I have a Facebook page, and every day I post up little memes or quotes that catch my eye. On Monday I posted the quote below. It seemed to hit a nerve.
I posted it because we’re just starting to hit the Christmas craziness. We’re bombarded by ads that paint a picture of the perfect Christmas dinner, the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect Christmas family…you get the idea. We take in all these messages, subtle and not-so-subtle, telling us what we should be aiming for and we start to run around trying to make that happen. We contort ourselves into all manner of uncomfortableness in an effort to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas. More often than not though, we don’t end up with the perfect Christmas. Mostly because our Christmas isn’t aided by soft-focus, soft-glow lighting, or set-dressers. It doesn’t have an immaculately dressed fake family sharing smiles and crackers over fake food painted to look deliciously deletable.
What our Christmas seems to include is frazzled nerves from the strain of shopping for a sackful of thoughtful, personal and unique presents for our loved ones. It includes headaches and worry as we try to be everywhere and do everything. And it includes disappointment when we finally stop to look around and we realise our Christmas looks nothing like the one we’ve been aiming for, the one promised to us if we just buy ‘X’ and invest in ‘Y’ and spend money on ‘Z’. What we actually end up with is a REAL Christmas.
And that’s ok. It’s more than ok.
We don’t have to feel the disappointment. We don’t have to believe the hype. Just ’cause they’re selling ‘perfect’ doesn’t mean we have to buy it. I’m not saying don’t bother making any effort. I’m just saying there is only so much you can control. Your time and resources are limited. So work out what is most important to you and your family. Then just focus on that. Forget the rest.
Here’s something my family changed a couple of years ago (I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing this little tradition). We don’t have any young children in the family. We’re all adults and whenever we need something we go out and buy it. Which is as it should be. It used to make things a bit difficult at Christmas though, because we always ended up getting each other things we didn’t need, and didn’t even necessarily want. Two years ago we decided not to do that. Instead, we all agreed on an amount that we were comfortable spending, and we used it to buy an experience. We bought something we could all enjoy, something we wouldn’t normally take the time to arrange, and it became our Christmas gift to each other. And it’s proved to be a present that keeps on giving. We relished the initial pleasure of choosing the experience, we loved the anticipation of the day out, we truly enjoyed spending time with each other having tea at the Ritz, or whatever we chose, and we now have some very happy memories to cherish. We didn’t have to hit the shops once. There’s no extra ‘stuff’ cluttering up anyone’s cupboards. The downside is there are no physical presents to open on Christmas morning. But that feels like a very small price to pay in comparison to the joy we get from our days out.
That’s just an example though. You don’t have to give up on presents if that’s what makes Christmas feel more Christmassy for you. Maybe you settle for a table haphazardly laid by little hands, so you have one less thing to do. Maybe you just say no to an invitation you don’t really want to accept, and spend the time doing something you enjoy. Maybe, just maybe, you go for it and day by day you do what you can, with what you have and you let go of the things you can’t control. But I mean really let go. Let go of the stress and the disappointment and the regret. You look at your lopsided tree and accept that it’s ok, just as it is. You look at the badly wrapped presents and accept that they’re ok, just as they are. You look at your messy, argumentative wonderful family and you realise that they’re imperfectly perfect, as is your imperfectly perfect, REAL Christmas.