It’s the day after Halloween. This means a candy hangover, the last days of orange leaves, and — don’t be alarmed — the beginning of the holidays. That’s right: ’tis the damn season.
I know a lot of people dread this time of year, but I really love it. I’m the anti-Scrooge and that goes for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like the food, the songs, the lights, the excuse to be festive with family and friends, eggnog and red wine, presents, sappy movies, and ham biscuits. It’s usually good in my neighborhood between now and January 1.
But, for a lot of different reasons, this year feels a little bit different. Maybe I’m busier than usual, or maybe I just have other things to think about, but right now when I consider the bright and busy holiday season, it’s giving me a sneaky, creeping sense of dread. Last night I actually had a dream about an argument about presents. I’ve printed out a calendar and written down as much as I can and with that big picture view in mind, I’m not even sure how we’ll have clean clothes for the next two months, much less a turkey, a festive tree, and a gift or two.
I was thinking about all this today and starting to feel a little sorry for myself… even getting a bit snippy about it. And it’s only November first! Too soon. So, I’ve put my mental foot down. I refuse to let my holidays get hijacked by dread. Here is my plan to keep things in perspective.
1. Presents. I’m going to finish this in the next two weeks, wrap things by Thanksgiving, and be done with it. “Hard to shop for” people will receive un-creative presents, like a gift certificate for wine. There will not be elaborate packaging of any kind. How much do any of us really need anyway? If you really wanted a new shirt, you’d probably have bought a new shirt.
2. Cards. I’ll do postcards instead of actual cards, which saves a surprising amount of time. I’m not too worried about strangers catching a glimpse of John’s un-enveloped face on the way — pretty sure they’re too busy to care anyway. I have no idea where my list of addresses is, and it’s out of date anyway, so I’ll keep a stack of postcards in the kitchen and send them out as accurate new addresses come to us.
3. Entertaining. We usually have a great big party between now and Christmas. I’ve been known to bake hundreds of cookies and biscuits. I love doing it, but it’s a whole lot of work. Looking at the calendar right now, I can’t see making it happen without it feeling like putting my finger in an electric socket. So we’re going to need to take a different approach. Plan A: jeans, potluck. Plan B: just a few friends. Plan C: a really big party in February or March instead. It’s dark and gray then, anyway. That time of year could use some sparkle.
4. Balance. Work can actually be a refuge from the crazy of the holiday season. It may be November or December, but the things that need to get done at work do not become holiday-flavored. This can be a lovely relief. I need to make sure my work headspace stays clear, and for me, it starts by making sure my physical workspace stays clean. I’m going to organize my office this weekend and start the week with a solid to-do list and a plan for the month.
5. Priorities. Cards, presents, parties and work/life balance are all first-world problems. I know there are plenty of people, near and far, who have much bigger things to worry about, like finding a way to feed their families. I’m going to make it a point to do something for a stranger this year. But I also won’t feel guilty if I give money instead of carefully crafting the perfect basket. I’m not trying to create a longer list of things to worry about. If I keep it simple, it’s more likely to actually happen.
The holidays, despite much evidence to the contrary, are not about decorations, the perfect brine for the turkey, the shopping list, the high-maintenance elf, or the holiday party. This is an official reminder to myself (and you, if you want it) of what’s important about this time of year: family and friends. The rest of it is completely negotiable, and can be allowed to slide — should be allowed to slide — if that’s what it takes to approach this season with joy.
With that, reader, go forth and celebrate, in whatever way you want. I will, too. May we enjoy the next two months rather than enduring them. And may we reach 2015 feeling loved, rested, and ready for whatever comes next.