The stress of the holidays is slowly passing, but there are lessons to take away from this and every holiday season. The pressure of getting the right gift, inviting the right mix of people to our parties, wearing the perfect outfit and cooking an amazing meal is heightened around Christmas. I often wonder why we fall for the same script every year. Recently I heard a story of someone who spends almost 50 thousand dollars a year just in Christmas lights because that is how they have always done it in their family. Everyone is entitled to whatever makes them happy, but this person says that it was extremely stressful for them, but they could not break the Christmas tradition.
Maybe we want things to be different this year, so we create the Holiday of our dreams in our imaginations (trial). Everything is glorious; we imagine ourselves happily moving through the holiday season in a way that makes sense to us. There is no sitting in holiday traffic or waiting in long lines and no over-spending, just family and friends enjoying the special feeling that the holiday brings. It occurred to me today that the problem lies with the possible “error”. We want to make it to the beautiful imagery of a stress-free holiday without suffering a possible loss along the way. Maybe the loss (error) would be something as heinous as disappointing a family member or a friend or even appearing to be less than perfect. The tricky part is to figure out if the error is really a bad thing. Maybe being less than perfect is actually good.
Due to unforeseen circumstances (and possibly lack of long-term preparation on my part), I gave a lot less gifts this year. I was not in the position to overspend or overcommit. I prepared my children in advance for less unwrapping this year. A funny thing happened– they survived. The trial and error ended with the manifestation of the beautiful imagery of Christmas that I had in mind many years ago. The difference? The trial was not optional; otherwise this may have been another year of wishful thinking with no real plan to make any substantial changes.
I told my children months ago to write down 4 things that they wanted for Christmas but only to expect two of those things under the tree. They were instructed to prioritize their lists and given a date to have the lists submitted to me so that I could forward the lists to Santa. They thought diligently about what they really wanted and gave me their little lists before the due dates. There were no fits pitched and no attempted negotiations; they knew what to do and they did it without any complaints. For a 6 and 8 year old, I was pretty impressed at their maturity in understanding the situation and the rules and abiding by them accordingly.
I am grateful that the little ones were both happy on Christmas Day. They got the things that they asked for and were extremely happy with their gifts which actually held their interests for more than 5 minutes. I am grateful that instead of sitting in traffic or waiting in long lines, we made meals together and in-between their fighting, we also danced and laughed and sang.
I am grateful for the trial. The balance of life is crucial to happiness. In the past I found myself attempting to make up for lack of time for my kids with materials. They did not buy it. Of course they were temporarily happy for having a new toy, but eventually they still wanted me to play with them and the toy. This Christmas, there was balance. Interestingly, the balance between time and materials spilled over into other areas. There was also a greater balance between indulgence and exercise, between activity and rest and between laughing and crying (I mean, it’s still the holidays). This year, there was much less waste from boxes and wrapping paper and a great reduction in thrown-away food. We even had time to organize and carry out a community service project.
I love that this year, I got a little closer to doing it right. I love that it is December 26th and I still have my sanity. Namaste.