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.