As a young wife and mother, I used to run myself ragged at Christmastime. I had a to-do list a mile long and I found very little joy in the season. The day after Christmas, I was usually so exhausted, I longed for a vacation from the holiday.
The year I had my twins, I gave myself permission to let go of the unnecessary things in life and just focus on those things that were most important. Out of sheer necessity, I had to step away from all the little "extras." It was about survival that year and little else.
Once I stepped back and looked at all the things I had given up, I realized my life was still rich and full. Most of what I had done before was done out of obligation, not joy, and there was a sense of freedom when I finally gave myself permission to let things go.
I began to enjoy the holidays, and I had a lot more energy. I chose to focus on the things that brought the most joy to my family, friends, and myself--and stop doing the things that stressed me out. For instance: I don't send out Christmas cards anymore. Don't get me wrong, I love to receive them (and sometimes feel guilty that I don't reciprocate), but it was another thing on my to-do list that made me feel overwhelmed. When I gave myself permission to let it go, I felt a weight had lifted from my shoulders. Instead of send cards, I try to send more joy into the world. I wish strangers a Merry Christmas in passing, I stop to open a door for someone at the post office, I smile while I'm waiting in line. When I'm less stressed, I feel more present to those I'm with.
I used to feel obligated to make cookies every year and deliver them to friends and neighbors. I'm not a baker by nature, so it was a lot of work to go shopping, bake the cookies, put them in fancy packaging, and find the time to tote my kids around as I delivered the cookies. The last year I did this, my twins were one and a half and my daughters were five and seven. My husband was home in bed with influenza, and I walked in the frigid cold to deliver the cookies, trying to keep my kids warm and safe on the icy walkways. It was the only time I could find to make the deliveries in our busy schedule. I wanted to see my neighbors and treat them with the cookies, but it was so much work, I was in tears by the time we got home. After that year, I allowed myself to let go of this tradition and, instead, I found other ways to connect with my neighbors throughout the year.
For some, they love baking, gift-giving, and all the little extras. They are energized by the traditions. My mother-in-law is a perfect example. She thrives on the holiday rush--and she does a beautiful job of making it special for all of us. For years, I compared myself to people like that, and found myself lacking. To compensate, I would try harder, and be more miserable. It took me a long time to admit I wasn't gifted and talented in those areas, but now I don't compare myself--now I just applaud those who are good at it and am thankful when they lavish it on me. In return, I lavish them with the things I'm gifted at and we're both happy.
One of the things I enjoy most is hosting parties. I love gathering people and treating them to a meal, fellowship, and happy memories made together. We do this dozens of times throughout the year, but one of our favorite parties is our New Year's Eve Party. I find that when I let go of the things I don't enjoy, it gives me more energy for the things I do.
I've come a long way, and I have a long way to go, but when it comes to Christmas, I've found that simple really is more.
What about you? Do you thrive on the Christmas rush? Or do you like to simplify at Christmas?
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