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In the Spirit

I mostly enjoy the holidays. I say mostly because there are parts that I find less savory--for example, sometimes cookies are crunchy when I think they're going to be soft. I hate that. I also hate spicy cookies. They're blasphemous in the worst way. Just get on board with the rest of America and get that spike in your blood sugar. Anyway. Clearly the holidays are a stressful time. They aren't really, not for me, but for lots of people I know they are. I have an idea of how they could be stressful. Money is stressful. Money, or the lack thereof, cinches a belt so tight around the center of your chest you can feel the ache way up into your throat. Rough. Luckily I have no dependents, so I am not in charge of making the season magical for anyone. Do you want to know something sort of perverse that I thought of once? Think of a disappointed child on Christmas morning--big eyes trying to be brave but with a deep sadness that can only come from an illusion being shattered too soon. Now, imagine seeing that and knowing that it was you who were unable to provide Christmas the way Christmas is portrayed in mass media to children. Which is why I've decided to not have children until I have a mil in the bank and some sense beat into me.

I think it is easy to forget, in the midst of so much wrapping paper and receipts, what Christmas is, but I'd rather not preach about the season right now. Actually just one thing. The joy really is in giving and not receiving. Or at least among this clan--we were all (mostly) more interested in what we had to hand out than what we ended up with in our hands. So that's good news. And we saw our large, wonderful extended families on a whirlwind trip to Seattle. A good time was had by all, set to a background of classic Hobson family anthems*.  I was told recently that my family is "overwhelming" and that there is a lot of "commotion", all the time. I was also asked why we don't speak at a "normal" volume to each other. My reaction mostly involved denial (it's not that loud. Also EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE) and then a lecture on how big families breed toughness. For example, once I spent three days hiking and camping through the wilderness while I had pneumonia before my parents brought me to a doctor. I was 12. Also, I'm terrifically assertive. No demureness over here. We are loud and proud. Get used to it.

No really I recognize that this is a madhouse and many valid points were made. I can many excuses and no apologies, however. This is the only way I know.

After Christmas is always my lovely Mother's birthday, which she always says is the worst but I kind of like. It keeps that cozy warm together feeling going in the long homestretch to New Year's. It's nice. And I love my mom. She and my dad work really hard during the holidays to feed us**, primarily, and it's a good chance to celebrate her after so much madness.

And now New Year's is almost upon us. I've been thinking about resolutions but haven't settled on one. It's hard to decide what you'll be committing to for a solid twelve months. It's really just not my strong suit. Also I'm still feeling a little unsettled and I don't even know where to start. That's not true, I'm feeling good and positive about my future, but I think I need something concrete to want and wish for. It will take some deliberating.

I'm going to celebrate the turning of 2012 into 2013 among people I hopefully like--I know you're supposed to be with your loved ones ringing in the new year, but I'll be with my boyfriend's family. Who I think I will enjoy. They're Italian. I'm embracing them wholeheartedly. Just diving right on in.

xoxo Lauren

*A hearty round of applause to my cousin, who put down the Taylor Swift just long enough to concoct a playlist of epic proportions, which included but was not limited to September ( a classic), Holiday in the Sun (we used to jump around like manic depressives in an upswing to it on every family vacation--update: nothing's changed), Brick House (just actually figured out that they were not, in fact, celebrating brick and mortar as a superior building element, but that it was slang for a good lookin' lady. Sidenote: In another surprising revelation, did everyone in the world but me realize that Chanukah and Hanukkah are the same thing? I just found out the other day that they are. I always thought Chanukah was Christmas and Hanukkah combined. Coincidentally, I learned this from a Jewish person after making an enormously embarrassing social faux pas. Classic moi.) Anyway, the play list was remarkable and should be saved for future use. Hint hint.

**Three cheers for beef wellington, which my Father so handily crafted. It was sublime. He is an excellent cook. My sister is also very fashionable. She was recognized at work. Let it be known, I am surrounded by good looking and culinary talented people.

Christmas is Coming

but the goose is not getting fat. Not here, at least--actually, there aren't any geese at all, as far as I know. There are definitely chicken. I accidentally stepped on one last night that had roosted on the sidewalk downtown. To be fair, it was sort of dark and I was motivated, there was the promise of a grilled chicken salad (irony? karma? take your pick) at the French Institute around the corner. Also, I'm still not in the habit of checking for barnyard animals in the middle of a metropolitan city. Which could also explain why I was nearly gored later by a large bull cow tethered to the curb. He came out of nowhere--we're walking along and suddenly a 600-lb behemoth of beef materializes out of the dark, nestled in between two parked cars. I was also not paying attention for another reason--we had spotted Christmas decorations, filling me instantly with a sense of a weird nostalgia and sadness that I haven't experienced otherwise. It's funny because the holidays haven't hit me that hard--Halloween was just another normal day here, we celebrated Thanksgiving but I wasn't that homesick, and now Christmas is just around the corner, but I don't miss the season until I see the random, French-owned stores that dutifully hang tinsel. What is it about tacky decorations that get me going?

I think it's more of the same familiarity complex I've been dealing with--anything here that is remotely home-like puts me in a state of mind that might not be 100% stable. I'm putting off processing until I'm back in a place where I'm not the only person responsible for me, aka home, where it's considered normal and pretty much acceptable for me to make rotating laps through all the beds in our house for most of the day, and where my parents will make sure I'm fed.

Sidenote: One of the more challenging parts of living on my own has been feeding myself--not because I'm not a good cook or not capable in the kitchen, because I'm better in that department than the average bear. But I am not quite as good at remembering to feed myself, suddenly it's 10 o' clock and I'm starving. Dinner, right? Except I never forget breakfast, A) because I eat immediately upon waking up, always have, always will, and B) because there is a man across the street who makes incredible egg sandwiches. His name is Mamadou and he's now realized that at approximately 8:30 every morning, I will be around. He's started making it without me even asking for it now, I'm that regular. So what.

But I digress. Back to the holidays and my spectacular system of emotional repression--I'm in denial and I know it. They say that's the first step, which is all fine and good, except I refuse to go any farther. I'm trying not to treat these last four days we have in Dakar as though they are my last four days in Dakar, because doing so would bring down the shaky tower of emotional stability I've built thus far. It would be a cataclysmic crash of finality that I just cannot bear. So like I said, I'm putting it off until a later, as yet to be decided date. Probably right after New Year's. It's the perfect time to breakdown and then build back up with some new, fantastic resolutions. Last year I had to look at my life, look at my choices and I decided that this year I would like to live with peace in my heart always. Also I wanted to write a book. Check. I wanted to pet a chipmunk. Still unfulfilled, which is especially disappointing because that was one leftover from the year before. Chipmunks. Who knew they were so elusive?

I've come to realize that I always do this right before a big ending--I holed up for three weeks before I left New Orleans this spring and acknowledged no one and nothing, and continued living my life there until the morning I got on the plane. I can't tell if this is healthy or not, probably not, but then again, if it were, this would have to be titled things I'm not going to tell my therapist. And where's the fun in that?

I deny that pesky thing we call the future and ignore that troublesome thing we call the past, and live only moment by moment. Well, as much as possible. I'm thinking about where I want to have lunch and what I should bring to the tailor and whether or not I want to go the lighthouse tonight to watch the sunset. Except what kind of question is that? Of course I want to go the lighthouse and watch the sunset. I guess I mean I'm afraid that considering going home at any length of time will take me so far out of being here now that I'll stop enjoying it to the fullest, and I feel like I just don't have enough time for that. I have to take advantage of everything while I'm here, and then take advantage of everything at home while I'm there. In the meantime, I've been hangin' out, finishing my project and celebrating the Muslim New Year, called Tamkharit. I went home and ate couscous with my family after they insisted when I visited last Thursday that I come home--It's necessary! You must be with your family! It would've taken a lot less to get me there but I went back and participated in all of the festivities regardless, which included but was not limited to all the men dressing as women and all the women dressing as men and then parading through the streets. Did I expect to be ringing in the New Year with crossdressers? No. But then, I didn't expect a lot of things.

What I did expect was to miss the Christmas season more than I have thus far. But it's 95 degrees outside and Islamic chants were playing so loudly last night we couldn't sleep. We found out this morning it was because there was actually a van parked outside our apartment building with a loudspeaker on top. That would explain why it sounded just like it was right outside the window...

It's good, in some ways, I think that it doesn't feel like Christmas or reminders of Christmas aren't everywhere, just like Thanksgiving was made easier because I wasn't surrounded by fall colors and turkey motifs. But I find it slightly disconcerting that it takes cold weather and garlands to put me in the Christmas spirit--I guess I always assumed that I would feel the spirit of season even without the material items that apparently, define the season. Then again, who knows? Maybe if I were actually missing the 25th proper it would be a different story, and maybe I'm being too hard on myself. This fragile psyche can really only take so much.

xoxo, Lala