For some reason Christmas is the time of year when I feel the least inspired. Lately, instead of writing or enjoying holiday drinks with friends like normal people, you can usually find me wrapped in a blanket on the couch with my favorite winter cocktail­ (decaf with a splash of Baileys) either binge watching Game of Thrones, or immersed deep in the words of Virginia Woolf. I’ve done this so much lately that one of these days I might just wake up with an English accent—I’m living on the wild side, I know.

The thing that ruffles my feathers most about December is the insurmountable pressure we put on ourselves to make Christmas perfect. Between the decorating, cooking, shopping and smiling, I’m exhausted. None of these things are fun, or natural for an introvert like myself. But, before you call me The Grinch, let me be clear—I do enjoy smiling, and I do it a lot. But fake smiling is not my thing and it seems to happen frequently this time of year—especially when you’re on your way home from work after a long day and you need to stop at Target. You would rather stick pins in your eyes than stop at Target, but you know you need to buy an ornament for the exchange you reluctantly agreed to attend this weekend, something for tomorrow’s pot luck at work, and all the gift cards you can afford (which isn’t many) to give to everyone from your step-brother to your daughter’s daycare provider. Then, while jockeying for position in the checkout line, you get rammed with a cart being pushed by a woman who is as equally unhappy to be there as you are. You turn to this woman, knowing instantly that she’s a soldier in the burnt-out-on-the-bullshit-of-Christmas army (just like you are) so you curl your lips upward (appearing more like you just masked a gas cramp) show your teeth and blink at her with the dumbfounded look of misery that she completely understands. That, my friends, is the fake smiling I’m referring to here. All of this, coupled with the coming New Year’s resolutions that I know I’ll never keep and the looming credit card debt arriving in January, I tend to lose my grip on the ability to be easily amused or enlightened.

The other day, however, something interesting happened. My daughter, who is ten and on the cusp of not believing in Santa Claus anymore (yes, that’s her in the photo), wrote a letter to the big guy and left it for her Elf on the Shelf to deliver straight the North Pole. The letter contained the usual pleasantries of, Dear Santa, how are you? I’m doing good and I’m trying to be REALLY good, so can you please bring me (insert very long list of gifts) and please, please, please, please bring me Cozmo the Robot, he’s the only thing I really want for Christmas.

My first instinct, shockingly enough, was to be extremely annoyed by this letter. Reason number one being that I had already finished my Santa shopping (online of course) and only about two or three things I had purchased were on this list. Plus, after quickly doing a Google search for Cozmo the Robot, I learned he was $400. Yes, four-hundred-fucking-dollars for a robot smaller than the size of an iPad mini (which is cheaper, by the way). Feeling annoyed and overwhelmed, I stuffed the letter in my underwear drawer (don’t ask) and went to bed.

But, the next morning I woke up and realized what I couldn’t see the night before—my daughter still believes in Santa. Or she’s just playing along and really wants that fricking robot, but either way I appreciated the sentiment. In her own way she was showing me that all the bullshit I do this time of year—like moving the elf every night (usually at the last minute), driving to the Polar Express train in a snow storm (twice, because I screwed up the date the first time), watching the same ridiculous Christmas movies, answering the same questions about the birth of Jesus, singing the same tired Christmas carols like I’m a fricking maniac while pretending to enjoy baking Christmas cookies—and yes, even the fake smiling, was actually making a difference! She still believes in the magic of Christmas—because of me.

So, thanks to her and as a gift to myself, I decided to make a list of things I believe in because let’s face it, the older we get the harder it is to believe in just about anything, especially the things we can’t see, touch or hear.

Because I know you’re dying to read them, here they are, in no order of importance:

  • I believe my dog loves me more than anyone else in the house because I’m the best snuggler (and because I feed her).
  • I believe my cats think I’m a heating blanket—and, metaphorically, I am. (I’ll let you think about that one on your own.)
  • I believe that when it comes to my career, the amount of money I make is less important than enjoying what I do (though making more money is always welcomed and appreciated).
  • I believe a woman will be president of the United States someday (and, with any luck, she’ll be a brilliant, wise-cracking, openly-gay woman who grew up in the middle class).
  • I believe writing with brutal honestly is sometimes more impactful than simply making shit up (even if it puts all my weirdness out there for the world to see).
  • I believe my sister thinks I’m a nerd (in a good way), my mom will always think I’m one of the coolest people alive (even though I’m not) and my dad was very proud of me. (Actually, I know the last one is true because of all the things that went unsaid between us while he was alive, that was not one of them).
  • I believe that the first step toward making a difference in the world (big or small) is by realizing that you are not the most important person in it.
  • I believe I’ll never be on the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List, but it’ll never stop me from sitting here turning out page after page of mostly crap that no one will ever read.
  • I believe I can write short blog posts—I just prefer not to, because that’s how I roll.
  • I believe the best kind of friends are those who make you laugh till you pee (and the more pee, the better).
  • I believe that out of all the things I want in life, the most important ones could never be wrapped and shoved under the Christmas tree.
  • And lastly, I believe Christmas is just not Christmas without my mom’s taco dip.

Just in case anyone is wondering—yes, Santa will be delivering Cozmo the Robot to our house on Christmas Eve (but shhhhh, don’t say that out loud). Am I spoiling my daughter by doing this? Of course, I am. But, even though that stupid toy isn’t worth his ridiculous price tag (though I did find him for $100 less on eBay), the smile on my daughter’s face will be worth it.

So, to wrap this whole thing up in a nice, neat Christmassy bow, if you’re like me and you’re feeling a little uninspired this season, take my advice—don’t stop believing. That statement might be cliché (and one of the best Journey songs ever), but it’s true. The key to believing in something usually starts with small miracles and a leap of faith. Just take the jump now and then—even if you routinely miss the mark (like me). If we keep trying, we’ll all get there eventually.

Happy holidays and thank you for reading!

(And now back to Game of Thrones …)

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