I was laying in bed with a head cold napping on and off while my three kids destroyed the house and watched TV. There were many instances where a kid would burst into my room to tell me that they were bored. They were all fighting over the iPad. My son was crying about the Wii that has been broken for months. I thought of the long winter months ahead with dread.
I got the idea to get them a Nintendo Switch for Christmas. How excited would they be?? Despite my efforts, two out of three of my kids are obsessed with video games and technology; they would be over the moon! I opened the Target app and they were sold out at every store. I noticed they were having a sale the following week on them, so I figured they would have some in stock the following day. I woke up for no good reason at 2 am, as anxious insomniacs tend to do, and remembered the Switch. I checked my phone and sure enough, it had been restocked. Added to my cart and checked out — score! I texted some fellow insomniac friends the exciting news and got up to use the bathroom. As soon as I got out of bed a tidal wave of anxiety took over. I couldn’t place its cause but I felt my body and mind quickly crumble to the waves of a panic attack — overwhelming nausea, an elephant on my chest, skin-crawling dread.
Living with anxiety sucks. However, for all the things in life I handle questionably, I am thankful that when anxiety hits my impulse is to scream and reach out for help from friends. In those moments I can feel like a disoriented toddler who has woken up from a nightmare crying and looking for mom to comfort them. It’s like my body and mind send off a siren “Help! I cannot do this breathing thing! Someone else take over, please! I’m drowning in my own mind! Help!” I impulsively texted a friend that I was having a panic attack. Thankfully my closest of friends don’t sleep either and he responded right away “Don’t panic, are you okay?” I couldn’t figure out what was causing me to feel so crappy so I started rambling off the potential causes for my anxiety as “Money? Apocalypse? Dude I’m dating? My messy house? I do not feel okay.” Then I laid back down and closed my eyes, still being plummeted by the waves of anxiety and too disoriented by them to figure out what was causing them.
When we were a family of five we didn’t do Christmas how many Americans did. There was never a Santa or an Elf on the shelf. In the younger years, there were second-hand toys, but the number of gifts consciously dwindled every year in an attempt to trade the commercial in for the connection. We were never perfect, but we were always making efforts to minimize our environmental and economic impact. Then, divorce happened and the snow globe that was our life was picked up and shaken with vigor. Man, that single parent guilt is a force to reckoned with. The kids had been though so much, we broke their family, what’s the harm in covering those wounds with some spoiling? Some gifts? I am also ashamed to admit that two separate Christmases for my kids meant ugly thoughts for this adult “I want their favorite Christmas to be the one they had with me.” I was once a passionate environmental activist, but single parenthood suffocated much of that flame for many reasons.
I laid in bed, my mind racing. It was mostly clear that this purchase brought on this anxiety, but I couldn’t put my finger on what part of it had set it off. I think, in part, because I didn’t want to face the fact that I had abandoned by own moral compass and caved to traditions I had already walked away from. The Switch encompassed everything I once stood against during the holidays. It was expensive, it put money into the pockets of millionaires (billionaires?) who are way more interested in their bottom line than the earth’s rock bottom. It was a high tech device in my home that I like to keep fairly manual … but the kids! The kids would be so happy — it would be amazing and magical for them my mind pushed back.
The longer I laid there thinking of all the reasons we gave up doing Christmas gifts years ago, the more clear it became. I felt like my old self was peeking through the cracks, and God I missed her. For the first time in a long time, I felt at peace with the non-gift centered traditions we have created for our family. I visualized Christmas morning, and then I visualized January, February, March. I would much rather those cold(er) post Christmas months be spent buried in books, or being forced to go to get out in nature because we don’t have a video game to fix our boredom. It may not be easier, but for my heart, it is better. Christmas will come, and cinnamon rolls in our matching PJs, while we exchange an underwhelming gift or two before watching Christmas movies at 8 am, is enough. It is more than enough. There isn’t a Christmas gift in the world that is worth our peace of mind. I canceled my order and cuddled up to the bed-hogging five-year-old who was next to me, and I felt free.