Normally, it's pretty easy for me to build up a head of steam and some excitement about Christmas. What's not to like? Pretty lights, time off of work with people and dogs I love, an excuse to spoil those people and dogs with gifts and food. It sounds lovely.
But when you're the mom of the family, it also sounds like a lot of work--those lights, gifts, and special moments don't happen without some preparation and planning and this year . . .well, I'm pretty darn crispy.
See, last school year, I worked two jobs at the same time because my school district decided that one teacher could teach both children physically in the room and children attending class from home via zoom at the same time, with no change in pay or other responsibilities. People left the profession in hoards.
But I didn't. I'm back in the classroom this year, but I'm a shell of my self and struggle with energy and empathy exhaustion.
I did my best to give myself recovery time. I didn't take any summer teaching work despite HUGE pressure to do so, and I kept my writing life low-commitment, too. But seven weeks off didn't do it, and I started the school year still burnt-out from last year.
So, as holidays approached, my feeling about them was more exhausted-before-I began than excited.
Years ago, we decided that instead of nightly gifts, we'd do nightly family activities, sitting by our candles and remembering what we do this for. The eldest was able to join us for first and eighth night this year, quite a coup in her final year of college crazy-times. We baked, drew, listened to music, played games, and watched movies. One night though, we had to declare "introvert night" where we spent time ignoring one another and going to our separate corners.
My latkes were perfect this year, and we started a new tradition of JFC (Japanese fried chicken). The prayers and candles still brought me a peaceful contentment.
Then, we started making the shift into Christmas, and . . . I just wasn't feeling it. Even as I ticked things off my list in anticipation of all the good times (Christmas Eve pajamas, stocking stuffers, once-a-year treats), it felt like stress management more than joy.
So I decided to turn to books to save me. Up until Christmas, I'm reading only holiday-themed books. Here's what I've read so far: a mix of nonfiction, classics, and romance.
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