Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Driving myself crazy

This little ornament has been with me a long time, and every year when I pull it out of the box, I remember with crystal clarity the night my then-boyfriend, now-husband gave it to me. The year was 1987. I was in my 3rd year of college. I was taking a political science class. I hated political science. I don't even remember what this particular political science class was called, but I do remember that I had a semester-long research project to compare and contrast the socioeconomic and political developments of Chile and Argentina from, like, the beginning of time to the present day (well, the 1980s at any rate) in a 20-page term paper. It was assigned in September and due in mid-December, and in a spectacular display of massive procrastination and utter stupidity, I put this project on the backburner all term, thinking I had plenty of time, until suddenly it was the beginning of December, I had done no work on it, and I realized I was in deep, deep doo doo.

For two weeks I didn't sleep. This was before the Internet, before online library catalogs, even. I practically moved into the library. I'd hunt through the card catalog, write down call numbers, and race to the shelves, only to find the books I needed weren't there. I was a wreck. I was so unhappy with myself. I was so scared.

I managed to find enough books to do the research. I read and took notes, read and took notes, for days. Then I started to write. I didn't really understand what I was writing, but I was putting words on paper and desperately hoping they sounded coherent. Word processing was still relatively new-fangled back then, and not something I was comfortable with. I couldn't compose at a keyboard. I would have had to go to a computer lab to do that, and that wasn't something I wanted to do. Instead, I sat in a study carrel in the library, or at the dining room table in my apartment, and wrote my term paper long hand in a spiral notebook. I cried a lot. I cursed myself. I snapped at people I loved. I didn't sleep. I ate things that were bad for me.

When the wretched thing was finally written, it was far from being done because I still had to type the beast, complete with footnotes and a bibliography. The deadline was only 10 hours away when I loaded my first page into my typewriter. I was facing a long, dark night. I was exhausted. I felt so defeated. That's when there was a knock at my door. It was my honey, coming over to cheer me up. He gave me a hug and handed me a box. Inside was the little penguin ornament. I took it out of the box, looked at its cute face and its tiny popsicle, and I burst into long, heaving sobs. I felt unworthy of such thoughtfulness. Boyfriend/husband left me alone to type, but I perched the penguin on my typewriter, and he kept me company all night long.

I turned my paper in, almost on time, and received a very good grade. It was a miracle. I still don't know how I did it. Getting it done was complete misery, misery of my own making, I might add!

Every year I am reminded of that term paper ordeal when I find my little penguin ornament. (I love him, but the sight of him makes me slightly sick!) This year I realized that I go through a similar ordeal every single fall. In September, I start thinking about all the great things I want to do for the holidays. I want to go see a live show in the big city, I want to go to all the craft shows, I want to drive around and look at lights, I want to make my own cards and make everyone a handmade gift and try new crafting skills and bake tons and tons of cookies. But then suddenly it's the middle of December and I realize that I haven't done most of the things I wanted to do. Do I start rushing around like a mad woman trying to get it all done, or do I just feel happy with what I have managed to accomplish and enjoy the season? I usually choose to shrug it off and enjoy the season, but I will admit to feeling a small sense of disappointment that I can't seem to live up to my own expectations!

This blog is a case in point. I had lots of ideas for tutorials and other fun seasonal posts, but I find myself not posting them, because posting takes time, and I have so many things I want to be doing right now. I find that I have to forgive myself for not yet sharing my candy cane ornament idea, or my sock snowman tutorial, or some of my favorite recipes. I wanted to get it all out there in plenty of time for other people to read before Christmas, but I don't think it's going to happen!

I am not going to fret that I haven't yet done it all, that I haven't yet blogged it all. I have decided I'll get to it when I get to it. So, if you see posts here about candy cane ornaments in January, you'll know why. And if those posts show up before then, well, good for me!