The other day, I couldn’t reach my Dad. He has Issues and I hadn’t seen him in a few months so I decided to check in to see if he would be free to catch up over dinner for the holidays. But the number I have for him doesn’t seem to be good anymore (a bad sign). So, after I ran out of all the techniques I use to keep myself calm, I still ended up crying in the car on the way home from work. I felt a little better after (I seem to do my most productive crying there) and finished the night with a couple glasses of wine and an early bedtime.
I thought it was over (why?) and the next night, on the way to a friend’s party, my boyfriend and I got lost and I nearly had a panic attack while trying to read addresses on darkened houses in the middle of the snow-filled street (turns out we were on the wrong street altogether). I had a brandy when we got there and felt better.
But I blame Christmas nonetheless.
My Dad’s Issues are nothing new (he ended up texting me later). Handling stress will always be a challenge. But Christmas, the expectations, the pace and the constant interaction is… Well, you know how it is.
Why do we even expect it to be manageable at all? There’s the usual unreasonable self-promise: “Oh, I’ll keep it simple this year. A small gift list, I won’t attend every party, won’t make every recipe… Nice and simple.”
Then you end up with an overcommitted calendar, overstuffed to-do list, an inescapable feeling of exhaustion, the ongoing threat of illness due to whatever viral properties are circulating and an inability to look at any clock without it shrieking: “Time is running out, damn it!!”
Before you know it, you’re fumbling through the liquor cabinet or drug drawer.
Ok, fine, you don’t do that. I don’t do that either.
No, really, I don’t. Ok, well, maybe only on nights in mid-December when I can’t find my dad, haven’t bought Christmas cards yet, stamps or even a single present.
So I have a challenge. What if you just started saying no to Christmas non-essentials? I’m talking things like Christmas cards, extra gifts, outdoor decorations, making food for holiday potlucks, baking cookies for cookie exchanges?
People will wonder if there’s anything wrong, right? Or if you’re mad at them? But you aren’t and you can tell them so. Maybe it’ll be the best Christmas you ever had. Maybe all you have to do is say, I’m sorry, I already have so much to do and I’m totally over-committed. Because on top of your job, significant other, kids, living quarters, bills and all the rest, you are and, odds are, they are too.