I HAVE regular, recurring anxiety dreams. One is the Leaving Certificate* dream: I'm just about to sit the biggest exam of my life and I haven't studied for it. It's a common one, this. Every second person I meet, has the same dream.
Another is that I'm in a room full of people and I have to make an important speech and I don't know what I'm going to say. To add insult to injury, I realise I'm naked.
Finally, there's the Christmas dream. You know the one. You wake up on December 25th, to find you've forgotten it's Christmas. You haven't a single gift bought. In my dream, I begin a manic search for things I could quickly wrap and give as presents. I can't find anything.
In my darkest moment, when my mind can't take anymore dream trauma, I wake up. My heart rate slows, as I realise it's just a dream.
And almost immediately I start to worry because it's already December 10th and I haven't a single thing done for The Big Event. For those of you even worse at maths than I am, that's two weeks away.
Do all the eye rolling you want. Go on, I know you're at it. The fact is, since September - September!!!! - I have seen boasty posts all over social media. By people who claim they had all their Christmas shopping done by July.
Presumably they were buying Christmas crackers whilst the rest of us were working hard on our tans. (Where do you find Christmas crackers in July? WHY WOULD YOU BUY THEM?)
These same mythical creatures apparently wrap their gifts and leave them in neat piles in the spare room or attic or on top of their wardrobe. All ready to be taken down and laid out under their magical, Disney-style Christmas tree, when the time comes.
Which begs the question: what do these people do in the run up to Christmas? When I'm running around in a blind, last minute panic, wondering if I could just buy everyone book tokens and steak knives (don't ask)!
Are they baking their 7th Christmas cake? Or deep cleaning their carpets? Maybe they're just binge watching early Christmas telly and laughing at me for yet again, leaving everything to the last minute.
Because it's not like it's a movable feast, is it? We tend to celebrate Christmas around the same time every year. In fact, at exactly the same time, I've noticed.
But there's nothing like a looming deadline to concentrate the mind. When you've made a list twice as long as your arm, and have a single morning to buy for everyone from The Husband to the workplace Secret Santa, there's no faffing about.
Neither is there any pretending. I can honestly say that if I were doing Christmas shopping in September, I wouldn't have the nerve to admit it. Never mind how early the seasonal stuff arrives in the shops.
"Ah no, it's for my husband's birthday. He just loves flashing-nose Reindeer jumpers."
Fact is, when you've one week to The Big Event and you're suitably sweaty and stressed and trailing a massive list, there's no room for such niceties. I like to think shop assistants appreciate that. I tell them what I need. They tell me if they have it. I buy it and leave.
I don't like to sound immodest, but I'm pretty sure that makes me The Perfect Customer. That's a shocking realisation. But I could be a bit deluded: it's another distinct possibility.
To date, I haven't even thought about the tree or decorating the house, never mind anything else. What I have is a chaotic house that's in need of a good cleaning. Even I can appreciate that I'm in quite a small club.
It doesn't help that most of the houses on our road now boast wreaths on their doors and twinkling fir trees in their windows. Maybe our neighbours have assumed that our tree is at the back of the house this year. Or that we've changed religion. Or become the neighbourhood grinches.
My friends are quietly flabbergasted. For the moment, I stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly when yet another person tells me that they have everything done.
Because I know that any day now, it'll reach critical point and I'll spring into action. I've still time. Who knows, by then all the Christmas crackers could be half price.
*Final exam taken by Irish school leavers, the results of which will determine further education/training/job prospects.
I can't believe that we're almost at the end of 2018. Thank you so much for reading my monthly columns this year. 💚
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Most importantly, have a peaceful and happy Christmas and I'll see you in 2019.