Every December, I tell myself that this will be the year I keep my cool. That this Christmas will be filled with warmth and coziness and gratitude. And every December 26th, I find myself muttering, “Thank GOD that’s over.” Because instead of cultivating warmth and coziness and gratitude, I’ve somehow cultivated resentment, exhaustion, and inferiority.

But hark! I bring tidings of great joy: this December feels very different from Decembers past. I have discovered a phrase that acts as a kind of holiday safe word. It is a phrase that seems to magically restore me to sanity. That phrase is:

Sorry, but my battery is at 1%. 

Let me explain.

The other day, I was rushing around trying to locate my iPhone. I knew one of my three children was to blame for its absence, and in my fury, I shouted:

“WHERE THE FUCK IS MY PHONE?”

My husband pulled me aside, and said, “Surely you and I can find it without profanity.”

Then I said my magical phrase:

Sorry, but my battery is at 1%.

 I’ve used this phrase enough lately that he knows that I’m not talking about the phone battery. I’m talking about MY battery.

He replied, “Oh. Tell me what you need.”

 I told him, “What I really need is about 5 minutes of no one asking me for anything. I need 5 full minutes of zero assignments.”

My husband nodded, and said, “Got it. Go into your office and close the door. I’ll run interference.”

My kids now know this phrase too. Whenever I use it, one of them will invariably lay a small hand on my arm and say, What do you need, mom?  My eldest daughter just yesterday asked me if I needed a nice bath. I did.

What I especially love about this phrase is that the metaphor is so complete, so efficient that no one asks you why your battery is low. They don’t hear blame or accusation in it. They just see it for what it is: a problem easily solved by plugging into a power source.

So the next time you fall prey to December’s psycho siren call,  just tell ‘em about your battery, and then tell ‘em what you need.

It turns out that warmth, coziness, and gratitude live on the other side of a full charge.

Photo courtesy https://flickr.com/pauljoyce/