[I] may be crazy but I'm the closest thing I have to a voice of reason.

24 December 2010

Stealing Tomorrow from Today

I haven't crash landed yet. I haven't crash landed yet.
It's eleven on a Thursday night and it's the 23rd of December, which means that in an hour it's officially Christmas Eve Day. And tomorrow I will be fine with that. But tonight, well tonight I had to steel myself against that feeling. You know the one, everybody who's single does. I was married for, literally, half my life and so this experience of steeling myself against feeling the envy of coupledom during a holiday was new, but it passed quickly. A glass of wine. A phone call from a girlfriend. Poof. Turns out I’m cool with the single-at-Christmastime thing. Sweet. But that still blue quiet ghost of Christmas passing even as it squats as a fat tree in the living room window, *that* feeling I have known my life long. And it was that feeling which surprised me today.

This year I am giving myself the gift of a family-free Christmas. Point of fact, I have given myself a completely family-free holiday season altogether, Thanksgiving to New Years, and so far it has been the happiest, most relaxing, and socially satisfying of my life. Bar none. And that's saying something, because as a child, I had the brief and happy experience of a Norman Rockwell Christmas. Really. It wasn't a Norman Rockwell family I grew up in, but at Grandma and Grandpa's house on the holidays it was perfect. Everything from my velveteen dress, sewn by my grandmother, to the tiny tinkle of bells on the tree and the tray of dates, figs, and old world fruitcake, everything was perfect. Not picture book perfect. Happy. There was love in every detail. Every year. It is the only sweet thing from childhood that I miss. Every year.

But that feeling I mentioned? That still blue quiet ghost of Christmas passing even as it squats as a fat tree in the living room window feeling? Yeah, that feeling is the hollow Christmas cavern I have inhabited every holiday season since. It’s the feeling of living on the outside of one’s skin, floating just above a bloodless interior, a kind of anemia of the emotions; the perfect antidote for fear. Terror is an overused word, so is hell, and those Christmases with my perfection-driven bipolar mother and new dad are long past. As an adult, when I went to my father’s home that first Christmas, I was surprised to find the feeling waiting for me there, a tiny hitchhiker in my belly. And it was there, again, with my step dad and his new wife, with my in-laws, with my auntie-mom, and now, with my sisters and their families. The hollow travels with me like a rig with an empty vial; needle, no morphine. But this year, given the pleasure I have experienced in the holidays so far, well, I guess I imagined that I had escaped that feeling.

I tell myself I won’t mess up again. I try to fix it good. I try to patch it up. I’ve got a a manual that tells me how we have to look... Why don’t you let it go, let it go, let it go?

Tomorrow night I imagine I will be feeling the joy of sitting on my ass watching a marathon of Criminal Minds while I eat yummy high-fat and even-higher-sugar foods. But tonight I can hear the psychologist saying, when I tell him it is only television that can reliably calm me, television that helps me to close my eyes to sleep, “You like crime shows?” he says, “Why is that?” Because the television is a syringe and the crime show is morphine, a perfect high wherein the ugliness of non-Rockwellian reality is subdued by good guys with guns.

This year I’ve given myself the gift of a Christmas without baggage, but come the New Year my resolution is to slay the dragon. Not morphine, not heroin, pain; my body is addicted to pain. It comes of a life lived in the grip of a post-traumatic stress that just never took the hint. A permanent couch surfer. I’m thinking that when it hits the road I might be able to crawl back inside my own skin. I might even like it there.

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