Holiday Resolutions

Back from two weeks in the UK – Christmas with a group of old friends, together for the first time in about a decade. All grown up and married with kids, so I was the weird bachelor who drunkenly played with the infant. I found myself, especially on New Years Eve, to be on the same mental level as the eight month old baby. Shit in my pants, cry, suck on a tit. Now tickle my belly and I’ll smile at you. Sucker. GIVE ME A LITTLE BIT OF THAT GODDAMN COOKIE!

I have much the same reaction to children as I do towards women – when they cry, I’ll do anything to stop it. Including leaving the room or giving them to someone else. Whoops, smile’s gone. Take this thing away.

My family has a very basic approach to Christmas: Fuck it. It’s a hideous time of year focused on spending an extended period of time indoors with people. People, you see, are the enemy. I come from a family where, every Halloween, all the lights in the house would go off and we’d huddle in the cellar like a tornado was coming. If some kids dared to ring the doorbell, you were to stay very still and quiet. You could watch TV, but the volume had to be low.

Christmas was more about keeping up with the Joneses. For the benefit of the children in my family (that’s me and, then, my little 12 year old cousin), there would be a Christmas tree and gifts. That’s what the neighbors did and, so, we had to match them. Nothing happened on Christmas Eve (though I would stay up late and always watch Scrooged and Die Hard while drinking steadily into the AM), and Christmas morning was about opening presents, piling them up, failing to acknowledge anyone, and then racing away to our separate rooms or corners. Everything was over by 9am, and the tree came down that day. By Christmas dinner, which tended to be whatever we could scrap together, all trace of the holiday was gone.

When the invite to come to the UK hit my email, I was a little worried. Three functional couples and five children ranging from eight months to ten years old? Yeah, that’s about the opposite end of the spectrum. Sadly, Continental fucked up my flights (which I’ll bitch about in a later article), so I didn’t arrive till Christmas morning. But my friends waited patiently. I had entered the system at National Airport in DC on Sunday morning and wasn’t vomited out till early Tuesday morning thanks to delays, missed connections, and lunatic customer service agents. All of my luggage was well lost, but I spent Christmas morning perched on a couch with lots of coffee and an orgy of happiness and joy all around me. It was, as soon as I escaped Heathrow, the best vacation I’ve ever taken.

In a way, I’ve come to dread travel. It’s coming home that hurts the most. Once I re-enter it, real life feels all the more unrewarding. Monday is back to my retarded monkey job dominated by small, petty people. Those who are worth their salt are all great minds trapped either by finances, their own fears, or circumstance. Nothing new there… I realized long ago that every job is like the one I have, and my presence there is more punishment for holding a liberal arts degree than anything else.

I feel that work goes against everything that is right. The life of the wage-slave is about as inhuman as you can get. I don’t care that I’m speaking from the spoiled American middle class. Sure, I have food on my plate and a roof over my head. Yep, I’m more fortunate than others. That’s not the point. The point is that work sucks and should never be respected unless you’re doing something to further humanity – doctoring, etc. I even include lawyers and politicians under the “furthering humanity” umbrella. Maybe that’s a good yardstick for what I think of my job.

Because I was stupid enough to start a publishing company (oh my god, go buy my books), I’ve destroyed my careful five year plan – save up enough money to go somewhere far away for a year and live like a gypsy. Just get away from the people – the trapped and lonely, the dead and dying, the sad and stupid. Vanish into a desert somewhere.

Yeah, maybe I’m anti-social. Or maybe it’s just been too long a time spent in customer service. Either way, the continued Retreat Mentality is something that pervades my family. From hiding in the cellar on Halloween to running away from the world around me. The fact that I did start the company and blow my wad, and that I persist in my humdrum existence with three jobs and few friends to pay for my excesses, gives me a perverse hope. It’s breaking a pattern…taking a dare. Tra-la-la.

That bright spot doesn’t change the fact that I’m sorry to be back, and especially sorry that I’ll have to face everyone on Monday morning. But at least I saw out 2007 with my first real Christmas… And the realization that Some Things Are Good.

2007 started with the death of my father. That lasted through the summer before I walked away from his heavily indebted estate. All it did was cost me a bunch of money in a year of spiraling debt. It was also a year of facing my childhood – my father left when I was 12 and that led to a solid and permanent destruction of my family. Not just my mother, who was always crazy, but also my maternal grandparents, who had become embroiled in the 70 year old family business that my dad happily embezzled into the ground. He ran off with millions (all spent or given away by the time he died) and left my schoolteacher grandfather and housefrau grandmother holding the bag.

I continue to harbor some small guilt over the fact that I’m quite happy both my parents are dead. Because, you know, they had it coming.

2007 was also a year of pain. Since the mid-90’s, I had struggled with Trigeminal Neuralgia. Unrelenting facial nerve pain that would come and go in waves and, as of 2000, remained a constant background drone that shaped just about every aspect of my life – how I ate, slept, interacted with people, and even breathed. In May of 06, the pain ramped up and ruined my summer trip on the UK canals. I took off about three months leading up to 07, first to try a surgery where they squirt gel into my face in an attempt to kill off the nerve and, then, in April 07, I went for all out brain surgery. The pain is now gone, and I have a metal plate in my head that sets off alarms in other countries and foreign airports. (Alarm systems in the US are just for show, so they never go off.)

It took till the autumn of 07 before I was finally recovered. I’d say October was my first full month where I had all my wits together and wasn’t exhausted all the time. I’m still a little shell-shocked emotionally. Years and years of managing pain has left me with bad habits. It’s a big deal for me to put my face under the shower, to properly brush my teeth, and to eat. There were even certain words I avoided. An entire vocabulary lost because the vibrations of certain words would send me into a pain spiral, sometimes ending in a black out.

Part of my resolutions for 2008 – which include not being unnecessarily kind to people who aren’t paying customers and eating right – was to dump all of the pills I took for the pain. I was on a wicked cocktail of anti-seizure medication and muscle relaxants, with the occasional mind-bending pain killer designed more to put me into a mini-coma than to actually block the pain. Nerve pain doesn’t really respond to anything.

I managed to dump all of the out of date drugs in November, but was unable to dump the row of bottles that had not yet expired. So the first thing I did once I got home from the airport last night was to fill the toilet with a few hundred pills. I was taking about 20 a day at the height of the pain. All flushed.

So now I can move forward, away from the pain days, and pursue my life properly. Shame I’m in debt and working a thankless job with a lousy degree. I’ve been in pain since I was 21 and, now, I realize that my entire life up till now just didn’t exist. Everything I did and every action I took was dictated by the pain. There is a strong sense of waking up to my world. How the hell did I get here? Just about everything is half-remembered like a movie I can’t quite name. The brain surgery back in April feels like it was a hundred years ago.

What better way to enter this new era than a real holiday season with great friends? Yes, I am sorry to be home. Because that means I’ll have to seriously face changing the way I treat the world.