Thursday, December 25, 2003

So this is Christmas...

And so it is. I spent it with family, including my stepbrother Dan, whom I hadn't seen in at least a couple of years, and my sister and nephew Alec who is six. I get so tired in the winter, and after present opening and breakfast this morning, had to go home and take a nap before dinner. Luckily, I live two blocks from my mom and stepdad, so that was possible without disrupting anyone else's schedule. Plus, there were other people who were in dire need of a daily nap. After two days with my six year old nephew, Dan seemed to be waning in energy and patience as well. Dan has a hotshot job as a executive news producer, and I never cease to be amazed at his driven attitude toward his work.

I wasn't ready for the holidays this year. Last year, it felt like Christmas. This year, it crept up on me like a crafty fox and I just wasn't ready for it. Sure, I bought gifts for everyone, but I wasn't emotionally ready for such intense family contact.

I've never been a fan of New Year's Eve, so I don't fret over that one. But Christmas always harbors so many expectations. Not for me, but I worry if I will meet them for someone else. Those worries come during awkward stances in the hallway as you say goodbye to relatives because all you want to do after the constant activity is go home and sleep. Feeling guilty for not having more energy, but on the walk home realizing that those around you were just as tired and that the conversation that would ensue were you to stay, has already been had.

Alec my nephew, was rambunctious and talkative as always, demanding attention and energy I just didn't have that day. I could do spurts with Alec, but it's always more, more, and I just didn't have more. My energy peaks later, just as most people are winding down, and getting up at 8:00am and enduring a cold walk to their house in the morning had assured me the need for a nap in the afternoon. I bought Alec the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD for Christmas, and we all watched and laughed again. Unfortunately, my mom's DVD player kept freezing, so Dan only got to see half of it before we gave up. Johnny Depp's delivery just can't be appreciated to its fullest when the movie freezes for a few seconds every three minutes. We tried the second DVD of Pirates, that I'd bought for my mom, and it had the same problems. Too bad, because we were all enjoying it.

Speaking of the holidays and family brings me to this past Thanksgiving. I went to visit my grandmother at her assisted living home here in Baltimore. She moved to Baltimore to be closer to my mom and Jack, and to my uncle Robin, her son who lives in Salisbury. It's a nice place with a nice decor, private rooms, and the inhabitants are well taken care of. It should be, as it's one of the pricier ones.

When I entered the lobby, she was sitting in one of the chairs and craned her neck around to see me. She'd been waiting there for awhile, the staff told me, very excited that I was coming to visit. So, when the automatic doors swung open and I walked in, she was so happy that she could hardly contain herself in her chair. Upon seeing her, I realized how my mere presence could mean so much to another person. She's incredibly frail, and can't feel the bottoms of her feet, so she has to walk with a walker and take a minute after she stands up to gain her balance. I'm a teaser, so I tease her and it's funny to see her laugh. This dainty, proper, southern little old lady, gripping my arm as she feels out the floor beneath her and opening up to me with laughter when I dare to go there about her being wobbly.

So, there me and my 87-year-old grandmother were, sitting at our table in the dining room and talking about books, my height, my cats, and occasionally she leaned into me to quietly mention the "bitchy" people that she didn't want to sit with when offered their table.

Beside us, a family sat around a larger round table. They were an elderly couple who were obviously residents, a married couple in their late forties, early fifties, and their two kids, a boy and a girl who were college age. It reminded me of when I was in college, and how important it was to me that everyone knew that I was on my way to greatness. The holidays were a time for me to assure everyone that I was far exceeding expectations. Not in my studies, but in my social status. Part of my time spent with family was to make sure they knew how great I was so they could tell all their friends, then it was hurry back to get to my life that I felt was so important at the time. I was going to go back and create the artistic masterpiece, or back to American Ballet Theatre and mingle with Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, the ABT dancers, Agnes DeMille, (when she was still living), and you name it as far as celebrities and socialites at the parties and galas. I had art galleries to go to and museums to visit. Places to be seen and places to see. Like I said, I was on my way to greatness and time was of the essence. I didn't know then, that I was going about it the wrong way. I was looking toward the company of other's greatness to make me great, casting aside time that should have been spent cultivating and getting to know the gifts that were special to me.

I saw that in these two kids, talking about their college and people in their classes who were yes, like themselves, on their way to greatness. Their tales were different from mine, but looking at them and listening to the way they told it, prompted by parents, reminded me of the same. From what I could tell, they were going to local colleges, but I didn't get the names of the universities. I could tell they were smart kids who wanted to please their parents and like me, let them know that life was "going on" for them. During pauses in my grandmother's and my conversation, I'd listen to them and reflect on myself at that age, going through the college experience where everything seemed so crucial. Like these kids, I was a fountain of information about myself and my goings on, and everything seemed so within grasp. That was because, I was willing to reach out and grab it. However, when it came to trusting myself that I could create it, I was timid.

And now, I'm not timid to create it. And doing so is a much more quiet and personal process. Now, at family gatherings, I don't know what to talk to people about. I can't explain to them what I'm going through, so my life has become about my regression from my career to work in a bookstore, and my battles with depression. People ask, "So, are you okay? Really, are you ok?" and I'm not sure what to tell them. Am I? I ask myself that every morning when I wake up, walking naked into the bathroom and throwing on a robe, pouring cereal into my bowl at a time of day when most people are eating lunch, and taking a shower when most are an hour or two from getting off work. I ask that every night when I go to bed, studying my surroundings and asking how I got here. How this former Victorian mansion in Baltimore came to be my home. An apartment within it that is happy to wrap its arms around me while I try to figure everything out. To house me and my thoughts within its giant rooms and 14-foot-ceilings. I think it's appropriate that the place is so open and loft-like, because right now I take up a lot of "space" and my thoughts and energy need room to swirl. When holidays come around, that happens more, because I'm given a stark reflection in the mirror by those who have known me my whole life and are shown a drastic change. Particularly when my energy fades or I'm not full of stories like I once was. In fact, I'm reluctant to talk about myself. I'm going through something very personal and can't really explain it, so I remain silent for the most part.

Especially when I'm asked if I'm doing okay.

No comments: