Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holiday Cheer: Saying goodbye to martyrdom + adopting (more) flexibility


Last night we pulled into the driveway after a whirlwind week of holiday celebrations. I'm a little worn out but also really pleased with how our holiday season has played out.

We celebrated our family Christmas Eve last Friday evening, and Christmas morning on Saturday the 23rd. After opening presents and enjoying our usual Christmas morning rituals, we packed up the gifts yet to be given + our warmest winter clothing and made the 8+ hour drive to Montana.

Christmas Eve was spent with lifelong friends who have long since become family. Christmas morning was spent in a hotel room, where we opened our stockings and a few small gifts delivered by Santa. It was intimate and lovely and, despite my previous concerns, I didn't feel like we missed out on anything. After breakfast we hopped back in the car and made the drive to my in-laws' house. After two days spent visiting with family and friends, we were again on the road heading back home.

Tomorrow evening we are headed to a friend's house, cheeseboard in hand, to ring in the New Year.

During those long hours on the open road, and in the hours since, I've reflected a lot on this holiday season. It didn't fit into those tidy ideals I had for celebrating family traditions, but it didn't leave me in want, either. This disparity can be summed up by the title of this post: I stopped being a martyr and allowed myself to view the holidays, and our celebration of them, with a lot more flexibility.

When I use the word martyr, I don't mean to imply that I worked my fingers to the bone for the sake of sympathy. But in years past I did take on too much which inevitably led to stress + misery + resentment. I consider myself a thoughtful gift-giver, which means I put a lot of effort into finding that perfect present. In addition, I'd go above and beyond with the wrapping and the stocking stuffers and homemade ornaments and, and, and. Especially after I went back to work full time, Christmas began to lose its joy at my own hand.

A few tweaks in my expectations made all the difference:

1. This year I made wrapping a family affair. We all gathered in the living room one evening, put on a movie, and wrapped all the gifts for family and friends. Then Kiddo and I did the same for Mario. Then Mario and Jared did it for me. No one person was relegated to the bedroom floor to wrap solo. There was one night last week when I worked until 11p then came home and started tackling a bunch of lingering tasks. That was a little taxing + stressful, but nothing like I've experienced in years past.

2. We have some lovely neighbors who bring over homemade treats and trinkets. We love to reciprocate, but the responsibility usually fell on me to make it happen. This is in part because Husband travels for year-end company meetings and doesn't share a strong affinity for holiday baking. Though let's be clear: I didn't often ask for help. (Which he would have done without hesitation.) Instead I took it all on at the expense of my own enjoyment. This year I picked out three simple recipes: a spicy pretzel-nut mix, gingerbread caramel sauce, and Puppy Chow snack mix. I bought all the ingredients, printed the recipes, and...asked for help. With the exception of the caramel, the boys made the rest while I was at work. Kiddo had a longer than usual Christmas vacation, so it was the perfect way for him to pass the time sans electronic distraction. I didn't feel the need to match our neighbors/friends in effort or number of treats made and that was such a relief.

3. I'll admit this year's Christmas ornament project briefly got the better of me. (This is not unusual; I'm trying to change my ways.) I decided to create some 3" and 4" embroidery hoops. I picked out some cute printed fabric bearing woodland creatures and embellished them with laurel wreaths, flower crowns, and pine boughs. I started early and was able to move through them quickly since they were small and simple in design. It was also my first foray into freehand embroidery, which was fun + exciting. Only, some of them needed to have the fabric pen markings I made rinsed off (+ drying time), then a felt backing attached, then wrapping... I didn't have enough time or hoops for everyone in my life to receive one. At 2a, while cutting out felt circles, it came to me: not everyone in my life needs to receive one. My brother-in-law's girlfriend whom I've never met?  Not so much. My good friend who loves my embroidery and always wants to see my work? Yes! And just like that I'd eased the strain I'd put on myself. As much as I want to please everyone, I can't. Nor should I. (An overarching life lesson that applies to nearly every facet of my interaction with others.) My embroidery hoops are a labor of love and I a) don't want to burn myself out and have it become a chore and b) only want to give them to people who appreciate the craftsmanship (needlepoint isn't everyone's style, after all, and that's okay).

And so goes the story of how I managed to make this Christmas more family-friendly and less stressful. Save for a mild panic that set in a couple days before we left for our road trip, in large part caused by my overcommittment to work in the weeks leading up to Christmas, this year was much calmer than in years past. Fewer presents, more time spent as a family, and less commitment to unnecessary obligations was the key to more peace all along.

Next year will be even more simple, I imagine. I'll be finishing up a grueling first semester of grad school, we'll be living in a new region, and our lives will be very different. Which makes me that much more grateful that we're moving closer and closer toward minimalism with each passing Christmas. Because, as it turns out, simplicity = joy.

Next up: Packing up the holiday decor. Organization, simplification and downsizing.
 

2 comments:

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