I used to love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas were my annual highlights. I relished the decorations, the music, the food, and the overall jolly spirit. That laid-back attitude of enjoyment has subsided in recent years and has become overshadowed by stress, panic, disappointment, and comparison. Now when I think about the impending holiday, a growing dread comes over me. I obsess over gift-giving. I worry about family expectations. I procrastinate and then live on edge until Christmas is over. This is not okay. Baby Jesus did not intend this for me on His birthday. I long for a Christmas that is beautiful and low key and fulfilling. I want laughter and smiles not tears and overwhelmed sighs.
The last two Christmases have been rather memorable. My son Xavier was born five days before Christmas two years ago. We made it home just in time to prepare for Christmas Eve. We had a simple Christmas at home, and the grandparents and great grandparents came to our house. I was so busy almost giving birth, then giving birth, and then recovering from giving birth that the season flew by. Xavier was my gift that year.
So, 2013 was memorable in the beautiful way of a child coming into the world. How more Christmas-y can you get? Well, Christmas 2014 was less one of beauty and more one of disaster. To begin the season, I actually fell through the ceiling à la Clark Griswold. Yes, this actually happened. I climbed up into the treacherous attic to fetch some more Christmas decorations. I called to my husband to help me. He appeared at the foot of the ladder just in time for me to step back between the beams and through the sheetrock. I caught myself with my arms and one of my legs so that one leg dangled through the ceiling. My husband had to scamper up the ladder and pull me up and out of the hole. I collapsed crying in his arms. My then three year old piped up, “Well, that’s never happened before.” As I climbed down, I looked up at the Joy-sized hole in the ceiling and shook my head. I can laugh about it now, but at that moment, I was fairly traumatized.
Follow that experience up with another injury: this time the angel atop the tree fell directly on my head while I was adding a couple ornaments. True story. An angel took me out. Then on glorious Christmas Day, I was fairly anxious and highstrung. I neglected to drink enough fluids, so I had some fainting spells that night, which I had never experienced before. My husband and I spent a few hours in the ER due to my dehydration. To say that I was immensely humbled is an understatement. Perhaps these events are the cause of my pre-holiday panic. Whatever the cause, I honestly freak out when I think about Christmas coming. I don’t want to be like this, though. I want calm and serenity scented with cinnamon and pumpkin and spiced tea.
Maybe you are like me. Though you haven’t fallen through a ceiling, been dive bombed by an angel, or spent your Christmas night in the ER, you may have your own fretful memories or apprehensions. We carry so much expectation or baggage with us into the holiday season. Past Christmases sometimes haunt us like they did Ebenezer Scrooge. I think we build so much up in our heads that we neglect our hearts. I worry about what gifts to get my husband, what gifts to get our parents, what gifts to get my sons as well as all the money we are spending, but what I really want is to create a memorable (for the right reasons) and tradition-filled Christmas for our boys. I want our family to unite together and share the holidays with a loving spirit. I want love and joy and peace and all those things angels promised us two thousand years ago.
This is how I will combat the anxiety and panic. I will focus on the love, the joy, and the peace. I will remember to inhale deeply in the overwhelming moments. I will hug my boys extra tight and spend more time playing with them. I will minimize the stress by starting early. And finally, I will shop online. Like starting now. We’re going to try Amazon Wishlists among the family and see how that goes. This Christmas I will not panic. I will enjoy the peace and joy and love. And hopefully in return, Christmas won’t try to “Final Destination” me like it did last year.