My husband was spending Christmas away with his family, an arrangement that neither of us were particularly happy about but we were both too stubborn to acquiesce. I was excited to have a low-key holiday with my two brothers, mom and her boyfriend, away from the country-club affair that Christmas is with my husband's family. Little did I know it would turn out to be anything but low-key.
Christmas Eve began with my body deciding it would be super-fun to get my period five days early, landing on the most gastro-intestinally challenging holiday of the year. I've always had a love-hate relationship with my womb, meaning I love her and she hates me. I have the sort of periods that usually lay me out flat, growling like an animal for my husband to rub my feet and then barking at him that they are too sore to be massaged. I get cramps from my ribs down into my knees. I have diarrhea for approximately the entire time. I can usually manage to eat three things while I'm in this state: a stewed mixture of rice and beans, chicken broth and toast. I am cranky, quarrelsome and mean as a honey badger for the duration.
When I woke up on Christmas Eve to discover that my rascally uterus was basically throwing me to the wolves, I pulled the covers up over my head, sobbed for about 10 minutes, and then texted my mom to say that Christmas was canceled.
Mind you, I still had approximately 2.5 scarves left to knit, buttons to sew onto mostly finished projects, a billion gifts to wrap, and a couple of food things I was supposed to cook. My mom is pretty good at talking me down and told me to get myself to her house with everything I needed in tow — we'd figure it out together. So I spent the next few hours slowly gathering all the things I needed while taking breaks to watch Law & Order/cry while rage-texting anyone who would listen.
I was in the kind of pain that's unusual even for me. Every six months or so I get a special sort of period that I refer to as Bloodageddon. Like the megalodon of menstruation. And I knew when I woke up that this was the big one. So I put on my queen-sized maxi pad (you know, like the ones that you'd be fine if you accidentally pooped yourself while wearing) and made my way to my mom's.
When I got there, she had boiled water for tea, had run me a bath, and was ready to rub my shoulders. I scanned the room, making sure to give each family member a nasty look that said "I know it's Christmas Eve, but stay the fuck away from me," and retreated into the giant porcelain bathtub so that I could alternate between puking and soaking.
My mom knocked gently on the door after about 20 minutes, and I begrudgingly let her in. She said something like, "I'm sorry to bother you sweetie, but remember how M [my husband] brought his medical marijuana resin over when I hurt my neck? Maybe you should take a little."
This is the moment when I decided that a little Mary J might be exactly what I needed to make it through the next 24 hours.
I'm not a big pot smoker; in fact I've ingested the stuff maybe a dozen or so times in my life, mainly because I'd much rather be drunk than high, and I tend to get a little anxious with the green stuff. I didn't remember exactly how much a single dose was, but I put about triple what I thought the therapeutic amount would be.
It turns out that I was wrong, I tripled triple what the therapeutic amount was.
I didn't know anything was weird right away. I was sitting in the kitchen when my brother started showing me some Epic Rap Battles on YouTube. I became aware that I was beginning to slide ever so slowly down the chair I was sitting in. Of course, no one else seemed to notice. I could barely notice, but I felt each vertebra of my spine jellifying.
Interesting, I thought, the pain is definitely subsiding!
My mom started bringing out some snacks, and I actually had a bit of an appetite. But as my eyes relaxed their focus a bit and I started to let the realness of an Epic Rap Battle between Batman and Sherlock Holmes sink in, I realized that I was laughing so hard that everyone was looking at me, not the video. This caused me to panic a little — why were they looking at me? The video was so pure, so comedic! I burst into tears, while still laughing, and trying to convince my 12-year-old brother to show me another video. My mom was the only one who knew what I'd taken for the pain. She asked me if I needed some fresh air and I said YES PLEASE.
This is when my memory of the evening gets a little hazy. I stood outside for, like, six or seven hours waiting for my mom to join me; she claims it was about five minutes. Nonetheless, I was feeling very entertained by the spiraling patterns emanating from the moon. Every so often, one of the spirals would start to look like a face, and I'd get scared and look down to see that my feet were both closer and further than I'd ever thought they were. When my mom got outside, she asked me how I was feeling, and I told her I'd never really understood how our bodies could be separate from anything else.
She hugged me meaningfully and then, holding my face in her hands she said, "Are you tripping, sweetie?"
Indeed, I was, Mom.
A couple of flashes from the rest of the evening:
- Standing hunched over a jar of Nutella in the corner of the kitchen while my 24-year-old brother massaged my upper arms and said over and over, you're okay, you're okay. I'm not sure why he was doing this, but I must have seemed not-okay.
- My mom's hand putting coffee after coffee in front of me. The coffee kept being gone but I can't remember drinking it. New coffee would come, old coffee disappearing.
- Have you ever heard the Smoky Mountain Christmas album? It's a staple in my mom's house. You know what else are staples on Christmas at my mom's? Tinsel. Technicolor Christmas lights. Creepy '70s Christmas decorations like Kewpie Dolls in Santa hats. Lots and lots of light up ornaments and decorations. I felt like I was clawing my way up out of a psychedelic Santa-land k-hole. I can't really explain the feeling of spinning out of control as peppy mandolin Christmas music makes it seem like you're inside a Bing Crosby themed shag pad, but try to imagine with me for a moment.
At some point, my mom realized that she could capitalize on my state. She placed three roles of shiny foil wrapping paper, scissors, tape and a giant stack of presents in front of me. I didn't even know my own name in that moment, but dammit, I knew what to do. I wrapped each gift carefully and, in four hours, had wrapped all the presents without anyone's help.
Here's the kicker: instead of writing the names of who each gift was from or for, I began drawing elaborate clues of what each package held inside. I don't remember what my logic was for this; I don't even remember doing it. But the next morning, when the hallucinatory sheen had worn off, I discovered that all the presents under the tree had clues not only for what was in the package but also for the state my mind was in as I wrapped each gift.
One memorable clue: a giant garden tool and a purse-"hoe-bag" for the silky undies my mom got for her boyfriend. Also, when he opened them, I almost puked when it was discovered that I had rolled up the legs of the briefs and taped them to look like it was a thong. One package was covered in flames but I don't know why. Another had an elaborate portrait of a mystery man. One had what seemed like poop but was probably supposed to be ice cream? Not really sure.
I can say with certainty that this was the most memorable Christmas I've ever had (although I remember a relatively small percentage of what happened). I was happy if not a bit nauseated by the way time kept speeding up/rewinding so that I heard myself say words out loud before I had thought of them. But I got way more into the Christmas spirit than I usually do, donning elf ears for a good portion of the evening and dancing my butt off to that wild mandolin. I laughed and cried with my family, I ate tons of tasty food, I went to bed feeling warm and cozy. Of course, the scarves didn't get finished and I gave up on the spinach casserole, but I completely forgot that I even had my period. My body was incapable of experiencing pain!
I'm not sure I would recommend this to anyone, but I can definitely say that this Christmas was saved because I OD'd on medical weed. I even stayed pleasantly high for a full 24 hours, encompassing festivities with extended family visitors the next day. It really was a Christmas miracle.