I had intended to publish a post yesterday. But after we all heard the horrific news that came out of Newtown, CT, I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything. I could think of no words that would be even remotely appropriate or adequate. To a large part, I still feel that way today. However, with a few tweaks and edits to my original draft, I will move forward…with the hope that the theme will resonate.
Last year I was stressed and overwhelmed through the entire holiday season. I had apparently not planned well, was trying to do too much, and ended up not enjoying what should be an amazing time of the year. You see to me, Christmas is not just a day — it is a season, which starts in early December and lasts through the New Year. We teach our children in church school that the season of Advent is about preparation and waiting. Waiting for the arrival of that very Special Baby. And we hope that by teaching them this, and doing activities throughout Advent, they will remember the true meaning behind this Holy Holiday — plus encourage them to enjoy the preparation and waiting — not just the Big Day itself.
I love all of the preparation, and the feeling that gets in the air. I cherish every piece, from those days when we start to see decorations lighting up homes, to people smiling a bit more and being a bit kinder to each other, to the first few snowflakes in the air, the shopping, the cooking and baking — it is all special. And last year I felt robbed of my enjoyment of the season. I of course had no one to blame but myself. I certainly could make things a bit easier on myself. I could decorate less, take a few types of cookies off my baking list, or not send holiday cards… I could do any of those things, and Christmas would still arrive. (Just ask the Who’s in Whoville). But for whatever reason, I don’t seem to ever lighten my load.
Last year I vowed that it would be different this year. Some how, I’d remember to relax and enjoy it. Did I take anything off my to do list? No, not really. But I did make a couple of other changes.
Ironically, for so many of us Real Women, our professional lives heat up at year-end. I have checked in with each of my BFFs, and although we are each in a different industry, each have a different type of job, we all feel “crazy busy” at work. This of course never helps the potential to feel overwhelmed. Putting in 40 – 50 hours of work each week does tend to cut into all that personal holiday prep time. So this year I planned ahead and took a couple of extra days off in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Did it mean that when I went back to work, my day was even busier? Sure, but I certainly enjoyed the days I did have off, so I could get some shopping done with fewer crowds, or do some baking or filling out holiday cards, or standing in line at the Post Office.
The other key change I made? I just plain focused on starting a bit earlier on everything. I started picking up gifts for people in the Fall whenever I found something appropriate and had the funds to do it. I started writing my holiday letter in November. And I did indeed cut back — just a little — on the decorating I usually do in the house. The funny thing is no one has noticed or said something like “hey, what happened to the scene you usually put over in that corner?”
Have I lived every day stress-free? No, of course not. I still have a plenty of items on my To Do list, and I’m certainly not getting enough sleep. But I’m doing a whole lot better than last year. I’m enjoying the season. I force myself to slow down when I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and just breathe and think about how thankful I am that my life can be this full, that I’m able to do so much. I go stand in front of my Christmas Tree and soak in the sight. I am enjoying every interaction I have with another smiling face, and holding on to every hug I give or receive. The best part is that I’m once again loving this time of year — so much so my husband sometimes laughs and shakes his head at my excitement.
Today I completely enjoyed and felt blessed to participate in one of my annual traditions: cookie baking day with my neighbor BFF. We spent the entire day in my kitchen cranking out amazing goodies — and laughed if something didn’t go quite right. It was just the right kind of warmth and love we needed to feel, especially knowing that the treats we made will hopefully put some smiles on a lot of other faces.
My friends and other Real Women, more than ever we need to understand that life is fleeting — and this time we have together on earth can unfortunately be cut all too short. Isn’t it important to not spend the time we have being stressed and overwhelmed?
Especially this time of year, and in honor of those we lost in Connecticut yesterday, please remember to carry with you a bit of the joy and wonder we all have as children — and share it with everyone else in your life.