Yesterday started well. Very well. The children entertained themselves until 8:45am, and we still made it to the dress-up nativity in time for Joel to claim some pink wings and a flowery tutu. Angel Gabriel. Obviously.
The service was beautiful. Meaningful. Thought-provoking. With the added bonus of thirty small children wearing fancy-dress and carrying (electric) tealights. Also there were ukelele christmas carols. It doesn’t get better than that.
It was lovely. I may have been a little teary-eyed. In my defence, so was just about everyone else. If you were looking for joy-to-the-world, you would have found it. Right there. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
By 4pm, back at home, everything looked a little different. Joel had reached the end of another testosterone-fulled rage, leaving various nativity characters, christmas cards, tree decorations and toys in pieces on the floor.
Wes was searching through the lean-to in order to find the tools he needed to fit a pane of glass, so that he could finally repair the lounge window that had a brick pitched through it ten days ago, and has been blocked out by a wooden board ever since.
And I was sobbing my heart out. Because, after the weeks that I’ve spent crafting and buying and planning everyone’s Christmas gifts to ensure the most magical Christmas morning since that one in the stable, Elvie had accompanied Wes on his shopping trip, come home and told me exactly what my present is. Despite being sworn to secrecy half an hour earlier.
And so I cried. For hours. Like a heartbroken little child.
For the fact that my surprise has been spoilt, despite all the effort I’ve put into everybody else’s. For the fact that my children are so completely incapable of doing as they’re told.
Because nobody appreciates the emotional effort that I put into creating these glittering, beautiful days. Because Wes has in fact, bought me a pair of shoes, which I desperately need, in my favourite colour. Which is obviously a disaster.
I cried for a long time. And then I stopped. And then I cried some more. I lost my temper with everyone. And only just resisted the urge to tell Elvie the truth about Santa and rip away all her surprises as well. I stayed up too late, and kept Wes up too late, because I was still crying, crying, crying while my thoughts spiralled away into dangerous, crazy little circles of doom.
I woke up with a little puffy-eyed perspective this morning.
In all honesty, I don’t think it’s about the shoes. Or the surprise. Not entirely.
This Christmas is dripping in pressure. My first medication-free festivities for years. My first Christmas in any real state of recovery.
It’s been hard won. 2015 has been tough. We’ve had our backs to the wall way too often. We’ve had to fight for my mental health. For our marriage. For our family. For Wes’ work. For time together. For everything. At least, that’s how it feels.
We’ve fought. Hard. Somehow, we’re still going. But we’re tired. So, so tired.
In the midst of all of this, we’ve been clinging on to Christmas. To the idea that December will be the high point of our year. The turning point. The beauty at the end of the year that makes the stress and the toughness worthwhile. I’ve been aiming at perfect.
Honestly, I never learn.
For weeks now, I’ve been putting all my energies into Christmas. Into gifts, into planning, into accidentally raising everybody’s expectations, including my own, to a level that’s impossible to match.
Watching everyone else’s Christmases unfold on Facebook. Comparing trees, and outings. Nativity costumes and gifts. Falling short, every time.
It’s probably time to give it up. To realise that, by the time I’m crying hysterically over a pair of shoes I haven’t even seen yet, it’s all gone a little too far.
We have two days before family Christmas starts properly. Two days which I’d planned to use to make gluten-free gingerbread houses. Gluten-free mince pies. A sparkly magic key for Santa. And on and on and on.
Enough. I’m shattered. And I’m fed up of being cross with the children when they ‘get in the way’ of my preparations.
They’re busy now. The children. Pretending to be foxes. Planning the intricate, gory details of how they’re going to cook Peter Rabbit and his friends. I know. Delightful.
They’ve asked to watch a movie after lunch. I’ve said yes. And I’m going to sit down and watch it with them. Then I might do some colouring. Or read a book. And just let them play. I might even create a masterful freezer-to-oven spectacular for dinner. I’m thinking chicken pie and chips. I know. Hold yourselves back.
There’s just enough time to rescue this Christmas. Just enough time to drag it back from the edge. Just enough time to make sure we all wake up as friends on Christmas morning. With a relatively normal blood pressure reading.
Right now, I’ll take that. Gladly.
With maybe just a glass of mulled wine on the side.
And a pair of turquoise shoes.