I just gotta say it: F#@k Christmas.
You heard me, Glenn Beck, if that is your real name. Come get me Toby Kieth. Yer damn right, Rush Limbaugh, I’m waging a war on Christmas, I am an unapologetic hater of this particular freedom.
Mainly I hate it because it’s left me wrung out and sober. A month of my life shot, with nothing to show for it but a stressed relationship, joint pain and a swollen list of tightly held resentments.
Well, the paychecks were nice. And I did get some fantastic scotch, but that was for my birthday. Which is on the 24th – yet another reason to hate Jesus and his pagan-plagiarizing made-up birthday shopstravaganza.
Nobody gets out clean, this I know. Even if you live your life to ludicrous extremes, if you leave no path untaken, no stupid idea untried, you’re going to leave this earth with regrets. Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Corey Haim, even the giants of history expire wishing they’d done it differently.
Now it’s 1/1/12. New Year’s Day for a few minutes yet, and here I sit with an empty tumbler, a month gone, a toddler and a brand-new full time staff job and I wonder what the hell it is I’m doing with my life.
I’mma pause here to refill my glass. That one I can take off my list, at least.
I work in theater, as I’ve said -tenuous employment at best. And I just got a great job. A great job. Maybe the best possible, in my field, in this town. And it’s a staff gig – benefits, paid time off (I’ve never had paid time off in my 3 decades of life), I know what my schedule’s gonna be a year from now. A great, great job. But my first full show on the roster was the big Christmas one. The moneymaker.
Civilians don’t know what this is. You get your family dressed in their sweaters and go see the Nutcracker, or a Christmas Carol, or the hipster version: Santaland Diaries (you’re not better than anyone, fyi). But us on the other side of the curtain are putting in ridiculous hours, driving our bodies through sickness and exhaustion, hoping our spouses can get the presents bought, the cookies made, the family events juggled while we work our knuckles bloody to get that last damned chorus of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and then drink ourselves stupid to quiet the adrenaline and do the whole thing again in 6 hours because this will pay the rent through February.
And I like my family. I like my kid. I like making cookies and buying into the Christmas crap with the carols and lights and everybody liking each other. But I gave that up because I got this incredible job.
And don’t take this as a disincentive to see Christmas shows. As I said, they pay our rent through February. Go see more of them.
The reason I bring any of this up is to illustrate the choices I’ve made. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m watching my son grow up before my eyes, or it could be all the old Fat Boys records I’ve been listening to lately, but here it is New Years and danged if a fella doesn’t get retrospective.
It’s no unusual thing to wonder if you’ve chosen wisely. Whether your face is melting after drinking from the wrong holy grail, or if you’re swimming in a world of staged festivity and exhaustion while missing a month of your son’s life, you can’t help wondering what could have happened.
I wake up, take the baby for a walk to give mama a break, stumble through my job on adrenaline, donuts, and force of will for 12 hours, go home and clean for another hour or two, sleep interrupted and get up to do it again, I keep the shaking at bay when people are watching, and wonder if anybody truly loves me.
It’s been a rough month, like I say.
Are our lives truly ours? Really? Does anybody actually think they knew what the hell they were getting into when they chose their college? When they accepted the first job offer, the first marriage offer?
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve been following the wrong Tao, falling into things more than consciously choosing, but I just keep trying to find time machines on Amazon, or at least send some sort of mental dope slap back to the 1991 version of myself.
If only I’d listened to that fortune teller carnival machine.
It’s one of my favorite activities lately while on the bus without anything to read, or when the baby falls asleep on me, to imagine my present-day brain in my adolescent body. Think about what I would have changed. Which usually translates to the social networking sites I would have invented or the awesome Kung Fu I would have learned in my teens when my body could handle it.
Or the faint hope that something postable would come of this maudlin nonsense.
But then the baby wakes up. Then I’m focused entirely on making sure he’s eaten, got a dry diaper on, and doesn’t hurt himself.
Then I’m focused on how amazing he is, cross referencing his board books to find pictures of balloons, cats, koalas…whatever’s in fashion.
I’m focused on how he knows the letters A, O, and Q before he can speak.
I wrote before about fatherhood signaling the end of existential angst, but I think it brings about the end of idle nostalgia as well. Ask anybody below the poverty line how much of a shit they give about the state of public funding for French libraries (deplorable, by the way) and you’ll get an idea of what the average father of a toddler thinks about the 80’s. It’s blissfully immediate, the life of the papa.
And honestly, who goes into theater to live a normal life? To work a normal schedule? For every weekday morning I’ve gotten to sleep in. For every educated, fulfilled, fascinating person I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with, I’m going to have to give up a regular holiday. Do the math and I’m still making out on the exchange.
That’s the deal; as much as I may question my choice in career, in romance, in the relative cleanliness of that day’s pants – these are all questions for a man with time to ask questions. Any Buddhist will tell you the virtues of staying present while living your life, and any father will tell you the necessity of staying present while watching a toddler by an escalator.
Dwell too much on the choices you’ve made, and all your return policies will expire.