A Season of Comfort and Joy

A Season of Comfort and Joy December 14, 2023

a plate of Christmas cookies
image via Pixabay


The car will only drive one mile.

Jimmy said the fastest thing will be to take the list of codes back to Auto Zone and just buy every sensor they tell me to by. The scanner codes are all a matter of more burned-out sensors. I don’t need a new transmission, just the transmission speed sensor and one or two others. He can put them in the car quickly when I finish paying the rent and come up with the money to buy them; then I’ll have a dented but usable vehicle again, and he can replace the door and motor mounts any time I can afford a trip to the junkyard. He’s even still letting me pay him back for his labor in installments. For now, the car shuts down the transmission and goes into “limp mode” after I’ve driven a mile. I can’t go for long drives to look at Christmas lights in the country. I can’t get to church, which is a bit of a relief. I can’t get to Walmart or Aldi or the library. I can’t get all the way to the fun part of downtown and see the Nutcracker display. I can get as far downhill as AutoZone, and as far south as the Kroger shopping center. The Kroger shopping center has a Chinese restaurant in it. Adrienne has been getting fried rice for dinner a lot lately. If you’re in the market for a car, I strongly caution you against a ten-year-old Nissan with a dry rotted wiring harness.

We even manage to admire a few Christmas light displays on the way home from the store and the Chinese restaurant.

But I’m not terrified.

I’m not catastrophizing anymore, I’m just ordinary kinds of scared and annoyed.

It’s the darkest time of the year, but my mind is not suffering its usual seasonal darkness.

I’ve been watching Christmas movies. Sometimes I get together with my friends online, virtually, for a pretend Christmas party: we arrange to watch a movie at the same time while enjoying a Christmas snack and talking about the film on Twitter. We all know that I love A Christmas Carol and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street but I hate It’s a Wonderful Life. Last time, Adrienne even came down to watch with us instead of hanging out in her room. It felt like a real party. It felt happy.

It’s fun to sit at my laptop, enjoying virtual company, when I’m not having OCD spirals and constantly Googling terrifying possibilities in a tab. It’s relaxing.

I’ve been reading books again. And by reading, I mean doing crafts while I listen to audiobooks. My brain is still very fried from all the years of trauma and panic attacks. But slowly, over the course of the year, I’ve been having a better and better attention span. I realized that I could take in more than a chapter of a book here and there if I did something with my hands and just listened to the text. Lately I’ve been listening to The Thirty-Nine Steps. I thought The Thirty-Nine Steps would be a suspenseful spy thriller, but it’s actually incredibly silly. I’m not in agony to see how the pompous Englishman gets out of the next scrape, I’m just listening in disbelief as he has close call after ludicrous close call. In my mind, all the characters are Monty Python caricatures, with Terry Jones playing all the women.

It’s a fun surprise to be laughing when you thought you’d be scared. I would like to have that surprise more often.

Since it’s not busy coming up with new ways to terrify me, my brain’s creativity is back online. I’ve been making Christmas ornaments out of clay while I listen to my silly books.  I got the clay on a Black Friday sale heavily discounted; my old clay from years ago is upstairs in a drawer, too dry to use. Making things out of Sculpey used to be a constant hobby, but I’ve been too burned out for art for such a long time. I think I’m going to get out my old Prismacolor artist pencils and draw next.

I’ve been planning the Christmas baking. My favorite recipe is cake mix cookies, which are easy and fun to make. The past few years I’ve been so exhausted I’ve barely made one or two batches, but this year I have plans for much more. My favorite way to make cake mix cookies is to make a double batch with vanilla mix and a double batch with chocolate mix, then divide the giant bowls of vanilla and chocolate dough into three each and add different mix-ins. Vanilla with M&M’s, Vanilla with sprinkles instead of chips, vanilla with pecans and caramel chips. Chocolate with white chips. Chocolate with crushed Heath bars. Chocolate with crushed Andes mints. A whole color wheel of different varieties of cookie. Sometimes I just stop there, but this year I also want to make a batch of snowballs and a batch of crinkles.

I’ve been lighting my Advent candles.

I know it could all melt away at any minute. That’s the nature of struggling with trauma and panic attacks. But this is the kind of thing the mind has energy for, when the mind isn’t stuck in limp mode because of a faulty sensor. The sensors are working just now. Maybe it won’t last, but it’s nice at the moment.

Advent feels like a season of comfort and joy, for a change.

I think it’s going to be all right.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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