Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"You're just gonna chill"

I'm going to write something totally predictable, cliche, and annoying that you may stop reading this blog.

Quick, think of a message you hear during the holiday season.

Was it something to do with being grateful, relaxing, slowing down to open your eyes and look around and enjoy the blessings in your life?

Well holla at your favorite blogger, who's about to do the same thing!

OK here's my situation, leading me to do this.


Calm down. Pop some popcorn. Slow down. Take it in. Read slowly. Peace on earth.

I'm a brat.

But I do cheer for peace on earth.

First, I have a history of stressful, tearful, depressed, anxious, let's-just-get-through-this Christmases.

This was due to living in a cold, grey climate, not being on the right combo of psychotropic drugs, and having too much time on my hands to sit around. As a student, I would have month-long breaks from school, and I would spend a lot of time waiting for siblings with full time jobs to traipse home from far away for just a few days -- it was too much free time. Especially when I would switch from the stress of constancy of schoolwork, grading exams as a teaching assistant, gibber jabbering  with classmates, getting drinks on Friday nights to decompress to...sitting quietly with my parents in front of the TV with three cats.

I know what you might be thinking -- Bailey, you love TV and cats and your parents. Cats. Cats!

But, and I don't mean to bring this up all the damn time, but drugs make a lot of difference -- which is another conversation for another time, and I don't expect everyone to be on mood-stabilizing drugs, but I do know that for me they have changed my life, markedly.

So part of it was that I literally wasn't treated fully for something I needed to be treated for. Say instead I had diabetes for five winters in a row and didn't know it. That first Christmas with insulin would feel pretty great, yes? (Providing I cooled it around all the sugar cookies my brother makes every year). Similar situation here.

Also, as you know, and want me to shut up about, I am the last one standing in my family when it comes to the marriage milestone in life. When you fill a room with four sets of couples and one's single, solitary, selfie self, while yes, the three cats do help things, one can find herself wondering what to do with her hands.

And if she's sensitive like me, she may get tearful. And then when all the blissed-out couples in the room are feeling blissful and not tearful, then she may find herself to be the only one in the room crying. Which she isn't self conscious about in terms of the simple fact of crying with an audience, particularly if that audience is her family, but she does start to wish that someone else would cry during this time of year that has a lot of pressure to be happy and during which she doesn't feel quite so happy.

More so she feels anxious and sad and like she wants to run ten miles outside but dammit the sidewalks are covered with snow.

But NOW! I don't feel quite as sad. Truly, praise the good Lord above.

So why am I still stressed out about the holidays?

In short, I'll be covering four states in 10 days. If you really want to get technical and count my starting state (CA) in there, I'll be setting foot in five states within three days.

I don't care who you are -- as long as you're not a teenager, because wow are they energetic -- that's exhausting.

And I've been sick for more than two weeks. Finally got an antibiotic, so hopefully that will help.

I had sent a whiny email to my parents asking for prayers about my sickness and my stress for the holidays, so after seeing the doctor yesterday I called my dad to give him an update.

"And about this trip coming up?" he said, through the ear piece on my conveniently compact flip phone. "Don't worry about it. You're just gonna chill."

"I'll give you bourbon," he said.

Father of the year. Every year. I love him.

I heard him, I did, but I also rolled my eyes. I knew he and Mom would have such sentiments. "You can sleep in the car," they always say, when I start to get overwhelmed with quick turnaround road trips, seeing a new city every morning, a new bed every night. Forgetting that car sleep kind of sucks, and my anxiety knows no bounds and it will keep me up and stressed out if it wants.

But it hit me last night, after I picked up my prescription and came home to Max the cat, that I could, maybe, maaaaaybe, ease into this holiday, and really just enjoy the ridiculous amount of fun that it has to offer.

I mean.

Beginning Christmas night, I am going to be treated to:

Not dropping a dime anywhere
Having highballs with my brother
Drinking wine with my parents
Yes, maybe actually sleeping in a car
Being surrounded by adorable kids who call me (melt) Auntie Bailey
Opening presents
Giving presents
Listening to Julie Andrews Christmas music
Drinking more wine
Petting three fluffy cats
Talking to my parents about whatever I want -- because, mostly, depending on the topic, they'll listen
Letting my brother crack me up
Seeing a whole bunch of people in KS and MO who put huge smiles on my faces
Playing foosball
Playing guitar hero

And, of course, the now-promised bourbon with Pappy.

So yeah. Maybe I should chill the you-know-what out and enjoy this.

Last year I took a month-long trip to seven cities or something crazy like that. I was unemployed, I was burnt out, I was self conscious about my placement in life, my parents bought me a plane ticket home and I used what little cash I still had to buy cheap bus tickets and found a way to needle my way around the Midwest to see so many people who I love.

I ate grilled cheese, I drank so much beer I think the effects may have been visibly apparent, I laughed, I talked, I danced.


I was self conscious about my life but I was moving too fast to think about it. I don't recommend this as a pattern, from a therapy standpoint, but for the moment it worked.

After it ended, I recognized the blessing that it was and that I may never have an opportunity like that again, when most of my friends were still single and childless, when I didn't have a job so that I could take some time to goof off, when, remarkably, no one seemed to be judging me for doing something that most 20-somethings do at some point but that I had always thought to be impractical and therefore judged others, jealously, for doing so.

I now have an abbreviated version of that trip ahead of me. Beginning in t-minus two days. This is like a person's dreamland, being offered up free of charge, cats included. Cats included.

So maybe, if I can recognize what I have and chill out, I might actually enjoy myself during this holiday season.

Maybe this will be the year mind wins over matter.

If you need me, I'll be sipping bourbon. See you in 2015, y'all. And see some of you before then, in a Midwestern state of your choice.*

*Note, I may still blog in 2014 a time or few more.

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