The 2016 holiday season is now in full swing. (I say “now” in full swing so some of you don’t burn me at the stake for “skipping Thanksgiving.” You know who you are.) Now, we can all go full on Christmas mode and not be shamed for maybe or maybe not having our trees up early. Personally, I’m feeling quite ready for the holiday season. 75% of our gifts are in route to my house, my calendar is laid out in pretty colors, and Christmas cards are on their way. And most importantly, I have a certain peace about this season that I haven’t had in a very long time.
I’m not sure if my calmness over the holiday madness comes from the life-changing events of this year or from my age. I wouldn’t say that I’m more prepared than usual, maybe even the direct opposite. However, I’m simply not feeling the anxiety that I’d normally feel as the happiest time of the year approaches. Let’s look at the facts.
Reasons why I should be worried:
- As of noon last Wednesday, we had 0 gifts purchased.
- I ordered Christmas cards later than planned and could have throat punched that stupid website.
- This past weekend was our last weekend without something planned until January. January!
- We’re testing out some new holiday traditions this year.
- I’m heavily involved in the success of a plethora of holiday events coming in the next several weeks.
- We’ll be hosting family in our home a few times and some things still aren’t finished or “ready.”
- I know, with certainty, that we’re about to be exhausted for the next 30+ days.
- My decorations aren’t ready.
Reasons why I should NOT be worried:
- Matthew and I got a heavy dose of perspective on life in 2016. I’m simply not as bothered by things that used to cause me stress.
- My new home is lovely and I’m happy to host people here!
- We made a huge dent in holiday shopping (online) over the weekend.
- We know exactly where we’ll be and when over the holidays. There will be no obsessing over who we’re visiting when and who’s going to be upset if we don’t show. Plans are set and that’s that.
- I’m transitioning into a better place of making decisions that are best for Matthew and I – without so much emphasis on what others want or expect. This is a GREAT place to be, by the way.
- We’ve had a fantastic year. We’ve not only survived, we have thrived. And basically, no one or nothing can steal that joy from me right now.
I could likely keep listing reasons for both sides of this argument. I’m just too excited to get bogged down in the minutia this year. Matthew and I have so much to celebrate, and I simply won’t allow the madness or chaos of this busy season distract from that. My #1 intention for this season is to truly enjoy spending time together and with those that we care about. The details might not be perfect and we might be outrageously tired after the first week of events. Nonetheless, I’m not concerned. We will attend each event that we’ve selected and we will enjoy ourselves with those people in that moment. We will have gifts for those we’re buying gifts for and even if they’re not the most perfect gift possible, they’ll have been selected with care and love. I will not live this season in guilt over not doing everything that everyone wants. Instead, we will enjoy this holiday season and celebrate the close of this life-changing year.
My new perspective could come from having faced one of the most trying obstacles we’ve encountered thus far and making it. Last Christmas, we would have never imagined the heartache 2016 would hold for us. I think experiencing something like that is sort of like a near death experience or severe illness – when you’re faced with something of that magnitude, and then get another shot to do better, those tiny details and expectations of others that drain the life right out of you, suddenly seem trivial. You’re forced to take stock of your life and how you’re living it and when you see things you’re not happy with, you make unrestrained adjustments. If this fresh perspective on the holiday season is a result of the flood, this will be another seemingly unrelated area of our lives that has been altered by the events of this past spring. On the surface one would think we simply had to remodel a house, fight insurance battles, buy new stuff (That’s fun right? Not really.), and be homeless for a bit. Quite the contrary. There’s really not an aspect of our lives, our business, or our relationships that wasn’t altered somehow because of this experience. If my take on the holiday season is another one of them, I really wouldn’t be too surprised.
Another possible factor in this newfound peace could be my age. Someone once told me that as you get older, you’ll slowly (and then suddenly) stop caring about what other people think. Whereas at one point you might live and make decisions based on the feedback you’d get from those around you, you suddenly stop doing that and do whatever in the hell you want to. For me, I’ve always lived in the mindset of guilt. I made decisions or did things to avoid the guilt I’d feel if I didn’t do them. What was best for Matthew and I might have been a different plan entirely, and yet we’d go with the flow and oblige so that I didn’t let anyone down. Even people that would let me down in a heartbeat if something was inconvenient for them. Lucky for me (not), guilt has controlled me for much of my life. Therefore, we’d get up, dress the part, and attend every single event possible. We’d show up boasting food or gifts, regardless of whether we wanted to be there or not. Suddenly, I no longer feel the need to do this. And I won’t feel guilty for letting that obligation go. If this is indeed some coming-of-age moment for me, I cannot wait to see what other areas of my life in which I’ll get some relief.
So much of life is about making choices. We choose what we’re going to do and not going to do. And more importantly, we choose what our attitude will be surrounding these experiences. We can be positive or we can be negative. It’s a choice, and I’ll be the first to admit that my anxiety-ridden self was the first to buckle under the pressure of the holidays in the past. I let the minutia of this detail and that one steal my joy. I think my anxiety and exhaustion (and sometimes dread) often stemmed from feeling like I didn’t have a choice in the affairs of the holidays. I sometimes felt like I was one “Merry Christmas” away from losing my mind. However, deciding to choose our schedule for December brought with it a fresh perspective and a sigh of relief. We’ve chosen our plans for the holidays, and I’m choosing to experience them all with joy. It’s a Christmas miracle!
If you find yourself getting drug along by the hustle and bustle, take a little break and remind yourself what this season is truly about for you. Remember that it’s an opportunity to share in a wonderful season with the people that you love. Remember that there are many wonderful things about this season and if we focus on those, it might lift our anxiety and frustration just a bit. And most importantly, remember that no matter what, nothing about this season must be perfect. We don’t have to give the best gifts in the entire world (and we certainly don’t have to go into debt for them). The Christmas treats don’t have to be perfectly made, and our halls don’t have to be perfectly decked. As a matter of fact, if we look with an adjusted mindset, we can probably see beauty in the imperfection. Furthermore, if the season brings with it some sadness over loves ones lost or misfortune of the past year, we can still work to see the best even in the unfortunate situations. Over time, we can condition our minds to find something good in almost every situation, especially if you’re looking for it. Truth be told, you will always find whatever it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for joy, you will eventually find it. And if you’re looking for despair, it’s certainly there.
During this holiday season, and in the upcoming year, I encourage you to choose your perspective. Choose your path and celebrate those decisions you make, even if things don’t go as planned. I wish you the happiest holiday season, no matter your circumstances, and I truly hope you can find joy amidst the seemingly unavoidable chaos. This life, and this season, are what you make of it!