Lights, and ribbons and presents oh my!
It’s the holiday season again, and if you ask me, rather than embodying the spirit of the season—generosity, peacefulness, love, kindness and gratitude—it kind of looks like…well, to be totally honest, it kind of looks like, “When Christmas Threw Up” around here.
A long winter’s night isn’t the only thing settling in tight, it seems the commercial mayhem has come with it.
And for what purpose? So we can overspend, overeat, overdrink and broadcast the lives we want others to think we live all in the name of spreading…good cheer?
But we keep doing it anyway. Because we said we would. Because we always do. Because we’re supposed to.
But what about this tradition business anyway?
It seems to me, that our efforts to create the perfect holiday experience just end up making us a little Christmas crazy. A bit fried. Overextended. Taxed, and not in a way that will benefit us come April either.
Where is the balance? Where do we draw the line between creating a few consistent practices and norms that may be carried forward fondly for generations to come, and in going all gangbusters in our efforts to not just repeat, but out-do last year (and our neighbors, friends and followers)?
When is enough, enough?
When, instead, does old become antiquated, familiar become boring, and could become must?
It’s a slippery slope, and a rather emotional one, especially during a highly emotional span of time.
As the year closes we deck the halls with not just holly, but with our successes and failures. Our life’s choices are exposed and magnified as we gather together in spirit (and mockery). Cats come out of bags, closet doors get opened, skeletons are viewed, front doors get slammed, and baggage spills out all over the dining room table for everyone to see and judge.
It is no wonder then, that we cling so desperately to the illusion of a few pieces of normalcy in all of this chaos. We crave just a few predictable things, documentable proof that we’re normal and everything is just fine.
Keep calm and tradition on, or something.
Sometimes that works.
Usually, though, it doesn’t.
Like a band-aid on a broken finger, it’s simply not a sustainable fix.
Traditions do at least two things for us: 1) they trigger old (often painful) memories, and, 2) they create expectations.
Neither of these are particularly helpful for our state of mind nor do they call our attention to the present.
What happened in the past, has well, passed. It cannot be recreated. It cannot be erased. It is done. It either serves as a catalyst for growth or it takes away from today’s happiness.
Use it, or lose it.
Having expectations is a setup for disappointment. The more attachment we have to an idea of how things are supposed to be, the less we are actually able to enjoy them. Why not simply let them be as they are, set ourselves up for success and bring the things we can control — our attitude, our willingness and a loving heart—to any situation?
Stop wishing for something you don’t have, didn’t do, and didn’t get. Either make it happen or drop it.
Enjoy who and what is actually right in front of you. Complaining isn’t going to get you anywhere, but your own two feet might. If you’re not enjoying yourself, remove yourself from the situation.
You are only stuck in the depths of holiday hell as long as you choose to stay there.
Grab a ladder and let go of the banana.
Nobody is going to remember the perfectly wrapped sweater set that you spent two hours of your life in line to purchase at a super discounted rate but I’ll be dammed if the time you spent the day together volunteering at a homeless shelter won’t be stuck in your minds forever.
Wouldn’t you rather spend two hours laughing around the firepit at an impromptu late night round of storytelling and singing than standing with your cold and whining children in the snow as you wait to be ushered into midnight mass?
I know I would.
Why not practice the art of making things new? Be different. Do different. Change. Give yourself permission to make things messy, it makes for a way better story anyway.
So this year, burn the damn turkey. Under cook your roast. Buy store bought rolls. Eat seven pieces of pie as dinner. Ride your bike on a lights tour. Don’t watch the Christmas pageant behind a lens.
Go on a trip.
Turn your present opening routine into a scavenger hunt. Ask your friends to contribute to a charity in your name instead of buying you another scarf.
Have a tree un-decorating party.
Listen to hip-hop holiday music and have a dance off with your nephew in the kitchen. Play Cards Against Humanity with your 80 year old Grandmother, spinster of an Aunt Carolyn and questionably sober Uncle Frank.
Come on people, shake it up already.
Let new be new. Let old be old. Let whatever happens, just happen. Aim not for perfection, but instead for authenticity.
This year, let the opening be of your mind, the gift be of your presence, and the spirit shine through you in your smile, your eyes, and your laughter.
Be light. Be love. Wake up. Be happy.
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Author: Michelle Sweezey
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Sunlight Cardigan/Flickr