amount, though not nearly as much as intended.  I successfully acquired/finished birthday present for both of my parents, who have the nerve to both have birthdays in December.  I crossed Missouri two times in as many days this past weekend for a Fish Eye Fun job in Kansas City.  (On that same trip, I spent my very first night ever alone in a hotel.) I only have four books left to read to hit my goal of 50 books, and I'm halfway through both a book and an audiobook. I managed to get my new passport in time to go to Mexico at the beginning of January.  I've attended a few family events and even socialized with several friends, including making it to the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

On the other hand, I still have several presents to acquire/finish in about a week.  There's one more big weekend of holiday parties to get through, and then the night of 7 New Year's Eve parties.  I haven't done nearly the writing I should have for my Project: Sketchbook.  And I have four books to finish reading in 15 days (notice how that one made the good and bad list?).

I think I need another drink.

I'm not sure if it's just the hectic pace of the past few months, but I'm having a harder time getting into the "holiday spirit."  I know I talked a lot previously about how I'm traditionally more of a Scrooge, but I do generally get a bit more into the Christmas spirit midway through December.  To be fair, I suppose it's not that I'm dreading Christmas itself.  I'm dreading everything that needs to be done.  I don't have the hours.  I don't have the budget.  I don't have the expedited shipping option.  Like the Grinch, I want to keep Christmas from coming.  But at least only until I can find a few more gifts.

I know that Christmas isn't about the gifts.  I know this, even though one of my stronger love languages is gifts and I love finding or making the perfect present for someone.  I know my parents don't even want me to spend money on them.  I know my boyfriend doesn't want me to buy him too much.  I know that I don't want him to buy me too much.  I know my friends will still love me if I don't get their presents done by the 25th (sorry, guys).

So yes. I know Christmas isn't about the gifts.

I know Christmas isn't about the gifts.

I think.

So what is it about?

Is it about winning decorating contests, or getting plastered at company holiday parties, or looking at Christmas lights?  Is it about ugly sweaters?  Holiday cards?  Elves on shelves?  Whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie? (It is, by the way.)  Endless renditions of "Santa Baby"? Whether or not Love, Actually is a terrible movie? (Debatable, but I love it anyway.)

It's a hard question.

For someone who's struggled with her faith and with Christians in general the past two years, I can't say that Christmas is strictly about religious faith for me right now.  Not that it ever was, really.  I'm a girl whose parents let her believe in Santa Claus for an embarrassingly long time, so obviously Christmas was never explicitly religious in my family.  I will go to church at some point with my parents, and I do still love hymns and still have the Christmas story in John memorized.  I've been a Lutheran for a long time and there is still a special meaning in Christmas that is spiritual for me, about keeping all these things and pondering them in my heart.

But I think these days that The Muppets best sum up my feelings about Christmas spirit.  "Wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas."  Maybe that's a bit touchy-feely, everyone hold hands-y, but it covers a lot of bases for a lot of people: Christian, Jewish, agnostic, and otherwise.  And, at the very least, it takes away from the commercialization of Christmas.

So, for me, Christmas is about spending time with the people I love.  It's about making them happy and being grateful for a truly wonderful 2015 and for all the family, friends, and blessings I have in life.  It's about feeling love, be it romantic, platonic, spiritual, or otherwise.  It's about traditions.  It's about cookies and pies and hams.  Or it's about latkes and Chinese food and a Die Hard marathon.  It's about figuring out how to do two Christmases in one day because there are that many people that want you around for the holidays.  It's about having a Charlie Brown Christmas tree on your console.  Or it's about having a Christmas tree in every room.  It's about whatever you want it to be.

The Grinch figured it out.  I guess I can too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Look at Me, Adulting!

I saw someone once state on Facebook that if you used the phrase "adulting" to describe your life then you weren't really an adult.

This is very possibly true.

Because really? I'm not sure I am an adult.  It's highly likely I'm only pretending, which seems to be the underlying implication of the word "adulting."  You're not really an adult; you're just faking it till you make it (or don't make it, as the case may be).  You changed a lightbulb.  You made dinner instead of eating chocolate.  You got up, walked the dog, and went to work instead of calling in sick.  

I'm not sure I'm fooling anyone with the whole adulting thing.  Without even counting my large failures at previous life decisions, there are several other signs that I might not be a "real adult."  For example, I've started wearing an Eeyore onesie around the house on more of my days off than I care to admit.  I bought a Doctor Who shower curtain.  I have coloring books.  I still consider my birthday to be a holiday.  I take way too many selfies.  I think pigtails are an acceptable hair style.  And I'm practically a teenager when it currently comes to being in love.

On the other hand, I've been paying all my own bills for a year and a half.  I signed up for health insurance (finally).  I worked events last Friday and Saturday, even though I had a cold, because, well, I had to.  We had six events Friday and seven on Saturday.  If I stayed home with Kleenex shoved up my nose watching Netflix, there would have been no one else to work.  (By the way: sincere apologies to anyone who got my germs along with their photos.  I tried to stay sanitized.)

To be honest, I feel more like an adult than I have in years, Eeyore onesie and all.  I'm adulting all over the place.  I'm adulting so much that I don't have time to do much else.  Which is fine.  It keeps me busy.  It keeps me out of trouble.  It keeps the bills paid.

And the weird thing is that still I'm enjoying my life more than ever before.  Being an adult shouldn't be so great, based on the bad rap it got when I was younger.  There are responsibilities and bills and broken appliances and divorce and too-little-sleep and a distinct lack of naps.  I drink less.  I'm fully accountable to another person for probably the first time ever, and I have no one to blame if I fail except myself.  And I'm stressed and tired and usually just want to stay home and introvert with my boyfriend.

But.  I wouldn't change much of anything.  

And maybe pretending to be an adult is the best way to do it.  It keeps you from being too serious, or from taking yourself too seriously.  It lets you wear pigtails and Eeyore onesies while taking selfies and coloring in coloring books.

And if that means I'm not a "real adult"?  Then fine.  I'm not.  But I'm getting pretty damned good at pretending.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I'm a Mean One...

Oh, Lord.  I missed a week.

I'm comforting myself with the knowledge that it was Thanksgiving week and I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  And you didn't really need me to post a "things I'm thankful for" blog, did you?  I'm pretty sure most of my blogs already spill over with that a bit too much sometimes.  So let's go for the opposite: things I hate about Christmas!

I have a long-standing history of being a bit of a Scrooge. Possibly slightly Grinchy.  I mean, I've never set out to actually ruin Christmas, but I have been known to say "Bah, humbug!" and grumble about putting up a Christmas tree.

It's not Christmas itself.  I don't mind Christmas, especially when it's actually the week of Christmas.  It's the ever-expanding season of Christmas.  It's the fact that Christmas decorations are on sale before Halloween.  It's the fact that syrupy-sweet, overly vibratto-ed, drippingly sentimental Christmas music blasts inescapably from every store, restaurant, and radio station from the beginning of November on.

And it's the fact that I'm an introvert (this is getting to be a common theme, isn't it?).  Which combines poorly with the fact that everyone wants to get together all the time (mainly my parents).  And it's also the fact that we have over 40 Fish Eye Fun events in December.

Don't get me wrong: that's AMAZING and is absolutely not the problem.  I'm so beyond excited that we're busy and popular and even forced to turn away business because we're booked up solid for at least four days this month!

The problem is that some people (take a guess) don't seem to get that I'm busy and socially a bit overwhelmed, and that I probably don't want to come over every week from now until Christmas.  I may or may not have had a meltdown before Thanksgiving over all the social obligations that were suddenly presented to me, and may or may not have decided on my plan for surviving the holidays.  I call it "Drinking Through December." What could possibly go wrong?  (I've also decided that I get a gold star for every day in December that I don't stress cry.)

To be fair, this is the first year I can use the "I'm really busy" excuse as part of why I'm a Scrooge.  Before this year, Christmas was much easier in that aspect.  It was the dead-season at my old job.  I had at least a week and a half off of work most years.  But, I still grew to dread it.

Unintentionally or not, I felt overwhelming pressure from my ex to "compete" at Christmas presents.  If I didn't get his as many or as big or as expensive of presents as he got me, or if his Christmas stocking wasn't as full as mine was, I heard about it.  There would be hints about how much what he got me cost.  Or casual remarks asking if there would be more for him under the tree by Christmas.

Right now? My biggest problem is keeping my presents a secret from Mark until Christmas actually gets here.  We both have a terrible habit of buying each other things and just giving them to each other all year long.  So by the time the holidays/birthdays/etc roll around, we tend to realize that we've already given each other everything we thought the other person would like.  Whoops.

If I'm being honest (and apparently that's what I do now), I have to admit that I might be getting a bit less Scrooge-y in the past two years.  I still hate all the things I complained about above.  And I'm still panicked about getting everything done in time.  My ongoing mantra is that I'll have time in January (which is probably a lie, sure, but it's my current lifeline to sanity, so just let me have my delusions.)

But the intensity of my dislike seems to be abating with time (so long as it's actually the month of December).  Mark and I were running errands this week at stores where, of course, Christmas music was playing, and I didn't grumble and bitch about it.  I might even admit that I danced a little too it, but let's not get crazy.  And I want to go to the Garden Glow (though I contend that the Garden Glow is more of a winter festival than specifically Christmas - again, give me my delusions).

Also?  I have a confession: I kindof want to put up a tree and am a little disappointed that I really don't have space for one.  But don't tell anyone that, ok?