The Bailey’s Conundrum

It is still the season and I am here, living for it. But I have to say that for the past couple days I’ve been somewhat down in the dumps. It’s like pre-holiday blues which are harder to understand than the typical post-holiday blues that always hit me right around Feb. 1, at which point one realizes that there are still six weeks of winter darkness left and the next real holiday is July 4. No, these pre-holiday blues gave me good reason to take a pause today and try to come to grips. It was in that moment of sweet silence (except for the dogs barking inexplicably upstairs), deep in the Chicago gloom that is today, that I realized a phenomenon I’m going to call The Bailey’s Conundrum.

So, here’s the story.

Thanksgiving for me this year was absolutely joyous. I loved every minute of it. I waited for it for a long time and it completely delivered: the food was delicious, it was wonderful to see all the family, we added some new things, I watched the Macy’s Parade in my pajamas…I mean, what a mwah [chef’s kiss] of a day. And then, immediately after, I had the most burnout week I can remember. During 2020 because of the pandemic, I acquired at once 4 jobs which, because of the circumstances, didn’t seem crazy last year. But, because I have no boundaries, this year all coalesced at the beginning of December, 2021, and it was entirely terrible. I ended up with strep throat, burned out on the couch for three days after.

It was precisely during that week and the strep throat week after, likely as a comfort measure, that I started a mental lookbook of all of the Christmas glory that would ensue after that week of stress and struggle. My tree would look glorious. It would get colder and I could snuggle up on the couch with Little June and watch Harry Potter movies. I would buy the best presents for my family, cook myself warm cozy meals, and drink Bailey’s in my coffee and it would be delicious and make my life so good.

We can probably see where this is all going but, last night, a full week after my recovery, here I sat at home with a half-decorated with mismatched lights, underwhelming tree in 50 degree weather, windows open, watching Hot Ones re-runs on YouTube and fully believing that the whole pastiche in my mind wasn’t together yet because I didn’t have the Bailey’s. So I Instacarted that up, paid the delivery fee, and set my sights on today when the dream would be realized.

I just had my Bailey’s in coffee…the moment had finally arrived…and it was fine. In fact, it was disappointing. On a grand scale. Because now it’s 55 degrees, the tree is still half-decorated with new lights not coming until tomorrow, and I almost quit my job. Where’s the pastiche?

In light of my discussion yesterday, I can now see the problem, of course. It was never the Bailey’s. I was hinging my whole sense of happiness and content, first, on material things or expected visceral feelings and, second, I had completely discounted the work it takes to get to that glorious end. What I really wanted was for the Bailey’s to actually render everything in my vision. Instead, the cold, hard, reality is that I have to create my vision, I can’t just wait for it to appear. Even Christmas magic needs conjuring.

So, I’m regrouping. I have my plan. I’m going to baby-step this too: some lights on the windows today, some Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban today, some chore doing to clear the way for a gloriously decorated house today, some(more) Bailey’s in the coffee today.

It’s a matter of right sizing the expectations and building up the momentum to get to that final vision. I suppose.

It’s so much more fun to imagine it as completely done, though, am I right?

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