Yes, the holiday aftermath sads are real

For The Baltimore Sun

The children have ripped through the presents, leaving cardboard shreds and plastic packaging all over the house.

The war-torn area under the tree has become yet another spot in the house that needs daily tending.

Sweet potato pies are now sweet potato crumbs, though the tins remain – sad, shiny reminders of what once was.

Somehow, we are out of working batteries. Again.

Yes. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I was just as caught up as everyone else during the frenetic lead-up to the holidays. Rushing around from store to store, making lists, checking them twice, crafting budgets, blowing them to smithereens. I was all in.

But now that we’ve hit New Year’s Eve and 2018 is staring me down, I have a bad case of the holiday aftermath sads.

For one thing, it all goes by too quickly. No matter how early the stores start displaying wreaths in the windows and piping “Jingle Bell Rock” through the Muzak – I think this year Target started its holiday season in early June – it still feels as if the heart of it beats by in a blur.

All that time off from work you thought you’d have to spend playing Jenga and Connect 4 with the kids in the glow of the fireplace, making cookies from scratch and visiting relatives you didn’t quite make it to see last year? It whizzed by while you were forgetting to feed the children lunch because you ate breakfast so late, re-packaging gifts to send back to Amazon, and swapping back and forth between “A Christmas Prince” on Netflix and “My Christmas Prince” on Lifetime, unshowered, in your pajamas.

If you could take back all the time you spent explaining why you would absolutely not be going to Toys ‘R Us or Five Below or the dollar store or anywhere else for crying out loud to spend the Christmas money burning a hole in your children’s pockets, maybe you might have had time to address those New Year’s cards you swore you’d get to this year. But those hours are gone, and you can never get them back. Much like all those extra calories and carbs you consumed last week. Can’t get ’em back. A moment on the lips. Auld lang syne and all that.

Do you see why I have the sads? No? So it’s just me?

Have you considered the pine needles everywhere? The looming work projects you left until “next year,” forgetting that next year is really next week?? Have you not gone hoarse from yelling “Pick these toys up or I’m sending EVERYTHING BACK TO SANTA!” a thousand times a day?

And wasn’t the shortest* day of the year supposedly Dec. 21? Then why is it still so dark so early?

Bah, humbug.

Articles all over the internet validate my Scroogey feelings. “11 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Depression Triggers,” one headline reads. “When the Holidays Make You Sad,” says another.

“Between stressful end-of-year deadlines, family dysfunction and loss, poor eating and drinking habits, and increasingly cold and dark winter days, it’s easy for the holiday season to feel not-so-merry and bright,” one Huffington Post writer said.

See? It’s not just me!

OK, so these articles are talking about actual depression – real pain due to loss, isolation, dysfunction and disappointment. Not my first-world grumpiness that Nordstrom has gone back to its regular pre-holiday hours. But don’t judge me! Feelings are facts.

When I think about it, I suppose there are some good things about this winding down of the holiday hoopla. The dawn of a new year is a fine time to look ahead at better days, better decisions, a better me.

So in that vein, I will stop lamenting the pounds put on by sweet potato pie. I’ll go to the gym more often instead! We’ll organize the toys, and turn off Nickelodeon and the Hallmark channel. The kids and I will start a new chapter book! Maybe we’ll read “Little Women” together and reflect on how happy the March girls were to get only oranges and hard candies in their Christmas stockings!

Gratefulness! Purpose! Get rid of bad habits!

First up on my list: Quit complaining!

Just as soon as I can figure out how to get these microscopic screws out of this %#$%!@ toy.

Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who works as vice president at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 7-year-old sons, a 5-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at tanika@thehatchergroup.com. Her column appears monthly.

This article has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly referred to Dec. 21 as the longest day of the year.
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