Sometimes I despise this season. The unrelenting stress wears me down. I'm irritable and it doesn't take much to make my temper flare.
It was a few days before Christmas. I worked outside and in the garage most of the day. When evening finally arrived, I was cold and tired. I pulled off my boots and gratefully sank back across the bed, thankful for the warmth and a bit of relaxation.
Mary walked in and announced that I had to pick up a Christmas tree at WalMart. Instantly, my mind was black with anger, but I'm still a dutiful husband. I pulled my boots on, bundled up against the cold and wind, and set off for Wally World.
I usually deal with anger and stress by going out for a bike ride. But since I've been tiling the floors this fall, my knees are hurting almost constantly. Riding only aggravates it, so I've avoided riding my bike. I'm avoiding stairs for the same reason. Going without regular exercise adds to the stress and causes depression. Regardless, I do not want to do permanent damage to my knees.
The drive to Wally World passed quickly. I parked the truck and struggled across the parking lot like Doctor Zhivago on the Russian steppes. The wind went through my clothes, leaving me chilled to the bone despite the heavy winter coat and sweater. I thought hateful things about WalMart, Christmas trees, and marriage as I walked. The thoughts brought little warmth.
There were few trees left. Some were obviously twisted and would be impossible to balance on our stand. Others were scrawny, “Charlie Brown” trees that no one wanted. I found a six footer sitting alone in a corner. The trunk was straight, but several branches were broken. “No matter,” I thought. “We'll just turn that side toward the wall anyway.” I took the tag from the tree and went inside to pay for it, annoyed at the idea of exposing my hands to the cold while I tied it onto the truck.
I joined the line snaking toward the checkout. Just ahead of me stood a young mother with a baby in her cart's child seat and two more small children maybe 4 or 5 years old. Like me, Mom seemed stressed out and harried, but then she turned from the clerk, looked at her kids and smiled. The two older ones were dancing and singing about Christmas and Santa Claus, making up the words as they went. The baby watched from the cart, then looked toward me with a huge toothless grin.
Who can stay angry when confronted with a smiling baby? My anger blew away on the warmth of that smile, and I smiled in return. The other kids capered and sang about Santa, happily excited at the upcoming holiday. The baby's eyes twinkled.
Moments later, I was in the parking lot lashing the tree down. Sure, it was still cold and the wind was fierce, but that was all on the outside. Inside, I was warm and happy.