There are four days until Christmas. I know this because the calendar proclaims it. But I don’t feel it. We just decorated the tree last night. Trying to do so with a toddler whose first word was ball (who believes that surely, these pretty balls must also bounce) is wholly difficult. I want to feel happy. I want to share in the exuberance and wonder and magic that is Christmas that excites my girls so. Yet, not even Nat King Cole has made me look forward to my traditional late-night wrapping fest (while sipping tequila) (preferably by the fire)).

I’ve been listening to 97.1 all month trying (albeit half-heartedly) to muster up some kind of holiday happiness. Needless to say, my lackluster attempt is yielding lackluster results. And while I am happy overall, (I count my blessings for having a home, healthy children, a job, and a husband I still get goosebumps over), I cannot shake this “who gives a damn” feeling about this holiday season. I suppose I go through this every year (thinking of the homeless, the depressed, the wounded, the sick and shut in). I question the commercialness of the holiday, the emphasis on gift giving. On the surface, I am rather proud that my husband and I don’t exchange gifts anymore; it’s all about the kids (which I think actually stemmed from us just being unable to spend on ourselves one year). At the same time though, if I’m truly honest with myself, way deep down in the crevices of my heart, I do still kinda wanna see his face as he opens something thoughtful from me (wondering if I could ever top that Gordon Gartrelle with anything store bought).

This year, though, is profoundly different. I find myself feeling much more confused than usual. I know the culprit too: Money. That bastard. We’ve never really gotten along. Early in the year I thought we might reconcile, but at the close of the year, after twists and turns, highs and welfare office lows, I feel hornswoggled by Money. Oh, it can be charming. It can make you think it’s here to stay like a first love. It can make you think you won’t survive with less (but ultimately, you will; it’s just an arduous climb and incredibly hard won). Mid-year I thought I had the tenacity to fight Money and win. At year end though, I am not so sure it can be defeated. There will always be more needed than is had. Frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it all: the gas bill, the light bill, groceries, gas, car notes, daycare. I don’t even want to think about college for the kids. And how dare I consider having another. Where will it even sleep?

I still wonder why I don’t have better money management skills. I remember Life Skills being a class in high school where they taught us to balance a checkbook. Outside of that, my parents didn’t offer words of wisdom like always have a nest egg. Sure, Suze Orman is telling me now, but where was she when I was 25? To my mother’s credit, she did sock away a hefty chunk of her salary to her 401K. And she lost all but a few thousand when MCI crumbled. Kinda makes you wonder why we even bother. My father, nearly 70, is financially stable. I don’t want to not get there until my mid-50s though.

I suppose that overall, this holiday season is forcing me to question necessities. Do I buy Liv dolls or the less expensive Barbies? Do I take my bonus and pay a bill on time (and in full for once) or actually get something off of their Christmas lists that they have been told not to expect? Do I buy new boots or continue to wear the ones that don’t quite fit and make me feel like I’m wearing ankle weights? Do daddy and I exchange gifts or make crayon-lettered cards on paper pilfered from the office that simply say Merry Christmas – even if Money never stays around, I’m glad you do? Why, at 37, am I even having to answer these questions? (Screaming): Why didn’t I make better decisions? Well, merry fucking Christmas to me.

And then I reread this and kick myself for actually complaining when again, I have so many things that so many people desire. I’m just having to work harder at maintaining them. I still believe, even in the midst of hating Money, that we will be all right. Things will turn around and we will once again live in comfort (instead of waking up checking to see that the car is still outside). When that comfort returns, though, I’ll have to be cognizant of all the things I did at 27 that got me to this point at 37.

Perhaps Christmas at 38 will be better.

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