Holidays have a way of creating a magical feeling that rises and rises, increasing in its magical intensity as the holiday draws closer…only not in a good way. It is in a magically bad way. Mounting chaos, stress, anxiety—all of the above—has a way of putting a damper on thankfulness. The good news is that sneaky thankfulness is all around us, not unlike those cold weather virus particles drifting through the air at the grocery store check-out line.
Oh Dear, I Inhaled One Along With That Holiday Magic, Didn’t I?
Well that explains the massive headache I had on Thanksgiving Eve. My sinus’s were pounding against the walls of my skull, being quite unreasonable. Sinus passages are troublemakers.
Nothing more than troublemakers, I grumbled as I looked down at my to-do list. I was going to make pies in advance, but I felt too terrible to do anything short of collapsing onto the kitchen floor like a dropped and forgotten bit of pie dough. I would be stepped on mistakenly and take on the impression of a toddler’s footprint, and I would have been okay with that, under the circumstances.
I felt it then, that old friend—holiday magic. The magic is a rising feeling of distress thoughts: How will you get it all done? What if you don’t? This is not what you planned! You can do better! Almost automatically I sucked in a breath of air, as though a built-in body response to counter the chaos.
I wasn’t exactly feeling thankful.
And Then, As The Grinch Once Said…
The Noise! Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise!
The dogs started barking at the deeply offensive decision some neighbor made to walk in front of my house. How dare they? Who did they think they were, walking down a public thoroughfare like that? I felt the dogs’ barks rattle around inside those angry sinus passages, like each bark was making an echo inside my head.
Bark, bark, bark, bark! The echo went on…
Then the floor. Scattered here and there were the signs of children, like bread crumb trails showing what parts of the house the boy and the tot had visited in the last hour. A sprinkle here; a scatter there; whoops—a whole pile spilled right there in the middle of the living room floor.
“Clean up time!” My own voice calling out made another echo inside those sinuses. Clean up time! Clean up time! Clean up…
The children came, like very reluctant crows. A crumb was pecked at here, a crumb pecked at there, but no impressive progress, and in the process there was a great deal of chatter.
“Got you!” The boy crow reached out and did the most offensive thing one can do to a little sister crow—he poked her. An indignant scream immediately followed, along with a chase that would likely have resulted in the dropping of many feathers.
And there was that old friend of mine—that old jerk—holiday magic. The thoughts: No one is listening to me. I have so much to do…
And the thoughts were rising, and rising, and rising, until—deep breath.
(I still wasn’t feeling thankful.)
But Then I Found the Holiday Magic Antidote
Fast forward a few hours to a dark house. My conscious mind had just been dragged by its bootstraps from the lovely happy place of no sinus pain—a deep sleep—back into the real world. I blinked at the room around me, and listened to the sound of the tot’s airways jerking her awake from all that cold season mucus. Cough, cough, cough.
I found her half-asleep, nagged over and over again by that cough. I propped up the pillow and scooped her up around me, wrapping my body around hers.
“I love you,” I whispered, expected the words to fall on deaf ears. Instead, in her half alert state, she whispered back in her darling toddler voice: “I love you too.”
It was such a mature sound for such a tiny person, and as I held her close to me I felt the medicine administered. The antidote was being processed inside me, slowly taking hold. That toxic holiday magic was fading, back to beautiful and normal reality. And there was all that sneaky thankfulness sitting under my nose.
Thank goodness for nights my body forces me to rest instead of standing in a kitchen into the wee hours. Thank goodness for messy houses because they teach children important routines and teach adults patience. And most importantly, thank goodness for little coughs that remind us how important little people are.
Holiday magic be damned; I’m thankful.