Ho, Ho, HOLD UP! ‘Tis Not The Season For StressKatie Patton

Remember when you were a kid and you thought Christmas was the most magical time of the year? You never understood how anyone could be anything but giddy over the thought of holiday break, let alone comprehend why the adults seemed so stressed about the impending most wonderful time of year. I think I actually heard this notion discussed on a Hallmark holiday film, which would make sense since, as previously discussed, I have seen them all. For real though, as a kid, the holidays are seen through these amazingly untainted, rose-colored glasses; perfectly wrapped presents appear as if from nowhere, the most beautiful decorations deck the halls and trim the trees, people seem kinder somehow, more generous, to those they know and those they’ve just met and family and friends travel far and wide simply to be with one another. Lately though, it seems with each passing season we are becoming more like the furry green man at the top of the hill, leaving our inner Cindy Lou Who behind. Are our hearts really becoming two sizes too small?

I believe deep down everyone truly loves the holidays. What we have on our hands is a classic case of having life figured out a long time ago but forgetting the answer; kids (and people who truly believe in Charlie Brown and the life lessons offered up in holiday specials) are seriously so much smarter than the average adult. We tend to continually complicate things with each passing year and call it maturity or responsibility. Sure, there are a long list of reasons that the holidays are more chaotic as an adult: presents don’t appear as if from nowhere, we have to buy them and they are not perfectly wrapped unless we take the time to tape and tie with care; decking the halls and trimming the tree become less magical when it is an item on a long list of to-dos and traveling from far and wide is for the birds when you are the one who has to pack your own bags, make the drive, take on the airport and ship all the gifts. There is no denying that as an adult there is additional responsibility that comes with the holidays, but the truth is the magic of the season is only lost on us when we allow ourselves to become completely consumed with the least important aspects.

I had a conversation last week in which a friend of mine was quite frantic over deciding on a gift for her boyfriend (who didn’t have that conversation with someone last week?). I believe her exact words were, “I have a few little things, but I don’t have that one really great gift that I feel like I need.” It doesn’t stop there, though; over the past month, people in my life have been in a tizzy over what to buy their loved ones, unhappily hosting or attending multiple holiday parties, and literally crying over Christmas cards that still weren’t written. Well a few days ago I read a quote that I would like to instate as the new rule for the holidays that goes a little something like this…

“We should cultivate the ability to say no to the activities for which we have no time, no talent and which we have interest or real concern. If we learn to say no to many things, then we will be able to say yes to things that matter most.”

Things that matter most. Are any of us really concentrating on the things that matter most? I get it; there is always going to be that person everyone hates buying a gift for. I am that person, so I know first hand. I’m sorry, I don’t mean it, but I am here to tell you if you aren’t sure what that person truly wants, just be practical. Make a donation in their name, hit up the nearest Starbucks or Target for a gift card and be done with it. Move on. That person does not want to be the cause of your Christmas coronary anymore than you want to be frantically shopping for them at the eleventh hour. If you don’t want to go to a holiday party, express your warmest holiday greeting and kindly say no, thank you. Also, Christmas cards, like most holiday activities that we insist are mandatory, are optional, my friends. A phone call, a hug and a verbal “Merry Christmas” or a drink between friends is absolutely acceptable and sometimes preferred. Just like the quote says, we must learn to say no and also to stop feeling guilty for “falling short.” Saying no to the aspects of the holidays we truly have no time for or interest in, inclusive of counting calories and freaking out over finding the perfect outfit, leaves a lot of room in our schedule for the magic to creep right back in. There isn’t a Johnny or a Suzy out there this holiday season sipping hot chocolate thinking how busy they are.

It is certainly easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. In the spirit of full disclosure, I and writing to you from my plane ride home because I was out doing last minute Christmas shopping last night, leaving me packing my bags until two o’clock in the morning. So, let me remind myself as I remind all of you- ‘tis not the season for stress. It is a time of year for all of us to be with family and friends, participating only in activities that bring out the kid in us all. When I step back from the often superficial nature of it all, I realize that everything I need for a magical holiday season I already have and it didn’t come from a store; “my cup runneth over” and I have a feeling all of your cups are already brimming with magic and joy as well. So go ahead, throw on some old school holiday tunes and get your Cindy Lou Who on. There is still time to put the magic back in our Christmas; it really is a wonderful life.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you and your families!

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