Monday, December 28, 2015
Lesson's Learned (finally) From this Christmas
Overall, this was a good Christmas season. From not fretting over what did or did not get done in preparations, to fully partaking in the activities I chose to have on my plate, to having my immediate family all together. Yet, now that the lights and tinsel, music and gatherings for me have come to an end, I as I do most years, have the post Christmas hangover. As I strive to rein in the feelings of should have, and gain better peace with myself, I've been reflecting on any lessons I learned. I'm talking to myself in these lessons.
1. Do Christmas your way-but do so with respect. If someone is expecting you, don't forget to let them know your plans are different with plenty of notice. My sister hosts a huge Christmas Eve. The entire family is invited, but as former parents of young children, she and her husband understand that stretching family time so thin makes truly celebrating impossible. She is fine with anyone not coming, but would appreciate a decline ahead of time. This year, four families never responded at all-one came, three did not. Everyone is entitled to do holidays in manners that work for them-including not at all. Just make sure to share your intent rather than avoid the issue. On the other hand, don't push the issue if someone does not want to partake, whether because they have another event, or are intentionally opting for a day of solitude. Being alone doesn't necessarily equate to being lonely.
2. Recharge your battery before and after activities. Regardless of how excited I am about something, I have a bad habit of running the course of my life on full cylinder as a normal day, only to then find myself ready to crash afterwards. Perhaps it was the more minimalist nature of this year, but I found if I created more space around the timing of anything, giving myself a full battery before heading out the door, I was much better in tune with my mind and body. For example, I didn't force the clock to make a church service on Christmas Eve before my sisters, but instead had a long relaxing day at home before going, and leaving a bit early instead to attend an evening candlelight service. This may mean passing on an activity, and reminding myself that is OK.
3. Speak up-but do so tactfully and on point. I won't rehash my exchange with my sister-in-law, but I do wish I had spoken up at the time over the last three decades when I felt uncomfortable. All could have been avoided, or at least minimized, had she understood my buttons and why her style could be so off putting. I could also go back to lesson 1. My sister is going to speak with all of us collectively as to not put anyone in a bad light, that she is no longer going to host Christmas and it is time to move to a more neutral, non labor intensive setting, such as a rented hall. As this unresponsiveness has been building since my parents died, she is wise to say something now.
4. Accept What Is. Despite the understandable crankiness, I admired my mother-in-law's approach to this Christmas. The year after a significant loss, she basically embodied the three lessons above, and accepted things for her were different, and she would do Christmas with acceptance of the difference. She gave simply, and practically this year. Gone were the pile of gifts and the elaborate food spread. She made a couple meat choices from her freezer, had each of us bring sides, and served a platter of a small assortment of treats. She had one simple table top tree, and no second tree to worry about as in other years. For those that didn't lose a spouse or parent this year, accepting what is may be to shop and gift give in your means. Eat what makes your body feel good and avoid things that will later send your stomach in knots. Overindulgence can ruin the best holidays. Accept that modern Christmas is just a date on the calendar, but the spirit of Christmas is meant for the whole year.