Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 9, 2009

A Sad Santa

Okay, please bear with me. It’s not like my life is one long string of sadness these days. Truth be told, now that I’m dealing with the inevitability (yes, I admit it — not the possibility, but the inevitability) of divorce, my mood swings no longer travel just between “morose” and “despondent”, but now actually sometimes get up past “unhappy” and into “moderately okay-ish.” From time to time.

So I’m a little self-conscious about the fact that my past couple posts have dwelled upon unhappiness. The idea behind this blog is not to let out one long simpering whine, but rather, to help me talk this all out, clear the air, and maybe even get some insight from you, my fellow travelers. You’ve been most generous and kind with your comments, and they truly have helped.

But if I’m a bit of a Debbie Downer sometimes, I do appreciate your sticking with me. This past weekend (and my attitude toward the holidays) have something to do with it.

Understand, I used to love Christmas. But I married someone who gets all stressed out 1) by anything having to do with finances, and 2) anything having to do with social obligations. She’s an introvert; I’m an extrovert. She hates the crowds at the shopping centers, the hustle and bustle. I used to love them. She hates the deadlines and picking out just the right gift. I used to love all that. She gets stressed out over having company over (although she does enjoy having the company… she just stresses out over preparing.) I’m very casual about all that, and love, love, love to have people over. She stresses out over the perceived obligation to spend money on friends and family this time of year; I’ve always enjoyed the act of picking out just the right gift to show my appreciation for the people in my life.

[Of course, this year we are both feeling the financial strain, as we have no money, and are officially begging off of exchanging gifts this year.]

But a lot of the holiday trappings that I used to love I now dread, mostly because Penny getting all wound up around the holidays sapped any joy I used to get out of them. It’s hard to enjoy shopping when your shopping companion is a Class A Grouch. She’s very good at putting on an act for our children, and they (of course) love the whole Christmas thing. (Child#2, every day, asks: “How many days until Christmas?”)

This past Saturday, I was once again tapped to play Santa Claus at our community’s holiday festival. I’ve played Santa at this thing ever since they started doing it in 2006. If only our neighbors knew how close we are to losing our house and no longer being their neighbors… let alone Penny’s and my impending split up, etc., etc.

Given our financial situation and marital situation, I wasn’t looking forward to playing Santa. Truth be told, Penny was going to be spending the day at an event in downtown Seattle learning how to apply for federal aid to help forestall foreclosure — this is yet another topic for another day.

[So far, the US government’s “home owner bail-out” seems to be more of a bail-out for the Kinko’s Copies industry. We’ve had more paperwork to fill out to try to establish that we don’t have enough money than we had to fill out to get the fucking mortgage in the first place. Try documenting a negative some time. We’ve been working on this paperwork for three weeks, so far, and it’s still not ready to submit. And we’re told that we have to HURRY, HURRY, HURRY to submit this mountain of paperwork if we’re to have any shot at forbearance, which I’m being told from various news sources hasn’t actually been granted to anybody yet, anyway. ARGH.]

But, I digress.

With Penny at the paper pushing workshop, that left me with the problem of getting the kids watched while I went to play Santa. I finally found a babysitter at the very last minute, high-tailed it for the community center, and put on the Big Red Suit.

And you know what? Being Santa for a couple of hours was actually kind of nice. I got to have fun with a bunch of kids, all the while making comments that the kids took at face value but that made the parents crack up. (I used to be known for my sense of humor. I hope to get it back some day.)

But then Sunday came along. The weather was brutally cold, but unseasonably dry (What do you call a draught in Seattle? Two hours without rain!), so it was the perfect opportunity to traipse through the tree farm to pick out a tree we can’t afford, cut it down and haul it home. But, as I said, the joy of Christmas has been kind of sucked out of me over the years, and this felt like just another chore.

Then there was lighting the tree. Another chore that falls to me.

Penny seemed to like the tree we picked and the way I lit it this year. We turned off the lights and all admired the tree, and she snuggled up to me. And all I could think was, “This is likely our last Christmas together as a family, and I can’t give a shit about this fucking tree.” Was she snuggling up to me because she felt close to me? Or, perhaps, because she, too, understands that this is likely our last Christmas together as a family? Because she realizes that I’m sad, and is trying to comfort me? I thought at the time it was probably the first, not the last, but who can say?

Later in the evening, after the kids were in bed, we were talking about our respective job searches. I made some comment that referred to the notion of us living separately before too long, but didn’t dwell upon it.

The next morning (Monday), Penny made a comment during one of our many work related phone calls about contingency plans if things fail… about moving back to my home town, or to her home town. Her home town has never been discussed before because, well, it makes no sense. There are no prospects for the kids, for employment, for ANY KIND OF A FUTURE in the dried up wastelands of her youth. Why the hell did she bring up her hometown?

After we concluded the call, I got riled up. It’s on her mind, of course, because she’s thinking that if we can’t find work, and the two of us split up, and if I take the fall back option of a job offer that I have in my home town, she might then just go crash with her parents or something (in a different state, btw). If I haven’t mentioned this yet, I’ll mention it now: I will not be marginalized as a parent to my children. This is non-negotiable. We had already talked about our plans for both of us in my home town (if it came to that) because we do, in fact, have options there… however unpalatable my hometown is for both of us.

Then there’s Penny’s penchant for giving in to her learned helplessness, whereas I have a tendency to have more faith in my (our) resilience (even if it’s misplaced). She’s planning for worst-case scenarios, while I’m trying to find bridges to better-case scenarios.

So, as much as I’ve been dreading calling her these days, I phoned her. After hemming and hawing, I finally got it out: “Why did you bring up [your hometown]?”

We talked. For the first time in a while, we talked directly and frankly about divorce. We used the word.

And for a little while, I suppose I felt a wee bit better. By the two of us actually acknowledging directly the path we are on, it takes away some of the ambiguity that has been muddying up our notions of the future. But, it also makes me sad, because the reality of impending divorce is not as inviting or friendly as the fantasy of being “free!” and “available!” to whatever passions single life could theoretically allow.

I remain disappointed that this hasn’t worked out the way it goddam well should have. I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to make it happen. I’m disappointed in her for not wanting to. I’m disappointed in the whole damned situation. Just when I think I’ve left the sadness behind (because, HEY, I’m finally taking decisive action!), it turns out to be sitting right there all along. Waiting for me.

But as commenters on this blog have noted (correctly)… it’s time to move on.

I fantasize that someday I’ll enjoy Christmas again. I day dream about the way my boys and I will be able to enjoy it together, and how I’ll be able to enjoy it on my own. Or, maybe even enjoy it with some other special someone. But in the meantime, I have the reality of today. Of enduring Christmas alone inside this marriage, trying to put a brave face on it for my kids, while the waves of defeat wash over me.

Sad Santa. No cookie.



  1. Huh. When I’m sad, that’s when I like my cookies most.

    Okay, so we’re rolling through the stages of grief right now. Yes, you get to grieve. Nothing wrong with that. After all, what is divorce but the death of a marriage, death of the family as you CURRENTLY know it.

    Right now, I’m exploring the concept of a ‘broken home’ in tomorrow’s post. Suffice it to say, my life is different from my master plan, but it’s not broken. You’ll get there, too.

    It’s not what you planned, but in the end it will be better. Have faith. Nourish your flicker of hope. Your life is unfolding as it should, even if you can’t see it now…

    • Nicki, it’s not that Santa won’t have cookies because he’s sad. Santa is sad because there are no cookies.

      And thank you for your comments here. They do help.

  2. itneverains, first visit to your blog and your story. I found you by way of Rules, LeBonheur, and Shannon blogs as you post there.

    I’ve read your first and last post, and also “the letter”. I had a brief courtship, a short marriage, and a very lengthy divorce, in comparison to the one year that it officially lasted. We had a son.

    I decided to post on your blog to try to dispel some myths about divorce. I filed for divorce a year to day of having been married. During that year my son was born, but during that period my then wife displayed the some behavior similar to Penny’s. That behavior became more pronounced after the birth.

    This year my ex-wife has been diagnosed with some personality disorder…8 years down the road, after separating and dicorcing.

    Things made sense to me (about her behavior), and finally made my own family understand what I had faced during that firs year (and all other 7 years when trying to father my son across a continent).

    My son is well adjusted, and save some legal matters due to his mother conditions he is a happy kid.

    Like you I doubted my decision, and felt guilty…but something did not feel right.

    This year I found out.

    Luckily I am a consultant and due to the recession and flexibility I have been able to fly east stay near my son in the eat coast, I live in the west coast.

    It has not been easy on my finances either, but my son comes first. Once his mother’s situations is resolved and legal matters finished I intend to go back west.

    My career choices, women I have dated, and general outlook in life have been altered after my divorce…for the better.

    My coming east also triggered a break up, painful, yes, but tough times have a way of showing you what people are made of…and I want a partner that can withstand the test of times, recession, illness, etc.

    The divorce has made me a more resilient and happy person out me.

    I have settled and lived in an idillic city in california…just south of you, by the bay also. I have had an amazing life before the divorce and an even better one after.

    whatever your decision there is light at the end of the tunnel, but always keep your kids happiness in mind when making those decisions.

    • Thank you for your post, Santaslil. (I assume that’s short for Santaslilhelper…?) It is reassuring to hear from others who’ve gone through similar situations that there’s real hope for a better tomorrow.

      BTW, your story is fascinating. When I get around to completing my story about therapists (probably in a couple of days), I’ll be talking about another possible parallel between your story and mine.

      Good for you for taking decisive action so much more quickly than I did. Hopefully, it won’t take us eight years to resolve a divorce, but time will tell…

      • My divorce literally resolved itself for lack of cooperation of my ex. I fired my lawyer and sat on the paperwork for a couple of years, close to two.

        I then petitioned the court to grant it, as I had taken care of all the matters (debt, custody, and my ex was not cooperating and across the country. My petition was granted.

        I know now why my ex could not handle the load of a divorce. She probably had issues already there were simply not diagnosed.

        There is some regret (or what if’s scenarios). She is the mother of my child. I love him, therefore I cannot and don’t hate her. I wonder if her family had said something about her condition back then and had she stayed with me she would be in a much better position. I am sure the stress of a divorce, and her having not been able to recover after it did not help with her collapse this year.

        Still I spent tens of thousands of dollars Two courts,two lawyers, two states. I did not have any property issues, my marriage was too short. However, IF you do divorce. Do it amicably even if the term seems an oxymoron…and no you do not have to let go of the house. keep in mind that the fiercer the fight the more the attorneys get paid…and really what they mean is…you using the house to pay for their fees.

        yes that is the true meaning of Santaslil. I like the shorter version. sounds Irish doesn’t it? Don’t ask, must have been the spirit if the season!

        I also have the feeling that I am in Pennsatucky right now….small world ha?

  3. It’s interesting to me that so many of your conversations with P about your relationship take place over the phone, instead of in person. Does that mean something? You said they were work related calls, but that seems like pretty personal stuff to get into while working.

    Good luck working it out. You’re in a sucky situation right now, but you do know it’s only temporary. You’ll get through it and you’ll have happy holidays again. I see cookies in your future.

    • Penny is an introvert and I am an extrovert, and the fact that we have, for the past couple years, spoken less and less in person and more and more on the phone is not deliberate… but it seems to fit with the greater pattern of how we interact. It’s a distancing thing, no? We still communicate, but as long distance friends, not as a couple of lovers. Work is always the excuse for the call, but is not always the reason.

      Thanks, as always, my friend, for your comments! I’d say “my snarky friend”, but despite your moniker, I have yet to catch you in the act of snarking.

  4. I am thinking about the many, many families, who, this year will have no Christmas at home, as they’ve lost their homes.

    Or, the man who recently learned that his wife (whom he thought was his soulmate and with whom he had a wonderful sex life) has been cheating on him. His devastation now colors his whole world; no Christmas for him this year.

    Yes, to quote Gladys Knight…”It’s sad to think, we’re not gonna make it. And it’s gotten to the point, where we just can’t fake it…”
    But the good news is that one of you DOES want to be the first to say goodbye. You get it; you deserve more (so do the kids.

    Yeah, it’s Christmas, but in my opinion, my friend, you are ahead of the eight-ball this year. Count your blessings, not your failures. You’ve come a long way!

  5. My God, why is there so much pressure to be happy at Christmas? When I was little, Christmas was horrific and I (like Harry Potter) couldn’t wait to get back to school. Then, I met my X and Christmas was second only to Thanksgiving. Now, I’m miserable again. This year, I am planning my two days off and so far I have smoked salmon pate and Robert Langdon. I anticipate booze and chocolate will be part of the “celebration” as well.

    Listen, it’s bad enough that Penny sucks all the joy out of a time that is supposed to be happy. But the fact that you have to fake it too now? That is the shits. I’m glad you got a few minutes of joy from being Santa. I have no words of encouragement except to say that soon it will be January and all those crazy Christmas-aholics will be miserable right there alongside us.

    • Mmmm. Smoked salmon. Have you ever smoked salmon yourself? I’ve finally found a recipe for a good salmon rub, and there’s nothing like the smell wafting from the smoker as you cook the salmon. We have a nice grill and a cheap smoker. I’ve always enjoyed grilling, but if it comes to splitting up our stuff (as seems inevitable), I think I want the smoker more. Even if it was a wedding gift.

      I’m glad you’ll get to have some quality alone time this Christmas weekend. A good book can be a great pleasure. (I’m not saying that Dan Brown makes for a good book, but as the Russian’s say, “In matters of taste and color, there are no comrades.”) Good chocolate, even more so. (Sorry, Leah.)

      As for your last thought, I prefer the idea not so much that soon everyone will be as miserable as us, but that at some point before too long, perhaps we can be as happy then as they are now. Maybe?

      Still, misery loves company, so thanks for joining me. Ho, ho, ho.

  6. The other day I scored big time at the Salvation Army thrift store. Cookie cutters. Still in the package. 79 cents. The theme? Images from the movie A Christmas Story: the house, star, turkey, leg lamp and Ralphie in the bunny suit.

    Cookies. Lots of ’em. For you.

    I’ll be over there, in the corner, with the spiked egg nog, trying to figure out how to best tell my kid that I don’t believe in Santa. Fun shit. Her dad is going to be pissed.

    • A Christmas Story is the absolute best Christmas movie ever. Ralphie in the bunny suit. The leg lamp. Priceless. Those are going to be awesome cookies.

      Thanks for thinking of me, Good Mummy.

      I’ve also wrestled with the whole “Santa Claus is lying to your kids” problem. The way I’ve handled it so far? I don’t make statements, I only ask questions, and I never ask them in a deliberately misleading way. I don’t want to outright spoil the magic of Christmas for my kids, but I also don’t want to actively perpetuate a lie. Does that make me a collaborator? Hmmm.

      That said, Penny has been taking the kids to Sunday school because she wants them to at least be familiar with the indoctrination of her own childhood (she was raised Catholic). You think the Mook’s dad is going to be pissed when you burst the Santa bubble? I don’t think Penny will be too thrilled when I answer my kids’ questions truthfully about what they teach at Sunday school….

  7. I’m truly sorry that something you found so joyful was reduced to merely going through the motions. That said, someone who truly loves everything about Christmas will find magic in it. My mother, who buried her father 2 days before Christmas, loves it. She loves it with a passion. She loves it despite the nutjobs she raised and the trouble we bring.

    I trust that you will find your festive mojo. Your posts, while sad and showing parts of the human experience that are less savory, still show humor and a lively sense of yourself. I think you’re most sad that the person you married doesn’t see this part of you as special and valuable. Sucks to be her. If she can’t understand and appreciate whimsy, there’s more wrong with her than any of us can imagine.

    That said, you should place something really kitschy and hideous outside — maybe Snoopy on his house? Snowglobe? Sure there’s no money, so spend what you don’t have on decorations so ugly that your neighbors wonder about your sanity (and pay you to take them down). Your goal should be to be seen by the space station. That’s my goal but we have CCRs that restrict me (plus my husband who has a sense of whimsy but doesn’t like tackiness. Bastard!).

    I have faith that a year from now, your joy, whimsy, love of life, and Santa mojo will be in full force.


    You have thrown down the gauntlet over where your children will be allowed to live. There are ways to meet your goals for them without firing the first shot in what will become a very un-civil war. Please check in with a counselor before you let this thing erupt! Your children don’t deserve to have this added to the misery!

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