Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tis the Season to Be Stressed Out

            Tis the season to be merry. Joy to the world. Right? Right?! Okay, let’s be real. I’ve always loved Christmas. I’ve been one of those annoying people who starts listening to Christmas music before the jack-o-lanterns rot. My husband and I have a friendly debate about it every year. When I was a kid, Christmas meant Hallmark movies, picking out the best tree on the lot, eggnog, and circling creepy dolls in catalogs. For us, it first and foremost means hearing the story of Jesus’s birth.

            As an adult, I was excited to carry on Christmas traditions, my favorite of which is hosting Christmas Eve. My best childhood memories include sitting around with cousins, eating too much, and having a “surprise” visit from “Santa” aka my dad, parents clapping hands over the mouths of older kids who tried to declare that was just Uncle Don. Damn those older kids, ruining the magic for everyone. That happens, though, doesn’t it? We lose the magic. Joy to the world becomes stress to the world. Tis the season to be crazy.

            It’s fun to decorate with my kids, showing them decorations that date back to my grandma. I love seeing them count down the days until Christmas and picking out the gifts. We still host Christmas Eve, though we can’t get anyone to play Santa anymore. I’ve tried soliciting some of my neighbors, but they’re all mysteriously busy on Christmas Eve. Weird. Most of the kids have outgrown the belief. Hopefully, I still have a few years with my six-year-old.

            Where am I going with this? Here’s the thing. Every single year I, like every other adult, jump on a hamster wheel while the Thanksgiving dishes soak and fall off, exhausted, somewhere around January 15th. I’m a straight up Scrooge by December 25th. Every year I tell myself this year I’ll let go of the stress and really enjoy this season instead of it being a whirlwind. I’ll focus on what really matters and let the rest go. Yet every year the messages come in. OMG, 27 shopping days left! Amazon delivery is behind! What does everyone want for Christmas? Hurry, decorate! Make cookies! Watch all the Christmas movies in my abundant free time! Go to everyone’s holiday party! An introvert’s dream!

            By the time the wrapping paper I inevitably spend all night Christmas Eve securing around gifts is strewn across the living room and my kids are arguing about whether or not it can be recycled I’m left feeling…. empty. I doubt I’m alone. Holidays are hard for a lot of people, and not just because of the added to-dos. This past week my pastor was talking about keeping the Sabbath. In his typical gentle/challenging way, he said, “Don’t raise your hands, but how many of you remember when you’ve last actually rested on the seventh day? Left the dishes in the sink? They’ll still be there Monday. Are you waiting until after the Christmas season to keep the Sabbath?”

            Now, he said this to a group of women, so you can imagine the response. I heard someone say, “I wish he’d tell my boss I need a day off!” His point was, why do we think we have to do it all, and we’re the only ones who can? Well, I have an answer: expectations.

            Whether we get it from our families, Facebook, our kids, or our own internal pressures, we all have a running list of what we should be doing. We feel like if we don’t do all the holiday things we are somehow failing. Actually, when we do all the things we get less out of the season, or at least that’s true for me. So, a few years ago I decided to let some Christmas tasks go for my own sanity. Let me tell you, it was a big deal, but I’m still on that hamster wheel. I have to figure out what other corners I can cut.

How do you keep from going crazy during the holidays? Please, please share! Unless your answer is, “I love doing all the things; it just takes a little organization, that’s all!” If that’s your answer, please return to the Hallmark movie from which you escaped and let me know which one it is, so I can make sure it never shows up on my DVR. Thanks.

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