If there were such thing as a Stressy Bessy doll, she would look like me.
The Son and Heir says that I focus on minutiae: “Remember when we vacationed on the beach and I wanted to climb those 25-foot rocks? You freaked out.
“I mean, really, if I’d fallen, I would have hit the sand — or the water, if the tide were in.”
College Girl focuses on driving situations: “Yeah, it was snowy and the car was slipping and sliding a little, but you’re going so slow on the highway because of the fog and the ice and the traffic, it’s not like you’d get really hurt or anything if you crashed. You’d just crunch up the car.”
Sweet of her to be so cavalier about a vehicle registered in my name.
The Norwegian Artist has lived with me for years obsessing about the rising electric bill, the rising property tax bill, the rising health insurance premiums, the rising car tabs, the rising food prices — none of which are accompanied by rising wages.
Everything gets paid; everything works out; and there’s only so much that you can control, he points out.
So it was with relief that I joined four other women at a Christmas tea where one of them mentioned being unable to sleep at night because she was . . . stressing. She felt as if there were something wrong with her.
Immediately, we all — in varying stages of menopause from musing on if we were starting it to wondering if it ever comes to an end — turned to her and dumped our collective stories and coping strategies in her lap.
“Do not attempt to analyze anything at 3 a.m.,” we advised. “Your analytical hormones or enzymes or chemicals or whatever shut down around 6 p.m., along with your body.”
“When life slaps you in the face, it stings. If you didn’t feel it you’d be a mannequin. That’s another word for a dummy.”
“It’s okay to ask God what the hell He’s thinking. If your husband can survive the question, so can the Maker of the Universe.”
Mercifully, the one thing I do not stress about and never have is Christmas.
Crowded stores don’t bother me because I’m not in them.
We buy a limited number of reasonably priced gifts for a limited number of people and do not worry about the hairdresser (I tip her throughout the year); the postal deliverer (she has a pension to look forward to someday; we have a 401D-Day); or the newspaper carrier, who changes every 6 weeks. Cheap? I consistently tip waitresses and hotel maids; I don’t bother with the valet who parks the car because I’m married to him.
The only Christmas cards I sent out were for the business. Friends and family I write throughout the year, generally incorporating something more meaningful than a form letter describing our latest Nobel Prize, Oscar statue, or Congressional Medal of Honor.
Parties are with friends who don’t own black sequined little black dresses or casual tuxes; we eat, laugh, and enjoy one’s company in December the same way we do in April. If we choose to gift one another it’s generally something sweet in a round tin, and there is no obligation to match, present for present. That’s why we’re friends.
There is absolutely nothing about the Baby in the manger, the star over Bethlehem, or the shepherds in the fields that demand excessive spending, drinking, dressing, obsessing, wrapping, decorating, or stressing.
Given that, throughout the year, there are actual, verifiable things to stress about — such as the aforementioned rising bills or sons falling out of trees or off of rocks — it is counterproductive to take a holiday that promotes peace, grace, love, and goodwill toward men and turn it into something that you have to talk to the psychoanalyst about.
If there is anything about Christmas that is stressful it is that it can be a wrenchingly lonely time for some. This, we can do something about, and it does not have to involve money, little black sequined dresses, or caloric canapes.
It just takes time — the gift that costs no money, that heals all wounds, that marches inexorably on.
And at Christmas, this Time — which regularly consists of 24 hours in each day — can either speed up or slow down as we determine to fill it up with stress-inducing activities and obligations, or . . .
Stop. Just stop.
And breathe. Smile. Laugh. Love. Give. And give thanks.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Thanks for a great read. Glad to see there is finally someone else who feels Christmas is not about the gifts you get, or the parties, its about being with family and being thankful for the time that you have together.
You know, there are more of us out there who think this way than we think. Other people watch us, and want this. In a small, significant way, it is our gift to the people around us.
Enjoy the noise and the chaos of being around the people you love.
ALL RIGHT!!!!!!!! Someone else with my feelings. I feel better now, Thank you.
May your Christmas season be one of much joy and very, very little stress!
I love the Norwegian’s painting of “Madre and Hija” and “Daydreaming.” As per usual , he captured their images so beautifully. How blessed you all are to have so many talents in your family and to know you are blessed. Merry Christmas to you all! We must celebrated together soon!
Thank you — I too am enjoying the Norwegian’s latest figuratives. Madre and Hija is fullsized now — he is putting the finishing touches on the larger version, and we should have it up and running on the website soon.
What about that soap we were going to make?
“Crowded stores don’t bother me because I’m not in them.”
I heard a great sermon at church the other day about anger – the problem isn’t that everyone around us / the situation makes us angry, but that we are just angry people. That was the message. I think the same can be said for stress. We are just stressed people, panicing by default. Once we become aware of the fact that it’s not the situation that makes us this way, but something from the inside, we can make (or try to make) a conscious decision to STOP, like you said.
“Be still and know that I am God.” This is the verse of my life 🙂 During this holiday season, I think everybody could use a bit of this reminder.
Excellent thoughts. It is amazing how easily we become impatient or angry at the smallest thing, and it takes much training and thought to grow away from this. Our culture is, as you say, one of stress and impatience and anger.
“Be still and know that I am God” — even the cadence of the words is calming.
We put the tree up last night — it is indeed a thinning from a group of larger trees — long, tall, and elegant, the Norwegian Artist calls is a literal model tree. It sways and leans from the weight of the ornaments, and the vast number of lights defines its shape, but just having it up injected a happy Christmas feel into the room.
I feel like the little train this year–I think I can, I think I can, I think I can and by the end of the day–I am beat. Lack of sleep and a business that barks around the Holidays keeps me on the high strung side–even if I love the season overall. Remembering to breath is such a good thing-even if you want to smack the person who suggests it….we have a group that meets on Facebook around 2am regularly to remind each other that we may be awake but we are not alone.
Great post and the picture are wonderful.
I am glad that, if you are tempted to smack the person that suggested you breathe, that I am not physically in the room with you!
I am sorry that you are up at 2 a.m. — good sleep is such an integral part of reducing the stress in our lives.
The other day, I was going through paperwork, and this is something that, no matter how you multi-task, you in reality are only doing just one thing at one time — I was struck by how extremely limited I was by time and space, and, no matter how hard I worked, I could only get so much done. This is a reality, and sometimes, we have to come to the point of breakdown before we recognize it.
Yes, you have a business. Yes, you have family obligations. Yes, you need to take care of yourself and get some exercise and take some serious downtime. I am guessing that, out of the three sentences in the list above, sentence #3 frequently gets overlooked.
If we don’t do number three, we can’t really do numbers one and two.
Although my computer monitor screams for me to come back to it, at the end of enough hours of the day, I shut it down and head to my sewing/laundry room to engage a totally different part of my brain with the puzzle of how to bag a vest that already has the collar and zipper sewn on. At the end of an hour, I am relaxed, focused, disengaged from the frenetic activity of the morning. The vest may or may not be bagged.
I urge you, my cyber sister, to find a way to get sleep at night (and please don’t start by worrying about how you’re not getting sleep at night). Are you working late? Are on you the computer late (this wires you). Can you possibly shut down and play a game with a family member? Read a book? Take a bath? Are these truly impossible? Is there any way at all that you can call an end to the day and reserve some of that time for yourself?
When we lived in Colombia, there was a lot of work involved in just living — preparing food and cleaning up afterwards, boiling water for drinking, hand washing and hanging up clothes, sweeping the floor around the rats — there was no END to it all. The woman with whom we lived, Ana, told me, “I don’t worry about getting it all done, because I know that it will be waiting for me tomorrow, no matter how hard I work today. So, I’m going to go crochet right now.”
The work will never end. It will never decrease. It will never go away, no matter how hard we work each day.
But it will always be waiting for us there tomorrow.
Our family and our kids and our friends are here with us today, and they are phenominally more important than what we do in the cubicle.
I wish you the best, Katybeth, and I hope that you find good sleep, deep thoughts, great laughter, and much joy in this Christmas season.