Today, I take my own advice and make the most of it. ~ from “Are you Ready (On Your Own)” by Distant Cousins
Today, I did something I have never done: I had my own sort of Ferris Bueller Day Off.
This is Pride week and today was the annual Pride parade in Chicago. Especially after Friday’s ruling in favor of marriage equality, I was just dying to go. The Pride parade is one of the happiest days of the year. It’s joyful, colorful, and full of life. I hated that I had to work this weekend. I’ve worked every weekend, worked extra shifts, come in when others were absent.
So I called in. I called in sick, bought some rainbow ribbons and shoelaces, and went into Chicago to celebrate Pride with my friends. It was a half truth, to be honest. I needed to go for the sake of my mental health (I was in desperate need of a breather after a handful of tough weeks), but that reason never flies with employers, so I fibbed and said that I was physically sick.
With the exception of a bit of a sunburn on my scalp, it was a lovely day:
When my family and I first moved to our home in Ludington, MI when I was a kid, I didn’t expect that the previous kids would have left not one but two snow forts in the back yard. That was a major bonus for a kid like me who lost interest shortly into projects as lengthy as fort building. One even had a tunnel. It was nice to have somewhere that hide during the snowball fights.
Around the same age, my friends and I would beg and plead for the chance to build blanket forts when we were indoors. Stretched over sofas and pinned under kitchen chairs, the blankets gave us the illusion of separation. As long as we were in the fort, no one could hear us whisper or see how many Milky Ways we shoved in our mouths.
As adults, my friends and I joke on tough days that we are going to revert to our younger selves and hang out in blanket forts, only this time with KitKats and bottles of wine. There, we can forget about grown up things like boyfriends/husbands, credit scores, and whiney kids. The only place that will exist will be that little pocket of the universe, tucked inside bedsheets and buffeted by couch cushions. Safe, worry-free, no stress… Sounds lovely, eh?
Of course that never gets to happen, in part because we live so far apart. We dream though. Little moments when we close our eyes and exhale.
I’ve been up for 38 of the last 42 hours, and the sleep I had prior was very limited and restless. Work was needlessly stressful today, I spent almost five hours on the road to pick up my sister from the airport. In my exhausted state, I started rethinking my financial plans for the next few months. I tried sorting out a major emotional dilemma – something I can’t do when well rested, let alone now.
I’m overwhelmed. I want to be in a blanket fort inside of the snow fort, protected from whatever comes flying this way next, and apart from the rest of the world. It’s just a temporary feeling. One that will be gone after tonight’s sleep and tomorrow’s coffee.
While I might not get the fortress I want right now, I am reminded that I have the shelter I need: a physical one that keeps me out of this horrendously cold weather, and the shelter of friends who love me. Friends who stand as shields and who crawl in and hide out with me, depending on the day. Sometimes, on nights that seem dark and long, I find shelter in knowing that while I sleep, friends from here to New Zealand and back are up and moving around, sometimes praying for me. The affection of friends is the most effective shelter there is against the overwhelming anxiety of just being.
With that comfort, I’m going to try to sleep. I wish you a good night, or day, depending on your hemisphere, and promise you that should you need a fort, I’ll bring the blankets and KitKats.*
*Unless, you know, that’s logistically impossible; in that case, they will be symbolically delivered via Messenger stickers.
For the first 33 years of my life, Christmas meant a kind of exhaustion that most people cannot fathom. Christmas in The Salvation Army is a beast. I’ve experienced it as a soldier (church member), as an employee, and as a officer (minister), and while it’ll surely tick some people off by me saying so, nothing comes close to the kind of busy/exhaustion/pressure that corps officers (local ministers) experience. It turns Christmas into a kind of ultramarathon that can eat you alive. Even when you love Christmas, even though you think you know what you’re signing up for prior to your first Christmas, it is something to survive.
This is the first year that I have experienced Christmas outside of The Salvation Army, and it has been weird, to put it mildly. This perspective is so different, this schedule so befuddling, this setting so different that despite the decorations and music, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Not one little bit.
I’ve gotten to do things that I hadn’t been able to do for years: go Christmas shopping at reasonable hours, bake Christmas cookies with my family, wrapped all my presents in carefully coordinated papers, watch White Christmas, go downtown Chicago (my favorite thing to do all year long), guzzle too many red-cupped doses of Starbucks, and yet, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. I haven’t stood at a kettle, driven bellringers around town, taken a Christmas assistance application, done a TV or radio interview, shoveled a parking lot, gotten cussed out because of the contents of a food assistance box, scrambled to find presents for kids, visited a nursing home, decorated a church building, planned and executed any kind of Christmas program, or any of the other millions of things I spent my life doing. It has been hard watching my tribe continue to live through the monstrous exhaustion, sleep deprivation, soul-crushing emails from headquarters, borderline malnutrition, and emotional swings. I want to rescue them.
It hasn’t helped that my circumstances aren’t exactly what I would like them to be. I’m still looking for work, and I am so not used to living with people anymore, even my parents, and this year, it seems harder to miss my friends who are far away, probably because I’m not so busy that I’m distracted. I’ve gone and gotten myself a boyfriend, CJ, which has been exciting and fun and insane and anxiety-inducing all at the same time (more on that in a different post). It has been freakishly warm with virtually no snow all season, and not even my favorite Christmas albums are helping.
So here it is, Christmas Eve, yet in some ways, it might as well be the middle of February. It just doesn’t really feel all that special.
Hopefully that will change in the next few hours, when my brother and sister-in-law get into town and I go to Christmas Eve service at church. Even while writing this, things have started to look up: an unexpected Starbucks gift from my bff Brandon, listening ears and encouragement from my other bff Melissa, unexpected messages from people in my tribe who have paused to say “Merry Christmas” and wish me well, a text from CJ that made my heart a little happier, and my anxiety is dropping.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have some kind of grand holiday offering for you, but today, it lies here: It’s Christmas Eve and I’m a bit of a mess, but I can celebrate the love and kindness of my friends, who see the mess that I am and love me in spite of it.