Friday, December 17, 2010

The only thing to fear . . .

. . . is fear itself? Sometimes I wonder about that.

Last night I had what I can only call a "fear" attack--it felt a little like a panic attack: this cold, unreasoning feeling (in the back of my mind, it really did seem irrational) that I couldn't shake off. My husband finally talked me through it, but for about half an hour I felt like I wanted to curl into a tight ball and just disappear.

What was I so afraid of? Well, it almost sounds silly in black and white (and in daylight): I'd been reading predictions about the future of the university (some, like Bill Gates, maintain that in 5-10 years most of university work will be done online) and I had this terrible vision of a future where my husband and I were out of work (with no hope of employment) because we lived in this futuristic society with technology that was beyond us. Today, of course, this seems laughable: while I do think universities are going to rely increasingly on online courses, I don't know that there will be such a drastic shift so quickly--I think that the "university experience" of sitting in classes and sharing apartments with other like minded souls is such a powerful part of going to college that it will persist to some degree. Also, it's unlikely that both of us (we're smart, hard-working people) would suddenly become so inept that we couldn't learn a new trade if we had to.

Still, the feeling of fear was very real and very intense. And telling myself that it was irrational--or that it was a failure of faith on my part--didn't seem to help.

Am I the only one who ever feels like this? What do you (that is, if anyone is reading this with similar experience) do to snap out of it?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Post-Party slump

Last night, about quarter after nine, I decided officially that I must be crazy.

Why, you might ask? Well, at that point I was in the throes of frosting a cake for my soon-to-be five-year-old's birthday party. The cake was constructed, the sides and top were frosted, and all that remained was the construction and frosting of a nightfury (the main dragon from How to Train Your Dragon, for the uninitiated). That's all.

I have this little problem with over-ambitious cakes. I blame it on taking a series of cake-decorating classes several years ago (and a current fondness for Food Network's Cake Challenges, among other things): I now have delusions of grandeur. And, since I only ever make these cakes twice a year (once for each kid's birthday), I have plenty of time in between to forget that maybe I'm not quite as talented at making cakes as I'd like to believe.

But I digress. The cake was eventually finished (at close to 10 p.m.), and this morning, almost as soon as I was coherent, I was back into the swing of things, getting ready for the party this morning. I roped my husband into helping, and by 9:30 (the party was at 10 a.m.), the house was clean, the floors mopped, the activities staged, the cake ready for display.

All this preparation: and within less than an hour four little boys had swept through all of it: the snacks, the activities, the cake . . . And I find myself wondering, why do I do this? Why do we, as a culture, do this? (I'm pretty certain I wouldn't go to all this effort if there weren't a certain amount of cultural expectation attendant on birthday parties). Of course, I have my own reasons: I'm not always the most fun, or spontaneous of mothers, and I want my kids to have some memories of me from childhood as the fun mom who put on good birthday parties; I want my son to know that I love him, and some of that is reflected in the amount of effort I put into his party (and the cake); and (if I'm really honest), I want to impress people with my cake-making abilities. (Which are by no means professional, but are--if I say so myself--at least a little above par). So, a mix of selfish and altruistic motives.

Something funny happens after a party--after all the rush and enthusiasm you're left with, what? An empty house and a mess to clean up: crumpled wrapping paper on the floor, half-eaten bits of cake on plates (and on the floor), scattered party favors. Personally, I always find the aftermath a little depressing. I don't have enough perspective on the event to savor the memory (which is usually overshadowed by the effort to pull it off); the introvert in me is exhausted; and the emptiness (and the mess) are somehow daunting.

Wouldn't it, then, be easier simply to not have birthday celebrations? Or holidays? (With Christmas looming over me--and presents purchased but not yet wrapped--I can't escape the comparison). Wouldn't it be easier to simply let the days slide past in an undifferentiated, mildly pleasant haze?

I'm not so sure. Personally, most of the time I *like* the anticipation of change. I even like the challenge (if I'm not overburdened with other tasks) of pulling together a smallish event. On the whole, I think I'd rather have a life punctuated with both highs--and lows--than one that hums along monotonously (even if that might be more comfortable most of the time). Just remind me I said this next time I find myself in a post-party slump.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reflections on Christmas and Memory

It's that time of the month again (and no, I don't know what you're thinking): I've posted over at Segullah. Please come visit!