Hard Candy Christmas Eve (Eve)

December 23rd: I love this evening, every year. 

New York city softens. She quiets down. Except for when laughter ripples through my building, welcoming whichever new family rolls their suitcases in to stay, the air is emptier.

I spent much of the day playing with images and quotes and rereading passages and smiling at god knows what, then buckled down for hours of focused work, forcing myself to sit until a large task was through. Chinese delivery for dinner, laundry, fifteen-minute clips of cheesy Christmas movies, cleaning for my short trip home in the morning, and here I am: tipsy and tired, with all clean and quiet around me, muted orange light outside my window and the pale glow of colors within. I am happy. Content. With nothing to give tomorrow other than my time, and me.

This is always my favorite evening of Christmas, this anticipatory night. When I’m alone and the world is aglow. I know the next two days will be a bustle of energies and food and expectations mingling with alcohol and music and laughter and empty silences. But tonight is mine.

Christmas Eve: I woke early to “hustle” to Connecticut, but find myself lazy and delaying; there’s no way I’ll be out of here in the next thirty minutes. But I set my sights at an early go time, anyway, and the ease I feel at the delay makes me think of a particular passage of time, with gratitude.

I often mourn for the person I was in my twenties, because she was healthier and stronger, much more active and energized and free to be whoever the hell she wanted to be. The me of my thirties has had to be restricted, contained, held back; if I don’t, I burn out and feel sicker and then am nothing and no one. And so I miss the old me, the one that felt truer to who I am at my core. Unafraid. Bold. Pushing out into the world.

But she was also under so much pressure, mostly from herself. There’s no way she would be luxuriating in the quiet of this morning, sipping her coffee and journaling away instead of pushing pushing pushing to pack up the crates of cookies and bins of presents she’d prepared for the holiday. She’d be overwhelmed, and exhausted, and rushing. Fulfilled and “happy”, yes. But if she wasn’t moving, she was feeling guilty for sitting still. Which is how she ended up here; she never stopped, no matter how many times her body stopped on her. And her body won.

Many people believe that people don’t change. I don’t buy that.

I used to be a hyper-extrovert. Someone who craved drama and adventure. Who needed constant stimulation. Who made rash decisions and overworked herself to the bone and couldn’t quiet her own thoughts. Who gave into the whims of what her body craved in the moment, no matter how healthy or unhealthy.

With time, and intention, I changed much of that. Yes, out of necessity. But through recognizing my choices and learning more and more about my body over the course of 20+ years, I’ve been able to constantly retrain my brain and body for stronger and healthier habits. There’s much I can’t control about my life — and wouldn’t try to — but the things that will make me a calmer, stronger, more humble and grateful human being… those I’ll work to change for myself.

This Christmas, I’m headed home to Connecticut without a single present. Which, honestly, does make me sad; mostly the absence of a holiday ornament for my mother, and a tie for my father (I think they may be getting “Happy Valentine’s Day Early” gifts, honestly…). I do miss not having beautiful cookies to share… just a touch.

But I feel particularly excited to cook with my grandparents, and hug my mother, and celebrate with my father, and listen to my siblings’ stories, and just be together… my family has had a very, very rough year.

And that makes my heart feel full, and present.

The title was snatched from Dolly Parton’s HARD CANDY Christmas, which has been coming up in my Christmas playlist a bunch this month. Sometimes in tiny moments of melancholy, but more when feeling like I should feel melancholy, yet don’t. In either mood, it’s a gorgeous song, from one of those awesome 80’s movies it felt scandalous to get to wach: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

“Hard Candy Christmas”

Hey, maybe I’ll dye my hair
Maybe I’ll move somewhere
Maybe I’ll get a car
Maybe I’ll drive so far
They’ll all lose track
Me, I’ll bounce right back
Maybe I’ll sleep real late
Maybe I’ll lose some weight
Maybe I’ll clear my junk
Maybe I’ll just get drunk on apple wine
Me, I’ll be justFine and Dandy
Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

Hey, maybe I’ll learn to sew
Maybe I’ll just lie low
Maybe I’ll hit the bars
Maybe I’ll count the stars until dawn
Me, I will go on

Maybe I’ll settle down
Maybe I’ll just leave town
Maybe I’ll have some fun
Maybe I’ll meet someone
And make him mine
Me, I’ll be just

Fine and dandy
Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

I’ll be fine and dandy
Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas
I’m barely getting through tomorrow
But still I won’t let
Sorrow bring me way down

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