I’ve had a lot of changes over the past year. Many have been external and others internal. As far as change goes, some can be good, some hard, others small, and some can even be volcanic. I think I’ve had all of these this year. All of this has also changed the way I look at the holidays and what is supposed to the “the most wonderful time of the year.”
I have truly worked on simplifying most areas of my life this year – some have been by choice and others simply due to circumstances, but becoming more intentional with time, choices, activities, and thoughts is a good thing. It has really been a gift that I never expected.
When it comes to this Holiday Season I’ll be honest and say right here that it is something I have spent the past few months, weeks and days dreading. I hated the fact that my boys would have to deal with their first Thanksgiving without their dad and we would have another empty chair around the table. We made the day simple, fun and just about enjoying being together. I found that sometimes changing things up a little bit and just relaxing are the best things we can do.
Keeping these things in mind, I am intentionally giving up a number of things this Christmas Season. I don’t think I’ll miss most of them and, while this may not be our best Christmas ever, I hope it will be beautiful, fun, and full of good memories. As it should be.
The 12 Things I’m Giving Up this Christmas
- Christmas Cards. Let me begin by saying how much I LOVE everything about Christmas cards. I love receiving them and reading them and enjoying them and displaying them – which I do until Valentine’s Day! I love the tradition and I will confess to spending hours and days in the past getting the perfect photo (which with three boys is enough to bring even the strongest of mamas to a heap of tear), choosing the perfect verse and crafting the message, then signing and addressing each by hand. I simply cannot do all of that this year. It does not mean that the boys and I don’t love you or wish you the very best Christmas ever – we do! This is just not the year for the card.
- The Live Tree. I cannot believe I am even typing this! I have had a live tree, full of all of the trouble, dry needles, pain in the butt choosing, hauling, setting up, watering, lovely fresh smell and cleaning up come January 1. We have had some great stories around those trees – especially the year I was in the hospital with my mom so asked my family to get our tree. Our boys set out to get the biggest and best tree they could find. It was a wonderful, huge 12 foot tree. And our ceilings were 9 feet. Enough said. Anyway, this year downsizing makes a big, live tree impractical so we have a really pretty, pre-lit, simple tree that is full of beautiful lights and our favorite, treasured ornaments. It is different and new and also wonderful.
- Exhaustion. A few years ago I wrote a blog post on how stressful Christmas used to be for me in that it was like a full time job on top of the already full time job I had. If you are a mom you totally get this. Moms are busy women. They are the CEO, CFO, Secretary/Treasurer, laundress, driver, cook, nurse, groomer, and police of their homes and then stick Christmas duties on top of that and a mom finds herself working nonstop for long 18 hour days getting the shopping, wrapping, cards, decorations, outfitting, cooking, entertaining, party attending, pageant and conference and performance preparations and handled. As I type out all that goes on I see it’s quite ridiculous. In order to really enjoy your family and friends and the beauty of all around this time of year I am being intentional about my “yes” and “nos”. If it is meaningful and in line with my vision of Christmas then it’s a huge “yes”. If it’s just another obligation or “check the box” then I have to choose rest over a yes.
- Guilt. There must be something about growing up in the South as a Southern Baptist. Boy, do we know guilt. We live and breathe it. And there is something about Christmas that really brings it out – or maybe just in me. In the past I’ve had guilt about not getting the perfect gift, the table not being just so, not having enough time to spend with some people or not getting something done to the perfectly. What is that? Guilt over things that really do not matter will not be part of Christmas this year.
- Consumerism over Connection. Since I do not have all my boys under my roof it is always a treat when we are all together. It just makes my heart happy. Those occasions when we actually talk and connect are what we need, not more stuff. Since I have outgrown the stage of needing to stand in lines at Toys R Us or Target for the latest plastic toy or gadget, it is easier to not get caught up in all of the shopping and buying hype. I have decided to be intentional with what we are buying and consuming this year and I think having experiences will do more to bring those connections this Christmas. In the past we have made it a tradition to see A Christmas Carol, been to the aquarium, Atlanta Symphony, light shows, experienced an Escape Room and over Thanksgiving saw Volta. I’m looking forward to making some of these happen again this year.
- Being a Grinch. This should be a given, but oftentimes all the stress and busyness can make me grouchy. I’m going to choose not to get caught up in the small things that I can’t control that then control my attitude.
- Expectations. I am going to keep the expectations low this year and work on understanding that this year will be different. Since change can be difficult it may be hard or emotional. I am not ging to expect anyone to act or feel a certain way just because it is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” This time of year often makes folks feel a little blue. I get that. I can get nostalgic over holdiays in the past and allow myself to be sad. I know we all have to simply feel what we feel and that is okay, so I am going to expect all the good and the sad that may come.
- All the decorations. In the past I would add to our Christmas decor with something every year. I also felt the need to put decorate with not only what made me happy but what I thought I needed to use as decorations because it would have made my mom happy, or my mother in law, or the neighbor down the street or the long lost friend who gave me that starfish ornament 15 years ago. You get the picture. That just does not make sense. See #2 (downsizing) and #4 (guilt) above.
- Random Filler Stuff – that’s just to fill. One of my favorite things about Christmas day is the stockings. These were a big part of our Christmas tradition. Growing up our stockings were overflowing with all sorts of fun, surprising or necessary trinkets all individually wrapped and tied with a bow. We continued to receive these stockings as adults which was just the best. We “adult children” would save our stockings until the afternoon when the real children were either napping or completely immersed with their new toys, then sit down and slowly go through the stocking opening each gift and comparing them with each other. It was so much fun. I’ve re-created this for the boys by filling their stockings with individually wrapped stuffers of puzzles, jokes, gift cards and then those random gifts that were just to fill space. Then the past couple of years, I noticed that months after Christmas was over I would find a shopping bag in the bottom of the closet with the random, nonsense stuffers still in the bag. So. . . this year I’m giving up on filling the stockings with random stuff just to fill up space. I love the tradition and want it to be as fun for them as my mom made it for us as “adult children”. That being said, I’m giving up the random filler that will be found on the bottom of the closet months after Christmas.
- Martha Stewart Tendencies. This is probably pretty self-explanatory in light of #1-#9. I am used to putting so much pressure on myself to make sure the meals, table, and trimming are all homemade, handmade and perfect. While I have always loved doing it all, the reality is that sometimes one person just can’t do it all. For example, this Thanksgiving I had planned the menu and begun cooking on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I had an unexpected call from one of the sons and spent most of the afternoon and early evening in the hospital. Somehow, I calmly sat in the chair beside him, read my book and didn’t worry about the brussel sprouts not getting trimmed. On Thanksgiving day as we were putting all the dishes out it occurred to me that we did NOT have the greens I had planned to have. With the impromptu hospital stay I had completely forgotten them! We just said, “oh well” and just barely managed with the big, green salad, brussel sprouts and all the other delicious foods. I was so happy to not have to give it a second thougth. (I’m confessing that would not have been my reaction in the past!)
- Some of the old Traditions. I haven’t completely worked this one out, but am mulling over our normal Christmas traditions and festivities. I think with all the changes we have had this year that some of those might should just be left alone. Sometimes I find that holding on so tightly to how “things used to be” can only amplify that they are no longer the same. I am working on creating a couple of new things to try this year and whether they stick or just get us through this year will be seen. I have a few things in mind but am also open to any ideas if you care to share!
- Worry, Stress, Anxiety. There are so many things that I cannot change, have no control over and cannot fix or change by worry, stressing or being anxious. I think for so many people all of these things tend to surface this time of year. There seems to be so much pressure to show your best face, make things appear all shiny and bright, and present a Norman Rockwell like presence. This past week I had three blows all in the span of three days. As I was going over it with the First Son, we just had to laugh. Thankfully, most things that used to stress me out barely cause me to raise an eyebrow these days. I have found so much peace in releasing the worry when I can (I am human so I’m definitely not saying I have it all under control). I often go back to 1 Peter 5-7. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Any time I feel the worry start to rise, I go back to this verse. It has gotten me through and I know will always be there when I need it. Since I have felt myself begin to worry about this Christmas, I am reminding myself of what to do.
Whew! That was a lot. If you are still with me, then you need your own Christmas present or maybe sip of egg nog.
I share all of these things hoping it might give you permission to release one or two things this year in order to create more space for yourself, your people and this beautiful time.
Cheers to a wonderful time of year!