I vow to slow down and stay in the moment.
I will do my best not to obsess over silly things.
I pledge to remember what is important (family, friends, health, joy)
I will continue to do things that help me to feel healthy and good (run, yoga, walks, ____).
I will set reasonable expectations for myself (and others).
I will not freak out if I forget to move the Elf on the Shelf.
If I feel anxious, I will take a deep breath.
I can feel my heart rate rising… There is too much to do! I am simultaneously excited and overwhelmed by the approaching holiday season. I love Christmas. I love wrapping packages. I love all the little signs of the season; eggnog lattes, gingerbread houses, cutting out snowflakes (or happy little trees) for our windows… “Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.”
I also will admit that I feel challenged by it. Overspending and differing priorities and historical baggage, Oh My! I become a bit of a perfectionist at this time of year and put pressure on myself to make things just so. Growing up, I imagined a time when I would get to decide what Christmas would look like for my own family. I dreamed of incorporating my historical traditions with what my husband-to-be knew and we would define our own values and traditions, specific to our family. This was not as simple just deciding what the holidays would look like in the mind’s eye. We’ve spent the last ten years figuring out this dance with varying levels of success; working to get the steps just right, incorporating family traditions that feel good to all of us, some from our past and some completely new. And I think we’re getting there!
Ironically, the event that has both put Christmas into perspective and simultaneously turned it on its ear was our daughter’s birth last year, two days after Christmas. Our baby was due December 30th and I was convinced that she would come early. Absolutely convinced. The beginning of December was busy with the knowledge that she would arrive eventually and when it happened our plans would go out the window (or at least switch to Plan B, C, or D). The nutcracker ballet, santa pictures, preschool holiday performance, and holiday parties all happened amidst many a contraction, but without a hitch. Gifts were purchased and wrapped weeks before Christmas. Jam was made in the summer to be gifted to family and friends… and at some point after all that, I realized it just didn’t matter. Each day would begin and I would think, “Will she arrive today? How will I feel if I don’t get ___ done?” It turned out that all that mattered was that our family was together and we were expecting a new member to arrive at any moment. We were freed from the feeling that events were mandatory, which in turn made them more fun! We realized that life would go on. Christmas would happen whether we were “ready” or not. All that truly existed was enjoying each other’s company and letting other people know that we care about them too. I guess that could be said for the rest of the year too, but there is something heightened during this time. Do you feel it? Do you obsess over how many cookies you must bake or what to buy for Aunt Tilly? I know that there is something universally wonderful about this season and also for many, something tough. Perhaps because, like vacations that are photographed and photographed, the holidays are memorable. They are differentiated from the rest of the year by rituals that are done over and over again in a special way. As it turned out, we were able to do all the holiday things we wanted to, enjoy Christmas with our boys, and then welcome our daughter into the world.
For us, the holidays now mean something new. They mean the beginning of life for our littlest. What I learned last year and hope to carry with me in the years to come is the following. Sure, it is fun to give and receive gifts. Of course, it is great to celebrate the season with special events and dress up clothes. But, the true holiday spirit comes from looking around and appreciating the life we have, the people we love, and that we are all here together. And that feeling doesn’t evaporate when you look at your credit card bill in January.
Note: I have waited a few days to publish this because I have been feeling too distracted by my “To Do” lists, and this felt ironic. Too ironic. I have been feeling overwhelmed. This is not entirely due to the holidays, but also for the planning of my baby’s first birthday! Deep breath, Poole. Relax. Obviously we all go through moments of craziness. I know that I am not alone in this… but in our best selves and in our best moments, maybe it is possible to keep a little perspective and laugh when things are ironic!