I guess the Mayans* were wrong...the world didn't end on Dec. 21st.**
Now normally I gotta tell you ... I never buy into this end-of-world stuff. I tend to believe the end of me is going to come long, long before the end of the world. Unless a surprise meteor appears out of nowhere and obliterates Earth, I'm thinking this planet will continue to exist in spite of mankind's ceaseless efforts to crap it up. Earth...well, she's a pretty smart cookie, and I'm betting she will probably hang around long enough to see us all turn to dust. Heck, the other day I was at work re-arranging file cabinets, and at one point I was down on my hands and knees, moving one set of files from one drawer to another. One of my co-workers walked in and, sounding very worried, asked if I was okay. I was in the process of climbing to my feet ... which, if you've ever seen Animal Planet, kinda resembles the way a baby elephant gets up after it's awakened from a tranquilizer dart, but (trust me) is not nearly as cute.
So no, the world didn't end on the 21st, and probably isn't calling it quits for a good while. However, I would just like to point out that the emails I've been getting all week (from at least a million different retailers) suggested that the end was, in fact, near.
I think it had to do with messages like these:
"TIME IS RUNNING OUT!"
"IT'S NOT TOO LATE!"
"FINAL HOURS! GUARANTEED!"
"WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, YOU BIG LOSER?"***
"WE'RE NOT KIDDING!" ****
I know I'm especially vulnerable to these not-so-subliminal messages because the "It's Christmas Eve and My Shopping Isn't Done" nightmare is one of my worst stress dreams. Most of us seem to have recurring dreams our brains regurgitate when we're stressed. I have three: 1) I'm in an airport terminal trying to find my gate where my plane is leaving in five minutes and, uh oh, I have to go to the bathroom, 2) I have to take a final exam in Intermediate Spanish in half an hour and I haven't been to class all year and don't even have the faintest clue where the classroom is, and 3) it's Christmas Eve and I haven't done any shopping. At all.
It's strange that I would have all this Christmas Eve anxiety preying on my brain when I have always been one of those annoyingly early people. My loved ones are always giving me grief because my Christmas cards are usually among the first to go out. I typically start my Christmas shopping on Dec. 26th of the previous year, and am in full panic mode by the time the catalogs start flooding my mailbox every October. Nevertheless, I see, "YOU'RE LAZY, YOU'RE LATE AND YOU'RE DOOMED" screaming at me from my inbox and know my blood pressure's on the rise.
Because the reality ... even for poor slobs like me who try to get everything done early ... is that we're never really done. Some things can't be handled until the last minute, and knowing that drives me insane. So, during this not-so-joyous "Stressmas" season, here a few of my favorite things:
1) The stray Christmas card from the person I didn't send one to. This shouldn't be a big deal, I know, but it is, because of course I'm imagining this person counting up his or her cards and thinking, 'Hey! What about Brenda? Why didn't that uncaring, insensitive person send me a card? Does she not want to be my friend? Is she poor and can't afford stamps? What's wrong with her? What's wrong with me?" You see, in my brain, I've just contributed to someone else's Stressmas, which then contributes to mine because stress is the real gift that keeps on giving. There's only one of two things I can do. I can dig out an unused card, address it, stamp it and mail it on the 24th, or I can go buy a New Year's card and pretend like I planned to do that all along. Either way, I know I'm not fooling anybody.
2) The inevitable (and much hated, at least by me) Christmas electronic greeting card. I tell friends I never open them because they might have a virus, but that's not the real reason. I don't open them because they irritate me. When I see one of these in my mailbox from someone who didn't send me a real card, I think, "Why didn't this uncaring, insensitive person send me a REAL card? Does she not want to be my friend? Is she poor and can't afford stamps?" It's this way ... if Hallmark means someone cares enough to send the very best, an e-card means somebody didn't want to bother, so she sent the very worst.****** The next time somebody sends me an e-card with a lovely picture of a snowman and some trees, I'm going to send that person a picture of a Coach bag and write, "Here's your present, Merry Christmas, because you know a photo is just like having the real thing."
3) Cleaning the house I hate it, and I'm too cheap to hire a maid. So, during the holidays, I wait until the last minute because, let's face it, if I clean it too soon it will just get dirty again.... and I'll have to clean it again...dirty ... clean .... dirty .... clean ... it goes on and on and who has that kind of time? Keeping rooms in a perpetual state of spotlessness requires that one cleans as one goes along, and I just don't feel that's a very efficient way to live. Procrastinating until the last possible minute and then frantically scrubbing my floors at midnight tonight ensures that the job will be done correctly. Brenda a-scrubbing with sweat a-dripping and tears a-streaming adds a special sheen to a clean kitchen floor that you just can't buy in a box in a store.*******
4) Christmas lights. Okay ... here's the deal. I'm a huge Snoopy fan, and this year I decided I wanted to put a lit Charlie Brown display in front of my house. It's small, but cute ... and the last time there were Christmas lights in front of our house, my Dad was alive and it was 1978. So my nephew helped me put the display together, and proudly we stuck it in front of our picture window... only to realize that my Dad ... for some bizarre reason he took to his grave ... had capped off the electrical outlet that used to be by the front door. There was no electrical source.
Yes, I'm sure I looked like an idiot. Fortunately I don't think my nephew did, because he was pretending he wasn't with me and had no clue why he was even standing there.
So, the choices were this ... we could run extension cords around the side of the house, under the gate, and into the patio where there was another outlet (I think it's still there ... but I really should check, maybe Dad killed that one too)... or, I could call Mr. Electric******** and have them put one in for $300. So, three hundred bucks later, there stands Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the whole Peanuts gang, singing around the Christmas tree. As long as there's no wind, it looks pretty good. But the day before yesterday, we had wind ... and the whole Peanuts gang nearly took flight over Ronald Drive. I was able to re-anchor it before Snoopy became airborne, but the display still flaps in a strong breeze. Christmas would be perfect if it weren't for that "winter" element that always mucks up the outdoor decorating.
And, finally, there's one more stressful thing ... a job I need to do in exactly one hour from now...
5) Going to Costco for the food. Yes, I could go to Giant Eagle, but it's an unwritten rule that if you're having a party, you go to Sam's Club or BJ's or Costco. Warehouse clubs should all have the same motto: "Obscene excess for a lot, lot less." I know that in Costco I can buy enough shrimp to feed 50 people, so that might be enough to feed the seven coming over on Monday. I also know that in Costco I can buy a pie or a cheesecake that's the size of a wagon wheel for, I don't know, fifty cents. So this is where I have to go today, and I know that if I don't get there when it opens at 10 a.m., I will probably die of old age standing in line while everybody is coughing on me. Unfortunately, I'm sure every other food shopper has the same brilliant idea, but I can enjoy my getting-in-getting-done-getting-out fantasy right up until the time I pull into the parking lot and the swearing starts.
So ... that's my Stressmas.
I know that everybody's Stressmas is unique. Some of you have the flu. Some of you are dealing with financial strain. Some of you have loved ones in the hospital or - worse - are saying goodbye to your loved ones. The irritants I've mentioned are nothing next to some of the challenges you're facing. But I hope mine made you laugh a little. You know ... as a Christian ... I think there's nothing more important at this time of year than finding a way to keep Christmas holy. And the way I see it, the only way to do that is to take the "stress" out and put "Christ" back in. I like to think a little laughter can really help.
So, I say no "Merry Stressmas."
And yes to "Merry Christmas."
God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
And, while I'm at it, I really want to thank you for your readership. It has been one of my greatest blessings in 2012. Stay tuned for 2013!
*Well, one good thing came out of all this silliness ... at least now a lot more people know who or what the "Mayans" were. Or maybe not.
**Actually, the Mayans didn't predict Dec. 21st would be the end of the world (their calendar just ran out). A bunch of ignorant people***** thought that the calendar running out meant the world would end. Which reminds me ... I'd better get to the Office Max for a calendar refill before my world grinds to a halt Dec. 31st.
***Okay, I made that one up. But if I owned a store, that's what mine would say.
****I didn't make this one up. It was actually in a Walmart ad.
*****A bunch of ignorant people were WRONG? Oh my, what a shocker.
******Of course I'm saying "she" because - with a few exceptions - guys suck at sending cards of any kind.
******* I should never work on my blog after watching that Grinch cartoon.
******** No, I didn't make it up, this is the name of a real company, and they're very good, by the way.