“Here’s your change. Miss? Miss, are you alright?”
I held out my hand and aimed it in the general direction of where the voice of the cashier was coming from. I tried as hard as I could to blink her frame into existence, to help steady myself, but all I could see was darkness. I was in the midst of blacking out and it was probably the most inconvenient time (not that there’s ever a convenient time to pass out, although laying down in bed could be better actually).
This was the week before Christmas years ago, I had sucked all the joy out of the holidays because of my panicked, last-minute Christmas shopping. I was by myself in a Hallmark store painfully inching my way up to the front of a long line to pay for a $300 card when I started feeling the telltale signs of a blackout creeping on. Aside from temporary vision loss, I started cold sweating profusely.
Do they make cards for that? “So sorry you fainted in the middle of Hallmark. Be well.”
These blackouts were happening frequently in my early 20s; usually when I got up too quickly from a sitting position or if I was extremely hot. Heat and exhaustion were definitely the culprits that day as I was decked out in a parka suited for the arctic tundra and corralling a plethora of shopping bags. I skipped the change and the concerned inquiries, and I found myself willing my legs to cooperate; like in my head I was swearing at my legs to not buckle. Swear to God, you better walk now!
I’m telling you, the human fortitude to prevent yourself from falling on your butt and embarrassing yourself is very, very powerful (no matter how ridiculous I must’ve looked). I remember slowly and mechanically making my way out of the store while holding on to every ounce of my dignity. Evidently, I really cared about what mallgoers thought of me lest I collapse mid-payment. Although, looking back, who could have blamed me! A faint would have been totally warranted seeing how much a card at Hallmark goes for these days!
It’s comical to look back on now, but at the time it was petrifying being in a public space by myself and not knowing if I was going to pass out.
I have a lengthy rap sheet of pulling crazy antics due to my lack of preparation during this time of year. A previous year, I thought I had made headway by creating a detailed list and saving ALL my shopping for the three weeks before Christmas. I resolutely decided it was going to be a one-and-done situation. I made plans to meet my sister at the mall and we were going to check off my list as efficiently as possible. But as soon as I entered the mall and looked down at my massive list, I searched for the closest vacant bench and texted my sister immediately: “Come get me please. Am unwell. This is much too stressful!” My sister found me several minutes later staring wildly at the crowd and shaking my head (fine, maybe I was just imagining the last part). She proceeded to roll her eyes at me and swore we were going to start earlier the next year.
I realize all this is the definition of a first-world problem, but it’s my truth! This year I vowed to start early, and I did. Feels good to have your life goals in order for once, you know?
I gathered a few tips since my lunatic years of mad shopping last-minute:
- Start your Christmas shopping well in advance (like early November).
- Make a list (categorized by stores to hit).
- Pack lightly, but definitely bring water and maybe a little cookie snack for sustenance.
- Wear light clothing.
- Shop earlier in the day to avoid crowds.
What about you? Do you get overwhelmed with Christmas shopping or am I the only delicate petal?
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