“Are you ready for Christmas already”?
The check out guy at the supermarket asked me this question on Friday afternoon looking at my meagre three items on the conveyor belt whilst everyone around me would have been hard pressed to be in an dedicated 100 items or less lane.
“Nope. I haven’t even started.”
He looked at me like I was from another planet. Here was a woman standing in front of him just days before Christmas and her trolley wasn’t filled with ham, turkey, potatoes, five types of vegetables, some toys for the kids, bottles of wine, half a salmon or three dozen prawns — all things that were frantically being purchased around me.
I chuckled as I got into my car and reflected on how my life has changed.
Fairly recently I would have been one of those harassed, frustrated mothers standing in the supermarket queue. Feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything that needed to be done before Christmas. Feeling like if I didn’t create the ‘perfect’ Christmas for my family, somehow, I’d failed.
I’ve never understood why Santa Claus is male. Because in our household growing up and in my own household and in 99.9% of households around the world, women make Christmas (and any other holiday) run. They buy the presents, they send cards, they buy and make food, they keep the in-laws happy. They manage the family disputes, they wrap the gifts, decorate the tree and the house and do five million other things that all contribute to a ‘perfect’ Christmas.
Most of this is done while working a job that brings in a wage, keeping the house clean and everyone in the family fed with normal food right up until Christmas Day, plus looking after children, relatives and trying to carve out some time to spend with friends. In Australia there is the added pressure of end of school year concerts, graduations and parties.
It’s amazing that every woman who buys into this Christmas hype doesn’t collapse from the expectations and the actual undertaking.
I used to relish the week of Christmas. I couldn’t wait. Not because of anything having to do with Christmas itself but because my office shut for the week between Christmas and New Year and I could finally relax. There were enough leftovers that everyone around me could forage for meals. I would shut myself away in a room and read a book for a whole day. Bliss. One day a year to do what I wanted. The rest of the week I’d spend doing things with the kids. Also fun, but not exactly relaxing. But it was worth the stress of months of organisation beforehand for that one week of bliss.
Now I don’t have one week a year where I do what I want. I’ve built a whole beautiful life that I don’t need a holiday to escape from. Living a life of surrender like I have this year means every day I consciously choose what I want to do that day. If I want to spend the day reading a book, I do. If I want to paint, I do. If I want to work, I do. I consciously choose what my life looks like in each moment instead of racing around from activity to activity. It’s a foreign way to live for most people and it’s taken some serious getting used to but I love it.
This year I’ve made a few other realisations too.
1. I’ve stopped buying stuff that no one needs. The girls and I have made a commitment to reduce our environmental footprint. We’re buying the things we need second-hand or upcycling things we no longer use. No more fast fashion. No more whim purchases. No panic buying.
2. Experiences are better than things. For years we had piles of gifts under our tree. I bought stuff to assuage my guilt of not spending time with the girls enough while I was working. I’ve learned buying stuff doesn’t equate with time spent with someone. This year my parents have bought the girls and me concert tickets for our favourite musical artist from the U.S. who comes to Australia in March. It will be my youngest daughter’s first concert in a huge arena in Sydney and it will be a joy to share it with her.
3. I say no to what I don’t want to do and yes to the things I do want to do. This one has taken me a long time to learn. But I realised so much of my end-of-year exhaustion in past years came from constantly saying yes to doing things I really didn’t want to do. I did them because I either thought I ‘should’ do them or I didn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. This year I’ve practiced not making assumptions about other people’s feelings and not taking things personally. Everyone else is responsible for themselves. I’m only responsible for me and how I feel. I have learned when faced with a choice to do something, I check in with myself and only do the things I want to say yes to. This one step ensures I have a lot of joy in my life.
I’ve let go of my control freak tendencies. I’ve learned that the ‘perfect’ Christmas is really whatever I want it to be. A day where I am who I am, I am with people I love and who love me, doing what we love.
I know this is a crazy time of year for many. My wish for you is that you are able to find time to sit quietly and reflect on what brings joy to you and take a step toward creating that joy.
I wish you peace and love my friend, and the ‘perfect’ Christmas for you.