Holidays, Stress, and Love
There is a belief in some circles that when a person has an issue which they have a hard time facing, then life will keep giving them opportunities to learn that lesson. This is a very accurate description of my relationship with Christmas.
In my younger days I liked to consider myself Santa’s favorite elf:
- buying perfect presents,
- creating gorgeous wrapping,
- sending cards to everyone I have ever met,
- beautiful holiday decorations on every surface,
- and the baking of cookies and pastries…
Well, you get the picture.
It’s also the perfect picture of holiday stress.
Several years ago, I began the process of doing less to lower the stress:
Fewer decorations, presents, and cards.
More time for myself and for fun with family and friends.
But I would begin to plan and prepare in September so that I could still get done everything that would make each year the best holiday ever. How many overbooked women try these same techniques to do it all?
I was still doing just as much work, just organized and spread out over a longer period of time. Doing less was harder than I ever imagined.
But one year, I finally learned the lesson about what matters during the holidays.
Suddenly that year, I found myself already after Thanksgiving and behind schedule! And that’s when life stepped in to help me with the lesson.
The day began with an ice storm that trapped us in the house… That’s no problem, there’s plenty to do here.
Next came the power failure robbing us of both light and heat… Now it is difficult to get anything done.
And then the tree fell through the roof bringing a second tree with it and creating a wet mess… No longer time for any holiday thoughts, much less preparation.
The day ended with the sudden onset of a vicious cold complete with total laryngitis!
And my favorite holiday just ten days away with no possible way to make it the “best Christmas ever”. Let the learning begin…
First, I discover that my husband and daughter have never been very invested in the lavish decorations I was doing “for them” each year. Instead we revisited a tradition from my childhood in which each holiday card that arrived was taped to a doorframe in the house for display.
I never unpacked the beautiful card basket that year (or most of the other decorations) and instead covered every flat surface in our living area with a card or two. What a joy to look around at the reminders of people that matter to us!
Then came the gifts and the wrapping. I focused on “it’s the thought that counts” and not that each gift must be perfect. I even gave THE SAME THING to more than one person!
The wrapping was done very quickly as a team effort with lots of stick on bows instead of fancy ribbons and yarns. My husband and I decided not to even wrap each other’s gifts.
Everyone was appreciative as always at the feeling being expressed – no one even seemed to notice the changes.
The big holiday meal was as fun and filling as usual in spite of my serving half the number of dishes (no stuffing for the turkey!) and having ice cream for dessert.
I was really breaking out of the mold of the “way it ought to be”.
In the midst of all this, the two trees were removed from the house, the power returned after four days, the roof was decorated with a temporary patch and the cold turned to a lingering cough.
That’s when I remembered that the opposite of fear is love.
When I gave up the fear of not having a perfect holiday, I found room to express the love I have for family and friends in beautiful, simple ways. And for me, Christmas has always been about love.
What an adventure I had to go through to finally learn this lesson. Now I understand that if the Christmas task is not a direct expression of that love, then it can be skipped or considered an extra.
And now I know, THAT is the “way it ought to be” for me.
This is a very personal story of my Christmas learning and I would like to end with a very personal wish for you.
May your holiday season – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and more – be a time of love and learning for you.
May you have simple, beautiful times with those that you love.
May you have connections with those whom you cannot see in person.
And may you recreate for yourself this sense of comfort and love each day as you move through your life.
May your adventure that we call life contain much love and little fear. Happy Holidays.
Let me hear about how you express your love at Christmas. Just add your thoughts to the comments below.