To me, the holidays have always meant family and friends, togetherness and good cheer, peppermint mochas and gingerbread cookies. But increasingly, the Christmas season can also mean traffic and crowded stores, stress and anxiety, heartburn and credit-card bills. Now more than ever, we’re feeling the pinch. Our wallets are lighter. Our worries are many. But our hearts are still full.
At the risk of sounding like a character from a Hallmark Channel TV movie, I believe it’s possible to have a fantastic time at Christmas…even without miles of blinking LED lights, candy canes, and a huge pile of gifts under the tree. Because those things are all extras. They’re just accessories. They’re optional. You don’t really need decorations or gifts or goodies at all.
A freaky idea? Not really. Because what matters right now is being with the people you care about–and all the extraneous Christmas stuff can actually be a distraction from that.
Think about it. Have you ever plowed through the mall, searching for exactly the right gift for someone special, only to come home exhausted…and snap at that special someone? (Oops.) Have you ever gotten so obsessed with pulling off a Martha Stewart-worthy tree-trimming that you sneaked one of your less show-worthy (but sentimental) ornaments to a hidden location in the back? (Guilty.)
Have you ever dragged yourself to a “Black Friday” sale at 4 AM, stayed up past midnight to assemble a new bicycle or pretend you were Santa, slaved over a fancy holiday feast with all the trimmings…then fallen asleep with your face in a basket of dinner rolls because you were too tired to keep going? (Umm…yes, mm-hmmm, and whoops.)
I’ve done a few of those things and more. Believe me, I’m not proud of it. But, like the heroine of my new book, Home for the Holidays, I’ve learned my lessons and I’ve moved on. I’ve discovered that there’s a way out of the Christmas insanity! For me, it starts with lowering my expectations. It continues with making myself do less instead of more. It ends with me doing my best to stay, Zenlike, in the moment as it happens. Because while we’re busy creating the picture-perfect holiday, sometimes the real substance of Christmas slips right by us. And nobody feels jolly about that.
So this year I’m scaling back, ramping down, and taking a few deep breaths. I’m planning to savor this Christmas–even the chipped, flawed, and otherwise imperfect parts of it. (Hey, that’s how you snag the broken cookies. Bonus!) I hope you’ll join me! Please tell me how you deal with Christmas craziness–how you find the joy in the everyday moments, even when you’re trying to track down the last quart of eggnog within fifty miles for your holiday party and being blasted with “Last Christmas” by Wham! for the 2,497th time. Let’s share!