.journal 2001.12.21
It sure doesn't feel like Christmas.

Now listening to: Delerium, Morpheus
Now reading: Bill O'Reilly, The No-Spin Zone
Now playing: Final Fantasy Anthology (Playstation)

This past Friday was kind of a big day for me. I had an exam first thing in the morning, then right after that I had to turn in the rough draft for my big paper of the term, then do peer editing on a couple of my fellow students' papers. This wasn't the most stressful day of the year for me, academic-wise, but it was pretty high, so I spent a good part of the previous night in study, then went to bed early to make sure I got a good night's sleep.

As is my usual procedure that Friday morning, I got up and took a shower, then wrote in my journal before going downstairs to eat. As I went downstairs, though, I saw that someone had gift-wrapped the painting that the hotel had hung above our bar-like counter, and stuck a big bow on top. When I got all the way downstairs, I quickly noticed that all the paintings hanging on our walls had received the same treatment, save the photo in my bedroom.

I suspect this wrapping was done by my sister, she being the big crafts worker in the family. Later on that weekend, she brought back to the hotel our "tree": a three-foot tall electric doohickey where all the "needles" are fibreoptic wires that emit a continuously rotating array of colours. I recognized it as the same kind of tree that Jeff's friends had in their apartment when I went to their Mystery Science Theatre 3000 party last year. Normally I don't like Christmas trees, but I figure better this than the real kind. Those fibreoptic needles won't fall off, so they can't get stuck in my socks when I'm walking around downstairs.

Christmas is always an odd affair for this family, considering three of the four of us are Wiccan. Certainly we don't embrace the holiday in its religious sense, but then again how many people these days actually do? No, we basically celebrate Christmas as an excuse to bake luxuriant foods and to give each other presents. There is something in the act of giving someone you care about a present that is simply and blissfully good, and if the culture of commercialism wants to twist a Christian holiday around to give us an excuse to have one day just for present-swapping, so be it.

Being positioned near the end of the year like it is, Christmas is also a time to reflect back on the past year, and of course there is all the grand talk about "counting your blessings" and all that, and images of being with one's loved ones flood all aspects of our society. As the days towards Christmas have melted away, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this, and of my own experiences this past year. So is it any wonder I've been even more miserable than usual lately?

There's a part of myself that knows that I should be superbly grateful for the fact that we were all able to get through the fire without anyone getting hurt. And I am grateful for that. But that gratefulness doesn't exactly translate well into happiness. Happiness to me is not just survival; I demand a hell of a lot more out of life than just that. These past few weeks, though, it's felt like every day has just been a matter of surviving to the next, hoping that things get better. But seven months after everything seemed to collapse on me, things don't show any signs of improving.

After the fire, I was told that we could expect to move back to the house around August or so. This was before we knew that there had been a great many fires in Toledo that season, so builders were stretched to the gills trying to get everyone taken care of and we couldn't find builders who hadn't jacked their prices to the roof. August came and went without us even having a contractor, but that situation resolved itself a couple of weeks later when we finally hired one. At that point, we were told that we could probably move back in sometime in early to mid-December, in plenty of time for Christmas. (Although I noted that this would mean I'd be stuck moving back in while trying to study for finals at the same time.)

Well, it's four days before Christmas, and I can tell you that none of us are exactly preparing for the move back. The outside of the house has been completed, and inside all the framing has been completed. The plumbing pipes have been laid out, as have the heating ducts. But the contractor still hasn't been able to subcontract out other elements of the rebuilding like the electricity and all that. (I'm not too terribly familiar with all the various things at play here, just that we're missing more than one infrastructural element that prevents us from putting up the interior walls and getting on with that end of things.) I haven't asked for another "target date" on when we'd be able to move back in, and quite honestly I wouldn't believe any date I was told at this point.

I suppose my first full-time semester at the University of Toledo coming to an end yesterday gave me even more reason to think about this passage of time. Back before the fire, I was still thinking about whether or not to return to school or keep up my full-time working career. When I finally made the decision to go back to college, I was under the impression that I would be back in the house when this term started. Now the term is over, I'm still in this hotel room and I have no clue when I'll be moving back into the house.

Christmas is probably the big reason I'm so upset right now, though. As I've mentioned before, I have only known that one house my whole life, and up until the fire I had never spent more than seventeen days in a row away from that house at any one point. More importantly than that, I've never spent a Christmas away from the house. I've gone up to visit with extended family during the day (back before my extended family became so intolerant of me), but every Christmas day I have woken up in my room, gone into the living room to open presents, then at night gone to bed in my room. That's not going to happen this year, and that just takes the wind out of me.

I guess that's why everyone's Christmas preparations here at the hotel just totally irk me. How can we possibly celebrate a Christmas in a situation like this? All I want to do is hibernate, starting the evening of the 24th and continuing on until the morning of the 26th. Maybe next year, assuming the house is actually finished by then, I'll feel like having a Christmas, but to me trying to celebrate Christmas in these conditions just totally goes against what I feel right now.

Nothing has been worse for me than the constant chiding for my "Christmas list" by my mother. Normally I turn in my Christmas list nice and early so my mother knows what's on it and can make the necessary orders through the links on my homepage so I get the double gift of revenues in addition to the gifts, but when she mentioned how I hadn't turned a Christmas list in, I was like, "Yeah, so?" I hadn't thought about a Christmas list, and I still haven't made one.

Tuesday, after I got done with my exam du jour, I went on a bit of a window shopping spree at Media Play, Best Buy and Toys 'R Us, trying to find things to put on my Christmas list. While I found stuff that I certainly wanted, I couldn't find anything I wanted to put on a Christmas list. The whole idea of getting things this year doesn't feel right to me, as much as I'd like certain things. There's a certain degree of show you put on at Christmas, pretending you like the presents you get when you really don't, but this year it's going to be all show because all I want for Christmas is my house back and for me to be able to spend some time with my best friends, and nobody can make any of those things happen. I'm not going to like anything I get this Christmas, and I'm too depressed to put on a show for anyone when I do get stuck unwrapping things.

I've tried to speak with my mother about this, but she doesn't seem to understand where I'm coming from. She keeps going back to what she wants, but she keeps saying what she wants is for me to be happy. I keep explaining to her that what I want is to just pretend that 2001.12.25 doesn't exist, but she doesn't seem to accept that. Maybe there's a part of the whole ritual of our Christmas celebrations that she finds comfort in. I only seem to be feeling pain from it. Everyone else in the family seems intent on celebrating Christmas, so she has other people to celebrate with; why can't she just leave me out of things?

I can't believe this myself, but I'd actually given thought at one point to simply leaving the hotel on the 24th, and not coming back until the 26th, just so I could avoid everything. I knew I'd get in a lot of hot water with the family if I did something like that, but at least I'd get my wish of a Christmas free of empty charade. I guess when I got back I'd throw whatever presents they'd left for me, still wrapped, into the hotel dumpster. But then I actually gave some serious thought to the matter and realized how profoundly stupid such actions would be. There are things in my life that are worth that kind of subterfuge, but this is surely not one of them.

So sometime soon here I have to list the anime DVDs and video games that I've been meaning to pick up recently but haven't for various reasons. This isn't the kind of stuff I'll be "happy" to receive, but I guess it'll be convenient to get them as gifts. I still don't know how I'm going to put on a front Christmas morning, though. Between the situation with the house and the ongoing estrangement from my best friends, I can't help but feel profoundly depressed right now. And DVDs and video games are not going to cure that depression.

Everyone take care and be well. I sincerely hope you have an easier time finding joy this holiday season than I'm having.

-- Sean