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Challenge: Stretched Too Thin

Is is over yet? Are we done?

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Sleigh Bells ring…. Are you listening? On my face, sweat is glistening. A beautiful site, my face is so tight, walking back to pimple covered lands.

It is always a sign of chaotic times when my body opts to return the comfort T-Zone of my hormonal, oily, teenage years. If you see me in public and wonder why I’ve opted for small Christmas lights dotting my chin and forehead, just know that it wasn’t intentional. To the teens in my audience, if you’re wondering whether you will ever stop being surprised by sudden onset pimple fests, the answer is I’m sorry, no. Just kidding, I doubt there is a single teen in my audience once you remove the two that live in my home and use each blog as a Mom’s Mood Measurer.

I don’t mean to sound like a quitter, but I know when I’ve been defeated. It’s fine. Though I’d have loved to write a pre-Christmas blog about the magic and wonder in my soul, it would be less accurate than my current reality. Instead, I will write about the size of the trophy I’ll be handing to The Year of 2021 when I concede victory in just a few short blessed days. It will be a tall trophy with dozens of dents. I’ve decided to take out this shiny brass monster with a hammer for each infraction the year threw at us. I hope I don’t break it. Just kidding, I hope it turns out as misshapen and worn and tired as I have.

Friday was my last official day of work for the year (my real job, not my pretend job as a writer that I may, in fact, be better at than my real job). If there were a way to express how GODDAMN GOOD AND READY I am for the break, I would write it in bold, italic all-caps. I was recently thinking back to last December when I thought I was exhausted. I thought back and I laughed and laughed. I thought I knew fatigue when the holidays of 2020 rolled in. It turns out, that was just the preview to this year’s exit ramp. Did I scoff at the many trials and tribulations of 2020? Yes. What an innocent little fduck I was. Did I spend a lot of 2020 absorbing the oddity of living through that once-in-a-lifetime-it’s-just-a-few-months pandemic year? Sure. Did I spend a lot of that time picking through the muck to find the silver linings and proceed to dribble them out to friends, family, and readers with loads of encouragement and life lessons? Yes. For the overload of words of hope and kindness and everything will be fine, I do apologize. I did not know that I should have saved all that gooey bullshite for 2021. Apologies again. I didn’t know.

Lest you think the conclusion of my working year will lift any weight off my shoulders, no, it will mostly not. I did have some career trials and tribulations over the last twelve months but, truthfully, my throne of an office chair was actually the most consistent, stable part of my 2021 life. There were countless crazed weekends loaded with unexpected loops on life’s roller coaster which caused me to arrive at Sunday night with a feeling of oh, thank goodness, all I have to do tomorrow is babysit the entire customer database and not cause any security issues with the federal government. There were rarely any Monday morning anxiety laden stomach flips as I approached my ma’am cave nor were there great hopes of a lottery win. Instead, for much of 2021, my desk served as a safe space.

Before I go on, please do not take this as a request for sympathy, empathy, or any of the other signals of shared feelings. Admitting defeat has not bruised my ego or damaged my worth or given me a misguided motivation to do better next year (thank gawd). This may be the first time ever in my life that admitting defeat has come with a sense of relief. Either I’m really growing up (thank gawd) or the silver lining is a newly developed ability to shrug off the wonder of whether the universe is conspiring to come for me (thank gawd). And that’s not a woe-is-me statement, it’s just the way the year panned out.

A few weeks ago, my husband flopped down on the couch in my office (the one reserved for my fourth career as an armchair psychologist) and sighed, I just don’t know why I’m so tired all the time. I’d actually been thinking the very same thing. We’d just finished a weekend of volleyed vocal jabs disguised as crankiness. His timing was perfect. I had just put the final row on a spreadsheet that I’d opted to create in an effort to figure it all out. Why was I so tired? Why was I so snippy? Ah, yes, make a spreadsheet, Jyl, that will make you feel better. And it did. I’d gone back through our family calendar to find all the pins that we hadn’t expected to be pricked by during the circus of 2021. Trips to the emergency room (plural), reactions to vaccines (plural), moving family members (plural) who had not prepared to move (plural) even with months (plural) of notice, calls for an ambulance (plural), the unexpected loss of loved ones (plural), family and friends hospitalized (plural), an implosion at college, an implosion in the hot water heater closet, an explosion of wisdom teeth, a dog with a broken leg, an explosion of a jacks motor, a flat tire here, an oil leak there, and, well, yeah. At last check, we were up to 52 rows of unwanted events covering the end Sophomore Year of the Pandemic. The end? Yes.

The real gut check was the discovery that all but four of those events took place after August 16th.

Why am I so tired? Why am I so snippy?

Oh, yes, now I see. It was our year to be those people. You know the ones - they’ve always got something going on. They’ve always got a story to outdo your story. They’ve also got drama or trauma or a comma (but no stopping point in their tales). Yes, this was our year to fill that annoying societal role. I toned down the sharing midway through the second half of the year. I could see the looks on peoples’ faces when I would begin to relay the latest and not-so-greatest. I had become that person. I know that the looks weren’t formed from a place of unkindness, it was just that my tales really were starting to sound far-fetched and unbelievable. Trust me, I totally got it. I could hardly believe them myself.

I also stopped throwing my hands in the air with a what’s next? I had no idea that asking that would be taken as an invitation. What’s next? Oh, yes, step right up onto this Treadmill of Trouble!

This lengthy list of laments has been eye opening. We can point to the spreadsheet and see the answers. Why am I so tired? Why am I so snippy? There, it’s right there in black and white. At some point, we lost track of our easy going, calm, go-with-the-flow sides. This is particularly annoying because I had just, just, just developed that side in the first year of the pandemic. This is particularly annoying because my beloved husband often isn’t aware that his easy going, calm, go-with-the-flow side has taken a leave of absence. I am not at all ready to give it up just yet, that casual attitude towards a life that often requires juggling and unexpected changes of direction. What’s next? Don’t ask.

I’ve opened a second spreadsheet to peck away at my Christmas list.

  • New drums for the printer as I accidentally threw ours out three days ago when I thought that was how one replaces the toner cartridges. Sorry, Christmas Cards will be late this year as I could not face handwriting the envelopes.

  • A cortisol level that is back down in the normal range rather than the red alert range where it’s lived for the past six months.

  • No corners, please. I do not want anything to peek around in order to preview what is coming. No horizons, either, for events to hide on.

  • A cozy blindfold, perhaps something weighted, in order to hide my now speckled visions of the future.

Do I dare hope that 2022 will show itself very quietly? Arriving as silent as a mouse and remaining as such for the length of the year?

‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through our house, good vibes were asked for by me and my spouse. The stockings were hung from the mantle below, with bottles of wine stuffed from tip to toe.


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