Chilling More, Hustling Less This Holiday
I used to be the kind of person who went gangbusters over the holidays. As a kid I loved every minute of it. Even though my mother never decorated until after my birthday on December 19th, we lived it fully. (She wanted my birthday to be special and separate from the holiday. She was that kind of awesome mom.) As an adult, I tapped into the obsessive and addictive part of me and got swept away in the holiday madness trying to create more.
For instance, when my partner and I baked cookies, it couldn't be just one or two kinds. It had to be seven or eight kinds AND fudge AND breads AND candies. Not a dozen or two, but a Lucille Ball Chocolate Factory episode worth of triple and quadruple batches of each kind. You get the picture. If one would be sufficient, ten would be so much better and express my love and gratitude so much more.
As the years have gone by, I toned down my perfectionism and my tendency to overwhelm the situation. Decorating scaled back, baking was taken down a few notches, and shopping slowed to a very slow crawl. Once I left my corporate job, shopping slowed even more as my partner, family, and I agreed that we really didn't need anything and should ditch the stress, buy one or two gifts (if that), and just enjoy each others company. Gifts with special meaning replaced walking the crowded malls searching for "enough" and the "right" gifts to express my love.
Since my mom died two and a half years ago, the holidays have lost a lot of their meaning to me. As the many posts in this community on navigating the holidays while grieving loss can attest, it changes everything. For me personally, year one was pure hell and an exercise in simply enduring it and getting through it. Year two I was more willing to open up and entertain the thought of celebrating the holidays, and that brought its own challenges. Floods of emotions, memories, and longings that couldn't surface during the emotional renegade approach to year one showed up in year two. Yet, that was OK. Simply part of the journey and a reminder of how special those we lose still are. Year three is yet to be determined ...
What I've come to accept and come to peace with is that holidays can never be what they once were. It's just not possible. I am personally ready for some new traditions and creative ways to celebrate the holidays so I can enjoy the so many wonderful things about what is right now instead of what was. The challenge with this is that family members I love aren't really up for new adventures. They want to visit in similar ways and traditions as have always been. Yes, it's been toned down a bit as everyone has grown older, but fundamentally my idea of holiday bliss (say time away in a snowy cabin or on a sunny beach) is not aligned with theirs. That leaves me in an only child limbo of navigating the holiday and trying to meet those I love on some common ground. (Of course it is oh-so-very helpful ... NOT! ... that my partner is also an only child with only one living parent.)
That's where this year's idea of chilling rather than hustling comes in. In fact, I plan on taking off more time from business this holiday than I ever have since leaving corporate. What's most bizarre about it is that as of this moment, I actually don't have any concrete plans whatsoever except for a 2-hour business commitment one day (strategy for me, so it counts as "me-time"). It feels weird and scary and "un-justifiable" and yet I am committed to simply creating space and ease rather than obligation and "doing" just for the sake of filling up time.
I'm calling it a holiday as time-off experiment.
I'm not writing off the holiday by any means. We plan on decorating a small tree and hanging maybe 1-2 strands of lights outside. A few special decorations will adorn the mantle and many of the decorations we've felt so-so about will be donated. Likely we will host the very few immediate family members still with us for Christmas Day. An understated, organic, local-farm meal with wine and an opportunity to just sit.