Most Christmases go like this: I realize Christmas is approaching around December 5. I then spend the next not quite three weeks trying to complete the Christmas task list (not necessarily in this order): Get pictures made for Christmas card, address and stamp 100 Christmas cards, buy one million gifts (give as many gift cards as possible), decorate house, put up a tree, bake Christmas cookies, find Finn the Elf and try to remember to move him at least every third day, attend Christmas events including work parties, school concerts, and friend get togethers, plan and buy ingredients for dishes to be made for Christmas Eve and Day parties and other get togethers. I generally spend December 23 in a half-crazed state, wrapping stacks of gifts while drinking lots and lots of wine, willing myself to remember the ONE thing that I must have forgotten. By Christmas Eve, I am just done, but I put a smile on my face and it is off to church we go, followed by two family parties. By Christmas Day, I have usually lost all composure, my resentment at having done EVERYTHING (might have to do with me being a control freak) to prepare for Christmas and the stress of it all prove too much for me and I am cranky. All I want to do is flop on the couch and let the kids play with their new toys but there are more parties to attend. My husband has offered to leave me home (I think for his own peace) on more than once occasion.
My mom calls it pre-holiday stress syndrome. I was talking to a patient about it today and he said his wife has an alter ego named “Stella” that emerges during the holiday season. It makes me feel better that I am not alone, but I am determined to make this holiday different.
This Christmas, I started on my list a couple weeks early and I will complete a manageable amount each week, taking full advantage of online shopping and my lunch break at work. I will cut myself slack when I forget to move Finn (it’s okay because the kids probably touched him and took away his magic anyway.) When my child excitedly tells me every morning how many days are left until Christmas (sadistically counting down like a timer on a bomb), I will choke back the “Oh God” that wants to escape from my lips and swallow my anxiety and tell him, “That’s right!” with as much excitement as I can muster. I will count putting the tree in front of the window as decorating the outside of the house. Every time I move the gingerbread house and advent wreath the kids brought home from school from one counter to another to make room in an impossibly small kitchen, I will resist the urge to knock them into the garbage, and admire my children’s artwork instead. I will accept help from my husband. I will look forward to attending all holiday parties and enjoy visiting with friends and family. I will probably still spend the evening of December 23 wrapping presents and drinking wine because, well, you have got to have tradition.
This Christmas will be different. Christmas is not just for the kids (I do not think they notice how hard I work or how cranky I get anyway), Christmas is for me too and this year I am going to enjoy every minute.