I love Christmastime. I do. But there are certain aspects of this glorious wintertime holiday that I pay for every year.
#1: Shopping. I don’t shop. I loathe shopping. I have seven children and one grandson, and someone has to shop for them.
Argue with me all you want about the merits or horrors of gift-giving as a part of our celebration of the Birth of Christ; I still do it, and I don’t do it small. We set the precedent when those kiddos were wee, and as much as I’ve tried to scale back, we still wind up having pretty large parties under the tree. It is what it is.
That someone? The shopper? It has to be me. And since the only stores I’m not allergic to carry fantastic and beautiful things that I could never afford, and since the very idea of driving from store nearly puts me into anaphylactic shock, Amazon has become the go-to holiday outlet. Done right, I can get 90% of my shopping done in one go, and then just wait for the brown paper packages to show up at the door. (Or out in the bus shack as the case appears to be this year. Thanks to the new mail-lady and her inability to traverse our driveway.)
And now we can argue the moral consequences of feeding the corporate monster that is Amazon… Let’s not. Let it suffice to say that I only have so much energy for all the many causes of my life. There are priorities. And while I would love to funnel every cent of our bank account through sustainable, small, local businesses who treat their single employees to full benefits packages and their livestock to organic, free-range practices, I just don’t have the resources available to me to sustain that utopian fantasy for more than a few minutes. I’m all for sustainability, but mine counts too.
Anyway, Amazon… Imperfections in economic choices aside, it’s a sweet deal, really.
Except for what happens to me when I stare at this glowing god for too long. Computers and I don’t enjoy each other that much; it’s more of a marriage of necessity.
I can generally write without disaster. If I’m truly just writing. But if I let myself drop too far into editor mode, or tackle more than an image or two, or if there are technical difficulties that require my eyeballs to do more than follow the cursor across the page, or if I, heaven forbid, look for something, like as in shopping, I’m screwed. My neck freaks out. My eyeballs wobble. And I pay for it for days. Weeks.
So this was the beginning. Last week I got the bulk of the Christmas shopping done. In one go. I’ve been in pain since. Because I am dumb.
#2 The Christmas Letter: I love the Christmas letter. I do. But somehow it always sneaks up, and then there is pressure. And then I get grumpy.
This year it snuck up just as I was failing to recover from the Christmas shopping. And thusly, it contributed greatly to the failure to recover from the Christmas shopping.
‘Cuz it’s not just writing.
There is the mining of the Google Photos archives, you know, to remember what the fat you even did in the previous 12 months. There is the choosing, from millions, of the perfect handful of pics that sum up the year. And then there is the writing, which somehow, at this point, is less fun than it should be, for we are crabby. And then there is the editing of the photos, and the layout (OMG, the LAYOUT), and the fitting of it all in there without having to reduce the font size to 2 and the pics to 8×8, or 12×16 for the really important ones.
There is a LOT of squinting and horrible positioning of the head. And there is a lot of stupidity on my part, and I just want it done. Because dammit, why on earth do I even write these things?
Because we love them. Because no matter the misery involved in the creation, the torturous part is self-inflicted, and in the end there is something beautiful to look back on. Because my kids love them. Because I love them too.
But here I am, at the tail end of both the shopping and the letter, and I am still reeling. I’ve had a headache for a week-and-a-half. My neck is in revolt, and won’t even listen to the logic of our super-human chiropractor. Well, that’s just perfect.
What I hate? That I am dumb.
What I am grateful for? That I am dumb.
For today, after attempting to catch up to my kid in her Trig book–because homeschooling–I thought I might just make those final edits on the Christmas letter before jumping into Scrivener.
It should be noted that those final edits, in all self-honesty, would have taken me days to deliberate over. Because editing is never really done. I would have reached a perfectly acceptable publication state by the end of today, but I would have fiddled for weeks.
So today, as I was about to just finish up quick, I was thwarted by my own stupidity. It seems, this weekend, as I was furiously rummaging through the computer to make sure that everything was in order and adequately backed up before THE UPDATES that technical support foreigner BobbyG was about to inflict on my machine…
Oh, I forgot The Updates. I finally broke down to call Lenovo this weekend, even though that escapade never ends well. I had to. The touchpad stopped touchpadding. I needed a touchpad. The preparations for the inevitable technical support disaster, along with the execution of The Updates, added an extra layer to the already unhappy neck situation. Eating your cereal should not be painful. My left eyelid should not twitch this much. Henceforth I shall blame Lenovo, rather than Christmas.
…anyway, as I was tidying up the hard drive and putting my sync software to task before unleashing Lenovo upon my life, I tidily deleted all the photos from the Christmas letter. I was cleaning.
And today, upon launch of the graphic design software, I was reminded that it was not DONE with those images. They were still needed. Still an integral part of the process.
Also, Dumb Head, where are they?
They are missing.
‘Cuz I deleted ’em. Emptied the Trash. Ran the super-cleaning software. Both of ’em.
And the working copy of the Christmas letter has many infuriating ”img missing’ gifs decorating its edges.
So I guess I’m done.
The shopping is done.
And the Christmas letter is done. Because I am dumb. Which might be, for once, my savior. ‘Cuz I ain’t doin’ that all again.
And so the letter is going out in the exact form of the last PDF test-export, from a few days ago. Typos and all. Misinformation and all. Unpolished and messy and completely not done.
Yet done nonetheless.
I guess that means there’s nothing left to do but enjoy the parts of the holiday season that don’t give me a headache. Nice. Thank God for dumb.
For the record, Emily, who is perfectly happy whipping out miles ahead of mom in her math career, made her brown belt last night in karate. You won’t read about it in the Christmas letter. Sorry, Em.
Love and recovery to you; I’ll see you by the fire,