Friday, December 17, 2010

A Donkey's Christmas

Well, here it is: Black Friday.
Apparently, this is what today is known as in the hospitality trade as one of the busiest days of the year, when venues are packed to the rafters with drunken carousers on office Christmas 'do's'. The Husband is going to his second one today, and had the ill-grace to complain that he didn't really want to go as 'he had a lot on' and 'could have done with a full day at work and come home at the normal time'. Really? R-E-A-L-L-Y? Not a good thing to say to someone who hasn't had a sniff of a works do for years, nor the prospect of one in the near future. I actually used to really enjoy them - probably because I got on well with most of my colleagues and actually miss that sort of non-complicated work-based relationship, you know the one where you discuss work, life, kids, holidays without the feeling that you have to pursue the friendship any further than those friendly chats at the table, in the pub, or over a desk.
I am not very good at friendship. I am a poor friend. The two close friends I have had died tragically young, one by their own hand during a severe bout of depression, the other of a cancer almost certainly brought on by a rigorous diet of alcohol and cigarettes. I failed both of them near their end - not at all deliberately - but by failing to realise the seriousness of their situations. No empathy, you see?
I'm a pretty poor mother, wife, sister- and daughter-in-law too, if it comes to it.
Nowadays I keep pretty much to myself, but I do occasionally miss having friends.
Actually, I am not totally friendless, having a one-time colleague that I meet on a fairly regular, if sporadic, basis. But our meetings have become much less frequent over the past six months or so largely, I believe, due to pressure of work, but also I think because I am lacks-a-daisical in pursuing friendship. I don't put in the required effort. I don't wish to impose on a hectic life, and I guess that could be construed as remoteness, or lack of caring.

I think I shot myself in the foot a bit on this: They contacted me this week to see if I fancied meeting up for lunch (and it would have been a Christmas lunch of sorts!) but only gave two days notice which, forgive me if I'm wrong, I felt a bit annoyed about. I felt that I was being 'fitted in' and in a tiny fit of self-important pique, I played the 'up-to-my-eyes-in-it' card, which I was...but REALLY! How pathetic!
So - no Christmas meet-ups for me, nor any cards addressed to me in my own right.

So Black Friday it is, and for me it represents the beginning of the White Noise and Shapelessness of the 'festive season'. The children have finished school, and when the Husband rolls in a bit later (neither too late nor drunk, he prides himself on his self-control too much for that!), that'll be it until January 4th when Normal Service resumes. I can feel my sanity spirally rapidly away from me even as I type. Daughter #3 has her boyfriend round: no doubt he will be another regular mouth at the table over the Christmas break, since she seems joined-at-the-hip with him, and has for the past year (he's actually a fine young man, witty and intelligent).
The Bright-Eyed Boy is currently playing on his X-Box, and I envisage even more of the same as the Husband asked the In-Laws for another game for him, and we have one for him too.
I am also exiled from the 'study' where I work on a daily basis during the evenings, weekends and holidays as the 'family computer' is there.
I did set up a 'satellite' study (up in our bedroom), but it all desperately needs dusting and hoovering because housework just isn't being done anywhere in the house at the moment and, really, who wants to sit in one's bedroom during the day?
Additionally, it's north-facing, so rather dismal in the winter months, plus the desk/chair combo gives me fearful back/hip ache.
I keep thinking of things we (don't) need to make the celebrations go with a swing: a nice tablecloth and napkins, crackers, mistletoe, mince pies......and I have a running list to add to and cross off stuff as we go. It seems endless.

I used to have so much more energy for it all than I do now, and I think I must have set a precedent in the past, because I now get asked if we're having mulled wine and baklava on Christmas Eve, or a curry feast with pickles and poppadoms on Boxing Day.
I just can't be bothered to organise any more. I know the Husband would happily do it were I to ask, but why should it be me that instigates, or even thinks to instigate action? Where's the initiative? I do know, by the way, that that is a mealy-mouthed attitude, and all to do 'unknown unknowns', to borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld

In truth, I don't think I did myself any favours by cutting right down on the wine over the past couple of months. Actually, that's not true - I don't get the palpitations or hot flushes half as much nowadays, but mentally I feel much more on edge and tonight I just feel plain gloomy - and not a drop touched! (Nor likely to be either as I am on taxi-duty).
Why do people keep wanting stuff from me?
Why can't they just leave me alone?
If I had my way, I'd curl up in a corner until summer comes.
I know I am becoming more and more isolated as the years go by, but it's just less exhausting that way. Eeyore!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas. Ho ho ho.

Christmas looms ever larger and this year, more than ever before, I feel ambivalent about the whole thing.
I am, I have finally admitted, a pretty unsocial creature: I enjoy my own company, I enjoy reasearching and writing up my PhD, I enjoy a routine of sorts.
I dislike banale conversation - the sort that erupts as people flap their gums to fill the silence, I dislike the mindlessness of television and I dislike chaos.
That's not to say that I sit here surrounded by pencils in a neat row, or that my books are alphabetically lined up on the shelves. Not at all - my 'study' (ahem!) is a model of lawlessness, but it is my lawlessness. Similarly, the plates that are on the work-top in the kitchen, the breakfast pots, are mine. I am not uncomfortable, because I can lay my hands on any volume I like within moments and I will either use my crumpet-plate for my lunch or stack it in the dishwasher.
I can't cope with mess that isn't mine, and there's a lot of it about at Christmas. But if I were to say that shoes and glasses and crumpled paper strewn about made me feel uncomfortable, I would, quite rightly I suppose,be accused of being uptight and pernickety, and lacking festive spirit.

Through general boredom, I also tend to drink rather too much at Christmas - not get steaming drunk, but generally end up feeling below par and somewhat self-disgusted. Ditto eating.
I feel, once the schools close and the Husband finishes work, that I enter a sort of limbo, and I think a lot of people feel like that. Speaking to others it would appear that the first week of Januaryrepresents a real epiphany (no pun intended) and the refrain, spoken with a sigh of relief, is that indeed it was lovely, but it's nice to get back to normal.
Yea, it is that normality that I miss at Christmas. You see, because I work at home, I guess that I subconsciously feel that the house is my territory, and I resent people camping on, and sullying, my patch (yes, I know, how selfish and crass of me, I know it's their home too and I love them all dearly).
I also dislike intensely the expectation that I am responsible for feeding people ("What's for tea?" "You tell me!"), and am slighly nauseated by the constant munching that accompanies Christmas. I do love eating, but not really at home. I am bored by my food, and by the whole process of shopping/cooking.I resent it immensely. And I hate going into the shops and seeing row upon row of coleslaw, mince pies and Quality Street leering at me.

I am depressed by the whole grubby house/home thing which I can ignore during most of the year, but deprived of any mental stimulation, I tend to notice smeary windows and cobwebby corners and feel intense hatred towards them without any motivation or desire to do anything about it.

So I will end up feeling bored, grumpy, slightly ill and resentful. Not a good combination, and not one conducive to cheery fireside evenings.
Every year I scrabble around in an attempt to preserve my sanity, and this year I have a little side-project lined up: to get to grips with the ideas and works of Galen, the Roman physician.
Whether this will prove to be absorbing and fruitful remains to be seen: what I really need are some totally noise-cancelling head-phones so I can block out the TV, but remain, semi-socially, in the room. I am not hopeful.