The Blessing of Overwhelm

11 Dec

stack of giftsToday I realized that Christmas is only two weeks away. We celebrate with my husband’s family in 13 days and because of work situations, my brother is flying in next week and we’re celebrating with him at my house in 11 days. The thought of everything I want to have done, could have done, should have done all hit me at once this morning, and instead of it motivating me to get to work, it paralyzed me. Instead of jumping in and getting to the tasks at hand, I couldn’t decide where to start, so I sat down and looked at facebook. Yes, I let the procrastination princess that lives inside me win. Yes, I did the childish thing instead of the adult thing, but what I read changed everything.

Nearly half of the posts this morning are about others who are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. These are people, mostly women, who live in the United States, and around the world, who have this idea of what the holidays should look like and, by golly, they’ll do anything they have to do to make it look like that. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? TV? Movies? Holiday Specials? Well, here’s what I have to say about that. Curse you Norman Rockwell with your perfect turkey, perfectly snowy yards and perfectly happy Christmas. Curse you Hallmark specials where everything always works out and no one ruins Christmas. Curse you Martha Stewart and your perfect trees, perfect holiday tables and napkin origami. Is this what Christmas is all about? No. Even Martha Stewart doesn’t have a perfect anything without a staff. If you’re a mom getting through the holidays without a staff, like most of us, it won’t be perfect, but it can be awesome. If you know me, I’m always the chick with the silver lining. I’m always the one who finds something good in the muck of life. I was made for the Christmas season and all of its sappy glory, so here it is.

There is so much suffering in this world. Some of it is beyond our control, some of it isn’t. Sometimes we get so focused on what is going wrong in our lives that we forget to look at what is going right. What if, for the next two weeks, for those of us who celebrate Christmas and anyone else who wants to join us, we just focus on what is important to do today and the joy we can put into whatever it is we choose to do? Yes, I have a list a mile long, just like everyone else who’s preparing for Christmas, but each day is an opportunity to move forward just a bit. Maybe the homemade sugar cookie dough gets made tomorrow and sits in the fridge until we get to it in three or four days. Maybe this year, we don’t make sugar cookies. Maybe all my gifts end up in bags because I don’t have three hours of wrapping time. Maybe the Christmas cards are late. Whose Christmas are we trying to recreate? Whose judgment are we afraid of? Whose standards are we trying to live up to? Is it our parents? I don’t know about you, but I remember the stress of my mom trying to have the perfect Christmas. I also remember the year my youngest child decorated the bottom half of the tree all by himself at age six. We had three huge clumps of ornaments and lots of bare branches, but whenever anyone asked who put the ornaments on the tree, my little one grew three inches and proudly told them he did it all by himself. That is a Christmas memory. That is the tree that I remember most.

I also remember having a conversation with my oldest child about Santa one year and being told that he knew Santa was real. When I asked him why, he asked if I remembered one Christmas when he got a guitar and several other things he had asked for. I did and when I told him so, he said that was when he knew Santa was real because he knew I would never spend that much on Christmas. Whatever works, eh?

Then there are the gifts. I remember some of the gifts I’ve gotten and many more that I’ve given. The ones I remember usually have an emotional significance or had a great reaction, like the year my kids got a trip to the Sugar Bowl to watch our home town University of Cincinnati Bearcats play Miami at the Superdome. Watching them figure that one out, especially since they thought it might be a joke, was priceless. The most memorable gift I’ve ever received would probably surprise most people who know me. I don’t wear jewelry much, but my favorite gift is a necklace that my husband, then boyfriend, bought for our first Christmas together. It’s a blue topaz heart necklace that I will always treasure, not because of the value or the look of the gift, but because of what it represents. When my husband gave me that necklace, he told me that the color of the heart in the necklace was the color of his heart before I came into his life. Does it get any better than that?

So what if we strive to have a holiday season that brings more joy and love that represents the Divine birth we celebrate? What if every preparation step we take is done with the Spirit of Christmas in mind? And if it doesn’t fill you will the Spirit of the Season, what if you give yourself the permission to let it go or even say no? I would be willing to bet that there will be more gifts of love and fewer of debt. There will be more traditions of togetherness rather than busyness, and there will be more moments of joy and love than of overwhelm and sadness. Yes, there will be people who do some things better than we do, but what if, instead of focusing on doing everything the way Martha Stewart would or having a picture perfect moment worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting, we concentrate on being the person who loves the best we can, because isn’t that what Christmas is about? Isn’t it about loving humanity even more than we can imagine? And what if, instead of trying to pack all that good will into the next two weeks of the Christmas season, we start today and commit to sharing that love for the rest of the year and not just in the month of December? We would change ourselves, our communities and the world, and we won’t be so blasted overwhelmed. So, off I go with my list in hand. I’ll do what I can with the greatest amount of love I have, and maybe we’ll cross paths along the way and stop to wish each other a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Season’s Greeting or Fantastic Friday. Maybe I’ll even get my Christmas cards mailed on time because after all, it is the season of miracles, right? Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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