It was a good plan. Really. It made sense. Between chemo and hospitalizations and life- it was the best choice to make.
I started out so well.
- I shopped early and online. (Yes, Christmas can be delivered straight to your door, Thank you, Amazon Prime.)
- I decided to skip baking this year, and made very few gifts. (Both-things I love. And, both are things I drastically underestimate the time, effort and mess they involve.
- I managed my gift spreadsheet and kept track of orders.
- I allowed time for wrapping sessions.
- I bowed out of major hostessing.
- The hostessing I did do, I planned to be simple.
And then- I lost my mind. In an epic- “this is the big one” Earthquake kind of way.
The fault line in my plan, started to give way somewhere around the Friday before Christmas. It started with attitudinal tremors:
- “Why can’t anyone else see what needs to be done, and do it?”
- “Every time I leave a room, someone comes behind me and makes a mess!”
- “Why am I the only one who does anything?”
- “This house smells like cat-pee. I’m going to kill that cat after I clean all the carpets!”
- “That couch cover is disgusting. It must be changed immediately.”
Then, came the tsunami of guilt:
- The guys have been working like crazy. They’re exhausted.
- Kyle (my husband) feels bad enough – shut up- you’re making him feel worse.
- You’re ruining Christmas be being … well something that rhymes with Witch but isn’t usually associated with Halloween.
The tremors grew in strength until they reached full martyrdom/ 10 on the Richter scale- proportions:
- I’ll do it myself.
- I’m the only one who can do it RIGHT.
- Cancer will not take over this Christmas. I will cook, clean, decorate and buy it – completely out of the picture.
I made it through Christmas Eve with only one major mishap. (It involved trying to move a newly put together desk chair into the living room. Which sounds simple enough. That is, until you know it involved falling on kitchen floor, when a caster caught on the not-quite-moved-out-of-the-way dog gate, breaking 2 casters on the chair and jarring my back so much I called my oldest to help me up. (It was a “Life Alert” moment. FYI? Yelling: “Help! I’VE FALLEN AND I CAN’T GET UP.” at 2 am on Christmas Eve will cause your college boy to come running from his computer- possibly taking a tumble and a table out, on his way. (Stupid dog gates.)
On Christmas Day- around 2 pm. I finally realized I’d lost it. I was cleaning carpets until my back and neck felt like I was wearing a yoke of biblical proportion. The things I was thinking were anything but Silent or holy. They were ugly and furious and a few- were not exactly” family friendly.”
I started barking out orders: “Get this. Empty that. Are you sitting down? There is work to do. You can at least go get stocking stuffers and take Noah shopping.”
- Yes. I yelled at a still wound-healing cancer patient.
- And 2 college kids working 40 hour retail schedules.
- And a 12 year old so excited for Christmas he could hardly focus on cleaning his room.
As the clock started ticking close to “Go time.” And I still hadn’t showered or cleaned the 1 bathroom anyone would be using.. I started to cry. (For me- crying comes after the yelling. It means I’ve completely lost it.)
Which is when my mom called. I choked back the tears I was fighting and answered the phone with: “I’m being crazy. Just tell me it doesn’t have to be perfect and you just want to be with us, even if the house smells like cat pee. Tell me to stop it.”
“Of course it doesn’t. We just want to be with you!”
It helped that she said they were also running a little late.
I hung up the phone reminded of the truth: “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” In fact- I came pretty close to ruining Christmas by trying to make it so. And then: I stopped.
- I apologized for the furious, crazy woman I was being.
- I asked for the help I needed. My people happily obliged. (Apparently, they are not mind readers. And being who they are- just need to be asked to do specific things as opposed to being stomped at and yelled at in my brain.)
Once I stopped the cray-cray train and got in the shower. Which, is where I realized it wasn’t about Christmas. The truth is- I was trying to clean the cancer out of the holiday. By making it perfect: Pretty. Memorable. Shiny. Distracting.
The thing is- the cancer is still here. (With the amount of chemicals I used- I’m lucky there isn’t a new batch of cancer lurking somewhere.) Whether the gifts were beautifully wrapped, the carpets were clean or, the food was perfect, or not-Cancer sits in the most comfortable chair and rudely glares at me as I clean and cook and decorate. It refused to leave with the trash – mud carpet cleaning water and Dyson dust.
In my effort to clean it from our lives- it had almost won it’s clandestine attempt at a hostile holiday takeover. Like the in cancer it is- it used ME against myself. I’m glad I got off the crazy train before it was too late. (It was truly that moment in Polar Express when the train skids across the cracking ice… I was that close to total Christmas ruin.)
I changed direction.I went back to plan A. Keeping it simple. I skipped the pie I wanted to get in the oven. I put my feet up and drank some ice water. By the time my mom and step dad arrived I was less crazy. We laughed. Gifts were shared and memories made. It was a beautiful night.
So was the day after Christmas- when I had my dad’s side of the family meet us at the cottage to celebrate. We ordered pizza. I served leftover appetizers- and I was able to bake a pie- with love instead of attitude. I didn’t clean. I didn’t even the pictures. Honestly? I wasn’t the best hostess. I had people help themselves.
I was too busy BEING, instead of DOING.
Funny- since I gave the “you’re not wonder woman or santa” talk and the Perfectly Imperfect Christmas talk 4 times in the 10 days leading up to Christmas.. too bad I almost didn’t listen to myself.
I was right. (Of course.)
Yup. Cancer is still here. Actually-tomorrow is a cancer center day. (You thought it was New Years Eve? Silly. Cancer takes no holidays.) I have no idea what tomorrow’s test results will hold. It could be another disappointment- or, more good news. Cancer is bipolar like that.
Today, however? Is Kyle and Tracey date day. Well, it’s Kyle and Tracey date day sandwiched between wound care sessions, of course. Because cancer is still here. So are it’s after shocks and fissures. (Literally.)
So is Love, Joy and Hope. which always beat cancer- when I’m not so busy trying to clean it out of my life that I forget to: Love people, find Joy and look towards Hope.
Dear Lord- Thank you for loving me at my craziest. Especially when I try to make life pretend perfect and make everyone miserable in the attempt. Thank you for being present- even here- in our messy beautiful Christmas. I love you Lord and pray you’d complete the works you’re doing in each of us. I pray that anyone who reads and was in the same place I was on Christmas would find grace, here. I pray that you’d help us to focus on joy and hope and love instead of perfection- it;s never too late for that. In Jesus name- amen.