As the weather cools and the leaves fall, I find that my thoughts begin to turn to Christmas. Or perhaps it’s the overwhelming deluge of Christmas advertising and decorating by the Retail Mafia that causes the mind-shift. Either way, each year I find myself swearing that “this year it will be different”. This year, I say, I will not be stressed and anxious and rushing around like a madwoman making everyone around me miserable so they can share in my Holiday Panic. This year, I will plan ahead and do things right. And every year, it’s exactly the same; by December 23, I’m in full-on Panic Mode, stressed out, exhausted, resentful, in debt, and just counting the minutes till it’s over. Oh, and generally sick, to boot.
This year? Well, it’s nearly November and I haven’t even made a list, so I think the planning ahead part is pretty much out the window. But that’s okay, because this year I’m trying a new approach. This year, I’m making the following Christmas Resolutions:
- This year, I am buying gifts only for immediate family members. Friends, business associates and various and sundry support personnel will receive cards and possibly, if I am in the mood and have the time, a loaf of gingerbread or a box of homemade candy. Which brings us to the next resolution:
- Any baking or candymaking I do will be done because I was in the mood and had time. In other words, if I decide, on a weekend, that I’d like to spend a few hours with my daughters making gingerbread or fudge, and I have the ingredients or the money on hand to purchase said ingredients, I will do so. If I never get that urge or find myself less affluent than I would like, then it won’t happen. Should it not happen, I will experience zero guilt and zero anxiety as to whether everyone in my life will think I (a) suck or (b) no longer love them, because I didn’t give them their annual box of sugar, fat and empty calories. Which, again, bring us to our next point…
- Any baking or candy-making I do will be done, to whatever extent possible, using healthier ingredients. (Healthier, not necessarily healthy.) I will use organic ingredients, whole wheat flour, and I may even throw in some flax seed. (In the gingerbread, not the fudge. Eww!) It’s still sugar, fat and calories, but if I can make it any healthier at all, I will. Above all else, it will be as clean and free of chemical additives as I can make it.
- Gifts, where given, will be chosen for maximum pleasure and likelihood of use, rather than chosen at the last minute in a panic because ED has seventy and YD only has sixty-nine. (I exaggerate, of course. But you see my point.) My children will be encouraged, this year, to examine and appreciate this holiday as an occasion for togetherness, kindness and love, rather than a commercialistic orgy of spending on gifts that will, an hour later, be forgotten. To that end…
- I will begin, this very day, to ruminate on “non-gifts” that I can give my children. I will write each of them a poem or essay, as I have done on occasion, that will have special and lasting meaning to them. I will place said poem or essay in a frame or bind it in a folio, for a more aesthetic presentation. I will make each of them a piece of jewelry – using materials I already have – or some other item. I will plan to take them both, each week during the season, to spend time giving back to our community in ways that can make the holiday season more special for others. (My dearest friend has already proposed a plan in this regard, and I am following her lead. I hope that it will make this season stand out and be extra-special for all of us.) In essence, I will look for ways to make the season special without spending money or resorting to material things. Even the things I make for my children will not be special because of what they are, but rather because of the love and time that went into them. Okay, yes, they will receive gifts – but not nearly as many as they usually do, and the ones they get will be specifically chosen because they need or want them and I know they will use them. (I have done some planning ahead in that respect – I already know what they’re getting.) Above all else, we will be spending far less than in a typical year.
- I will take time regularly – every day, if possible, for the next eight weeks – to reflect on the blessings in my life, on who I am and what I have done, on what I want to do and who I hope to become, and on what my role is in the larger picture. What can I do to make my presence in this world a positive thing for as many people as possible, while still loving and cherishing and caring for myself? I will meditate, not brainstorm, and I will take the time to let each thought and insight permeate every fiber of my being before moving on to the next task or topic of thought.
- I will breathe. I will drink a cup of tea and watch the snow fall, when it does. I will meditate. I will read for pleasure as well as for edification. I will spend some time every day just being, and letting my soul breathe. Every day, even if it means the dishes don’t get done or the cards go out a few days later or I miss an episode of Ghost Hunters. (Note to self: maybe I should do this at lunchtime on Wednesdays. I really don’t want to miss GH.)
- Everything I do to these ends, every single thing, will be done mindfully and lovingly and with joy. If I can’t do it that way, then I won’t do it. Gift shopping will be undertaken in this frame of mind, as will baking or cooking, as will gift wrapping and holiday movie-watching and card-signing and addressing. At no point will I do any of these things because I have to. I will do them because I want to, with love and joy in the anticipation of the pleasure it will bring to others. You know – the way it’s supposed to be done…but in my house, rarely is.
As might be obvious by now, this year I want the season to mean something, and I don’t want it to mean “stress”. If the holiday season is going to be angry and stressed and tired and panicked, then honestly, I’d rather not observe it at all, which seems sad to me. So instead, I’m going to make a concentrated non-effort. I’m going to spend more time thinking, and less time doing. I’m going to make it special by not working nearly so hard to make it special, if that makes sense. It’s an experiment, I’ll admit, and it’s possible that I’ll end up with everyone feeling neglected and ignored. I hope not, but we’ll see.