Savoring the holiday

All around me are people whose lives have begun to speed up as the holiday season kicks into gear. They’ve got calendars filled with events and task lists full of things. My life has just done the opposite. I finally have time to catch my breath after the break neck pace I’ve been running. November was full of frantic must-get-ready-for-the-holidays both on business tasks and for the church Christmas party.

(ASIDE: I successfully planned, managed, and catered a dinner party with a program and activities for 280 people. This still blows me away. Also: 130 pounds of ham is a lot. The smell of ham lingers on hands despite repeated washings. And thank heavens for neighbors who have crockpots to help cook hams when it won’t all fit into the church ovens.)

Now all the hurry to get ready is done. There are still things to do. Our tree isn’t fully decorated yet. Not a single present is wrapped, although many of them were acquired during the November preparatory flurry. But the things that are left are things I’m content to savor.

Last year I stage managed the perfect Christmas for my family. I even mentally composed a blog post which talked about how to engineer a Christmas to maximize joy and avoid the tantrums and disappointments which often accompany the holidays. I had it all noted down, ready to write. But at the appointed writing hour on Christmas afternoon, supposedly the pinnacle of perfect Christmas triumph, I sat down on the couch and cried. Looking back, I recognize exactly what happened. It is the same thing that happened after the Halloween Carnival in October and last Saturday when the Christmas party was over. To run these events I extended myself, used up all my reserves of energy and then some. It caught up to me and I sat limply without any easy-to-see measure of success. When I run myself ragged for a book shipping, I know I have succeeded because of the packages. Creating an event for other people is far less tangible. So while I sit, too tired to move, my brain starts picking at the things I feel I could have done better. At that beyond-tired moment it is impossible for me to believe I succeeded.

This is why the only assignment I gave to Howard for the Christmas party was to take care of the kids and to tell me I did a good job when it was all over. He did exactly that, and it worked. I collapsed and he was rested, ready to take care of me.

I have another Christmas ahead of me. I’m going to use the lessons I’ve learned this year, particularly those about delegation. Christmas is a community-created event. Our family works together to bring it into existence. In years past I did all the planning and gave everyone their cues. I declare the day for tree assembly and decoration, then I exert energy to make it occur. I decide, then I make it happen. Most everyone else floats along on the current of my making.

I’m doing things differently this year. We put up the tree a week ago because Howard needed a Christmas tree. The ornaments came out yesterday because Patch wanted to do ornaments. Rather than declaring an official ornament time, I just opened the box and the kids have been putting them on as the mood strikes. The same has occurred with the other decorations. Rather than one big expendature of effort, we’ve had lots of pleasant little moments. We’re savoring the holiday instead of hurrying to get everything out so we can “enjoy it.” I spend too much of my life hurrying now with the intent to relax later.

I’m curious to see how long it will be before the kids ask to wrap the presents they’ve selected for each other. I wonder if waiting until they are concerned (rather than me wanting “wrap presents” out of my brain) will make a difference in how they feel about the gifts they are giving. I wonder if involving them more in the process of creating the holiday will result in something whole and good, without being picture perfect. It will certainly be interesting, and it sounds so appealing after all the planning and managing that I have been doing lately.