Christmas 2020. This year has been different all around. Christmas is going to be no exception. Every year, for the past 10 years, I have played a major role in purchasing and preparing the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. Most of the time, my husband and I were the hosts as well. I love cooking for the holidays and that’s how I got the job in the first place. But this year, I’m taking a step back.
I’m usually running crazy as soon as October hits because every 2 weeks starting October 14th, there is a holiday or birthday in our family. I usually start planning and buying gifts and pantry stable food items in September so that I have head start on the madness. My husbands birthday comes first, then Halloween, then my mom’s birthday, then my brother’s and Thanksgiving together. It doesn’t stop there though, Then our only child has her birthday in the middle of December, followed quite quickly by Christmas and New Years.
As you can imagine, this amount of madness can fry any person, let alone me. I run at maybe 70% brain capacity anyway on a good day. I’m sort of a buzz-buzz brain…thanks to hormonal imbalances, PCOS, and endometriosis – more on that another day. But then I throw myself into the fray with all these holidays. As a younger woman, I LOVED the holidays. I not only felt the magic, but I wasn’t put out by creating the magic, over and over and over and over….
As I’ve gotten older (and my husband warned me this would happen many years ago), I’ve lost the energy and stamina 20 year old me had. I’ve “lost the magic.” That song, “Where are You, Christmas?” sang true to me over the last couple years. I felt the burn out. I felt the weight of the stress. I was beginning to resent the holidays in a way. But then, this year happened.
We didn’t lose jobs. We weren’t directly affected by COVID19 (until recently, when we lost a friend to it). Other than having our daughter E-Learning part of the year and working from home for a month or two, nothing about this year was different for us. Over all, this year has been one of our better ones and I know we are amongst the lucky few for that. The holidays are the first we’ve felt that things are actually different.
In October, we usually go to pumpkin patches and corn mazes and we usually go out to a nice restaurant for my husband’s birthday. In November we usually have family over for my mom’s birthday and host a decently sized Thanksgiving meal. In December we host a, usually crazy, birthday party for our daughter and then we have an open door policy with food all around all Christmas day. This year, that’s when everything felt different. But do you know what else has been different? The stress has been basically zilch, nada, gone, ZERO. It has been amazing!
The pressure to figure out what weekends to squeeze the pumpkin patch in and still have time to carve or paint pumpkins was gone. The financial kick of cooking a several course meal for 12 or more people for Thanksgiving, vanished. Our daughter had 1 friend over instead of coordinating with the parents of the usual 4-5 crazy young girls. Christmas? Our open door policy and day long “buffet” has been placed on hold. We are just doing US this year. It’s been only the 3 of us: my husband, our daughter, and myself. We work “essential” jobs so we have limited our other exposures, which translates to not attending or hosting gatherings, and fewer trips to the store. The most we have done is a dinner here and there with parents. And I can’t say that I’ve hated it… at all.
Further reducing the stress this year, our daughter (just turned 9) figured out the Santa thing. An occasion I thought would be a little sad, has actually been a gift to both my husband and myself. We are no longer bickering about what Christmas morning should look like (he usually had a large Christmas as a child, while I typically had a smaller one). We don’t have to hide packages or have them shipped somewhere else to keep the surprise from our kiddo. Sure, we still hide the presents, but she can see that they have come in. We can also take advantage of only paying county taxes and residential shipping instead of city taxes and commercial shipping to have them arrive at the office we manage. Where we live, that’s 3% difference in taxes and $2.00 per shipment in shipping costs!
Without the stress of the “Holiday Season” (as previously mentioned, runs from October thru December for us) constantly pushing me to the next task, the next event, the next, next, next, …etc, I finally realized what a drain it truly has been on me, my husband, our relationship! I get so focused on not wanting to forget anything that I usually miss the best part, ENJOYING IT. When I get stressed, I tend to do what any overwhelmed woman does: nag.
Then there is the small detail that my husband might as well be a Betazoid (huge points if you catch that reference). He picks up on EVERYTHING I’m feeling. Then he not only has to process his own emotions and stress about the goings on, but he has to process mine too. To top it off, in the sweetest way possible, he wants to then fix everything. I’m not one to accept help very easily (I suffer from a bit of martyr syndrome). So I inadvertently make him feel bad when I get upset about … well, anything and everything.
This year has shown me just how integrated I had gotten into the capitalized machine of the holidays. I had been swallowed by what society thinks the holidays should look like… without even knowing it! When we stepped back this year, it showed me that the relaxation and the slower pace is what I need around the holidays, not what I have been doing for the last decade.
So, if your holidays look different to you this year, take a moment to find the good in the change. If it’s that you just can’t afford to do what you normally do, or that you just can’t muster the energy to follow that color coded holiday plan you spent too many hours creating, THAT’S OK. Take the time to re-center and refocus. You may find that you aren’t as excited about all that stuff and all those tasks as you once thought you were. It’s an addiction; creating the Christmas Spirit. And just like any addiction, it can actually be more detrimental to you and those around you than you realize.
Kick off your shoes. Put the credit card down. Change into something cozy. Turn on some music. Just sit and listen. Be IN THE MOMENT this year. Don’t be a slave to creating it for everyone else. There has never been a more socially acceptable reason to shut it all down and do things just for you and yours. Take this opportunity to discover what feeling content actually feels like. Get addicted to that.