Long story short, we needed to get the house painted. It had been almost seven years since I moved into this house, and the colors were starting to feel dated, there were ugly brown water spots on the living room ceiling from a series of fiascoes, and a few little people had taken to the walls with their artwork. It was time, so I called Rita.
Rita is an older lady who helped me paint the house the first time around. She’s pretty much a friend of the family now. What I like about Rita is her slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach to painting, and life. You don’t get a sense of the urgent when you’re around her, but you see massive amounts of progress every day. Her process is proof that the secret to getting things done doesn’t have to be setting things on fire; it just has to be having a clear vision of where you want to end up.
She was getting ready to tackle our fireplace the other morning, and asked me if I wanted to take out the screws. There were six large and plain old screws sticking out jankily from the bookshelves on the sides of the fireplace. They were the stocking screws. We don’t have a mantel, so those are the screws that we use at Christmastime to hang the stockings on. I looked at the screws, and, trying to make a decision, felt like I was in a movie sequence, flashing back.
On December 25, 2011, I woke up angry.
Angry, disappointed, hurt.
The Christmas tree was up, but half the lights weren’t working. It wasn’t even so much as partially decorated. I hadn’t had time to put a single ornament up. There were presents underneath the tree, but thankfully we were able to purchase Kiddo’s with a gift card given to me by a new client. Bubba was about nine months old, so he didn’t need anything. The screws had been recently shoved into the walls so that we could hang stockings. I had mentioned during this process that I would love a mantel to hang stockings on. Like the previous year, we said something about how it would be easy to do, and we’d do it next year.
I was exhausted, and emotionally spent. I had just come off the tenth holiday season in my wholesale business, and perhaps the most brutal. Eighteen hour days and customers screaming left me with a new found revelation: no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t make everyone happy. The week before I had laid off six employees, over half my staff. Barely two months prior, I had lost my dear friend and VP as she had moved on. Finances had started to rear their ugly head. I had no idea how ugly their rearing would become over the next year, but intuitively, I knew I was in for a battle.
On top of all that, I was unexpectedly pregnant with Charley girl.
All I wanted for Christmas was highlights in my hair, I had told my dear friend Kathleen. I wasn’t an ounce of joking.
I have to admit, I wasn’t on my best behavior that Christmas morning. I wanted to shut myself in my room and cry. Physical, emotional, and mental fatigue, on top of the burden of a failing business, made me want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and just be grateful that I didn’t have to work.
Instead, we opened the presents my in-laws brought for the kids, and prepared to head over to my parents’ house for the rest of the day.
I’m human, and I can have a horrible attitude at times. I know. I try to admit it when I do, openly apologize for it, and find some blessings to count. There were quite a few in that heavy Christmas morning: I was pregnant with my little girl, and even though the timing felt off to me, I know that God’s timing is perfect, and I have friends who would have given their left arm to be carrying a child. My husband had recently started his career in commercial insurance, and it was something he was passionate about, and I was grateful for that. My in-laws love the heck out of my kids, and my kids love the heck out of my in-laws, and that’s a simple and free joy to have in a house on Christmas morning.
But something had to change. The life I had been living, prior to that day, simply wasn’t sustainable. People around me asked how I did everything–the simple truth was, I didn’t. In response to the question, I’d smile and try to give credit to those around me. I’d say I had a lot of help, and there was no way I could do it alone. But the volume of things that weren’t getting done was mounting, and I knew it, even if no one else did. I had tried to wave a white flag with a few people close to me, but, as my husband once told me, even in waving the white flag I looked like I had it all together. Everyone thought I had all the answers, he said.
Oh, no, friends. I don’t even have one quarter of the answers. Not even one tenth. Not even a few. I’m a flawed, imperfect, human, with perhaps a whole lot of
determination stubbornness that has an uncanny way of making things look like accomplishment.
That holiday season, I made a list of resolutions. More than resolutions, they were a commitment to focus on what mattered: my family. Decorate the Christmas tree. Take more pictures. Organize our household. Get out of debt.
I flashed forward to the present and looked at Rita. “Take the screws out, I said. We are putting up a mantel before Christmas.”
I have no idea how. Call it determination or call it stubbornness, a mantel is going to happen. And that mantel will be a representation of my commitment to savoring the things that are precious in this world: my kids, my husband, my family, and the joy of our Savior’s birth.