I’m learning – albeit very slowly – that the more I try to control something, the less it works. In this case, it’s the holidays. Apparently, along with “accepting change can be okay,” learning to “let go” is apparently one of my karmic lessons to learn.
I’ve struggled, more and more over the past several years, to feel christmassy and holiday cheer-y at the proper times. I love this time of year, but not when it is a struggle just to be happy. Last year I was really determined to not be depressed. I wanted that bright and happy feeling, damnit! I decorated and played the right music and baked plenty of cookies with Munchkin and then we made plates and gave them all away. We read Christmas stories from my childhood and talked about all the different meanings and ways that people celebrate. We visited Santa, and made gifts for all our family members.
But nothing worked. I was just going through the motions and it was my most depressing Thanksgiving-to-Christmas run to date. I feel guilty. I feel cheated, but I also think I’m depriving my children of the joy I experienced as a child. It’s hard to step back and let joy to manifest spontaneously when you’re working so hard just to feel it.
Celebrating the holidays has gotten complicated over the past several years. First off – we celebrate Solstice, not Christmas. It has made for an interesting blend of honoring traditions and finding ways to make the holiday meaningful in our own way. Secondly, we – well, really I – ended up taking on the role of organizing where we’re at on what days/hours and with which pieces of the family. The Engineer is an only child, and on my side, for several years, I was the only one with kids. Not all the sides necessarily mix well.
By New Year’s Day, I’m always emotionally and physically exhausted. Did I do enough? Is everyone happy? Is so and so happy with how that went? Do all the families feel like they got equal time? So this year, after a Thanksgiving week that left me fervently wishing I could just run away and celebrate on a remote beach with a piña colada, I decided to just give up.
We’d already taken the step of talking to everyone and limiting gifts to children only. The month of December is traditionally a 24 day crafting marathon where I attempt to make everyone something. Inevitably, I finish up at the 11th hour on Christmas Eve. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that, this year, with the art show going up. And I also knew that we wouldn’t be able to buy gifts for everyone either. Thankfully, most family members are in the same situation as us – no time, and lots of financial obligations. They loved my mantra of “please give the gift of being debt and stress free,” so I came off as much less a grinch than I had feared.
So for my next trick – I’ve taken a step back and decided not to plan a thing. Not a single, blessed thing.
We got our tree last weekend and set it up. I put lights on it after the first day, but it took a full week to finally coordinate a time where our little family could all hang ornaments. In years past I would have been an anxiety-ridden puddle about that, but it was, strangely, absolutely fine. I do want to make a gingerbread house and cookies with Munchkin, but we’ll see if time – no – the flow – allows. I think snuggling on the couch and reading Christmas stories is a much nicer alternative to a snapping, stressed out Mama who insists on baking. Maybe we can do some more crafty-things. Playing carols on the piano and singing sounds fun too. And as far as family goes… I’ve relinquished all responsibility. They can plan whatever, whenever they want. If it works, we’ll show up.
It’s very selfish and grinch-like. And yet… so far, it’s working. There’s a lightness to this holiday that I haven’t felt in a long time. Munchkin and I folded several origami doves a few days ago, and today I hung those – and some paper snowflakes from years past – from the ceiling. Our home is transforming – slowly. And although I fondly remember days in childhood where the house went from normal to decked out in the space of an afternoon, I think this is better. This is manageable… this feels like the magic is creeping back in, little bit by little bit.
Let it go. Let it go.