'Tis the season of expected - and unexpected - gifts.
There are the many - too many - gifts currently squirreled away in
closets that will be opened on Christmas morning, the ones that have
arrived from Amazon and Zappos and anyplace else with free shipping.
Most of them requested, known about ahead of time, expected. Still
wonderful, hopefully. Still bringing a little bit of joy to those we
Our abundance expands to embarrassing heights this time of year, no matter how much I try to limit it. We are filled to the brim with gifts of every kind.
Including the unexpected gifts.
It's never the things I expect that bring me Christmas joy.
Going to a farm to cut down our live Christmas tree? Turned ugly when Z threw a volcanic fit about not getting enough hot chocolate and I seethed the entire drive home.
Trimming our tree? Included more fights, whining and broken ornaments than joy.
But then I got a lovely shock: Z, who last year left a ballet performance in hysterics just as it started because it was too dark, the room had no windows and the ballet might include "mean people", watched a full-length Nutcracker, with stars in her eyes and a whispered question on her lips every two seconds. She's hardly talked of anything else since.
And thank goodness for the unexpected joy of watching my Santa-hat wearing girls traipse through Target choosing toys for the Toys For Tots bin. I expected: fits about not getting the toys themselves. I got: my girls talking about what other kids might like and how much fun it was to buy gifts for other kids.
I almost missed signing up for Doing My Best's brilliant Crappy Day Present exchange. I sometimes read blog posts through my reader in the glowy haze of 6:27 am when I'm
wrapped in a gigantic fuzzy bathrobe, so big it seems to extend all the
way up to my brain. That damn bathrobe blurs all possible thought and action and usually prevents comments on your blog posts.
But I did sign up for this awesome adventure and I got to drop off a package to a local friend/blogger on a day I knew deserved a crappy day package and it felt so good.
Then I promptly forgot that I was going to get one myself, until one day last week, when this arrived from Devan.
It was a normal day, really, and actually a pretty nice one. But as soon as the package arrived, as if on cue, the girls started to squabble and it only took two minutes of listening to them to decide I was allowed to open - and consume most of - a chocolate bar. (Dark! With sea salt!)
Yes. That's better.
I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of the presents after that. I mean, it is so close to Christmas, it isn't like I have to wait very long for gifts. I feel a little guilty about this mound of presents that are all just for me.
These presents feel so different than any other presents. They were given to me, yes, but then I
chose to give them to myself. And not when I'm usually inclined to
give things to myself, on the days when I'm feeling flush, happy,
generous with everything and everyone, myself included. I'm supposed to wait for a crappy day and give myself a package.
Is this a crappy enough day? What about today? Does today warrant a little pampering? My answer is usually no.
Whenever I'm having an actually, truly, verifiably crappy day? I don't think I deserve a present. There is a menacing voice in my head that says if I'm having a crappy day it's all my fault and I should suffer.
Oh ho ho! All this guilt and I'm not even a little bit Catholic!
In my head, it's not that there aren't days that are crappy enough, it's that I'm not good enough.
When E started coughing and sniffling last week, I assumed it was a cold. Oh well. Hopefully it will pass soon.
But by Friday her cough turned into a vicious bark and her temperature
rose. So I took her to the doctor, just in case it was something
treatable so we could nip it in the bud before our busy week of shopping and cooking and socializing and, most importantly, the arrival of my parents for Christmas.
An hour and a half later, E was diagnosed with RSV and we were advised to keep her away from
people, especially babies, and probably my dad, who's suffering with
recurrent bronchitis and crippling headaches after three years of lung and brain cancer treatments.
my plans for a busy, social week before Christmas rolled over and
died. No school for E. No attending school holiday celebrations for E or Z. No gym classes for me. No date nights. No visits with our friends' new baby. No shopping, grocery or Christmas. And, worst of all, possibly no visit from my parents.
I let myself be very, very sad. But after a few days, a different feeling crept up, something like relief. I can't run around town shopping, dragging E in tow. We can't go to all of these events we've been invited to.
The sudden curtailing of our week was sad, yes, but also, at the risk of sounding like a total Pollyanna, a most unexpected gift.
On a crappy day this weekend, when I hadn't been my Oprah-worthy Best Self or even her half-way decent second cousin, I opened a Crappy Day Present.
As I opened it, I could feel the bad feelings well up. You don't deserve this. You just overreacted with the girts and could have done this and that and THAT so much better.
I put my makeup brushes into my pretty new makeup bag and I put my new mud mask on the side of the sink for use at bedtime and I put those thoughts out of my head.
Because I deserve these unexpected gifts. All of them.
You do, too.