There is no way to escape the stresses of the season. Every year about the time that fall rolls around, I take an oath to myself that I will find a way to celebrate the season without getting caught up in all the hoopla. Nice thought, but easier said than done.
I have always liked to make things, maybe because I always think it is so special to receive something homemade. It really doesn’t matter what it is; just the idea that somebody put their time and effort into something for me is enough.
So, this year, I started making things for the kids on my list. There were a couple of wood projects, a couple of photo projects and a couple of painting projects. I am interested in all these areas, and the project ideas were good, but I didn’t start soon enough. Now it is less than a week before Christmas, and all of them are started and none are done. I am stressing, but I do it to myself.
On a good note, I have most of my shopping done. I actually knew what I wanted to get each person on my list for whom I wasn’t going to be making a gift. Between getting out there and shopping early and my new best friend, the Internet, I am free from being part of the mad rush the last week before the holiday. This part is good.
As far as food goes, I was going to make all the old standbys to share with family and friends. However, my friend the Internet shows me new recipes each day that are promised to be quick, easy, and ones that everyone will rave over. So, I head to the store to buy ingredients that I have never heard of to make recipes that I have never made. So, I have more stress trying to get my platters done. Why don’t I just stick to the dishes that I love to make and people love to receive? I do this to myself.
Then there are Christmas cards ... Ugh. Don’t get me wrong, I love to receive them, I love to write them, and I think it is great that people still send cards instead of just putting greetings on Facebook. It is just that it is so time consuming. Some folks do the Christmas letter. You know, they write a letter detailing what has happened in their lives for the whole previous year and send it with the card. Everyone is split on this issue — either you like it or you don’t.
Some say that this is a lazy way out and that everyone gets the same thing. It makes the cards a lot less personal. I used to think this way too, until I realized that I would write basically the same thing in each card, with only slightly different versions. I will never be able to just sign my name and send the card because there is no point in buying the cards and stamps just to sign my name.
So, yes, now I do the Christmas letter, too. However, being the writer that I am, it still seems so generic to stuff the letter in a card and sign my name. So, I still write the letter and print them off, stuff them in the cards, and still write a personal note before signing my name. Instead of the letter making my life easier, it ends up being just one more step I’ve added. I do this to myself.
After spending two days stuffing the cards, writing my personal notes in them, signing them, hunting up addresses, sealing and stamping the envelopes, I am done. This is after 126 cards.
Although this is a chore, something magical always happens when I go through my list. I usually have a steaming cup of coffee and my phone beside me. When I come across a name of a person that I haven’t talked to recently, I pick up the phone and call.
We are all so busy that there are always people in our lives that we seldom see, but this is the season to reach out and reconnect. What a pleasant break from writing, and how nice to hear the voice of a friend or relative that I haven’t kept in such good contact with on the other end of the line.
Each year, too, I am humbled as I go through my list. There are always names that I cross off because they are no longer with us. We all have them, people who have been part of our lives at some point in time, but for one reason or another, have gone by the wayside. Yet, we still feel driven to stay connected, hence the annual Christmas card. Each year I swear to keep better contact, but it is usually the next year when I break out the Christmas card list that I think of them again. It’s the same cycle, but I do it to myself.
Even worse is when I try to make up for this loss of and write in so many cards that we should “get together between the holidays.” I do know that “between the holidays” is only 7 days, or 168 hours, long. This is not enough time to squeeze in all the people that I hope to see. I do this to myself.
I really think that holiday stress is a tradition in itself. We are so driven and run in such a high gear throughout the year that at holiday time we try to experience all the good will, good cheer, and all the other laid-back stuff that we deprive ourselves of all year long. We do this to ourselves.
Why can’t we keep the holiday feeling all year? What price do we pay for success? We push for something better, something more, as if just being where we are at is not good enough. There is nothing wrong with striving for more, but maybe we should step back and see how blessed we are wherever we are. You know those 126 cards that were a huge chore? I step back and think of how blessed I am to have so many in my life that care about me, and whom I want to stay connected to.
This year I did not put up a tree. I have only a few simple decorations up, and I probably won’t get Christmas cookies made. It’s OK though. I didn’t just promise to reconnect, I did it this year. That’s the important stuff. I feel good. I do this to myself.