True confessions here – the festive season doesn’t make me feel very festive. For the most part, it makes me feel stressed, adding a whole pile of things I need to do to my already-very-long list. While my kids are delighted with Santa, candy canes and stockings full of goodies, I am overwhelmed. And I don’t even have to cook the turkey – thankfully my husband takes care of that. Nonetheless, decorating, buying, wrapping, and mailing gifts, pulling together the family Christmas card, planning events, and handling the amped-up version of my kids can cause me additional anxiety and stress. I want to get better at enjoying this season so I’m sharing with you three choices I’ve decided to make this year:
- Choose wonder and joy. Last week it snowed, a rare event in our West Coast city. I was not excited. I chose to live here precisely because snow is rare. I worried about whether the van would drive in the snow, where I had stored the hats and mitts, and cursed the possibility that last year’s snow pants and boots would no longer fit. On the other hand, my five-year-old son was literally dancing with joy at the prospect of going out in the snow. We went and played – we made a snowman and had a snowball fight. I had a great time. He showed me the magic and delight there is in playing in the snow. I’m going to follow his lead. There’s lots to delight in at Christmas: visits with friends and far flung family members, delicious food, and lots of chocolate. I’m going to let go of anything that feels like an obligation.
- Choose curiosity. We all have stories about our family members that aren’t entirely accurate. I am going to choose to be curious, and try to engage with my family in different ways. What questions have I never asked before? What conversations have I not yet had? My mother- in-law was in the navy as a young woman. I am going to ask her more about that, and avoid the same conversation that we have every year at Christmas.
- Be present. Christmas can be a season tinged with loss. Yes, I’m so grateful to spend it with my husband and kids, my Dad and his wife, and my mother-in-law, but I miss my mom and my brother and my grandparents. It’s a time when their absence is felt more keenly. I’ve spoken with others who have a similar experience – special times without our special people can be difficult. When things get difficult, it’s easy to find ways to disconnect. Often during the Christmas season people seem to disconnect by having a few too many drinks, making the situation even more difficult for everyone around them. We all have our own unique ways of disconnecting. My way of disconnecting is by checking my email and Facebook too frequently. This year I’m committing to be in the moment and feel whatever I feel. I have a tradition of buying gifts for my family that remind me of my mom, brother and grandmother and the ways we celebrated Christmas together. I buy a box of Pot of Gold chocolates for my mother, a box of Turtles for my brother, a poinsettia for one grandmother and a Christmas cake for the other. It’s a wonderful way to include their memory in our celebrations – and more chocolate under the tree for all of us.
I’ll send you off into what I hope is a restful and relaxing holiday season with a quote by the German philosopher Goethe:
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.”
This Christmas, I’m planning to use my daily mood to create some joyous weather, whether it’s snowing or not. I’ll see you in 2017 where I’ll continue to blog about what makes a good life.