"Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much." --The Universe on Day 4 or 5 of my silent meditation retreat
Last year Christmas ended in a closet, with many tears.
My older son, worn out by too many presents, too many sweets, too much Christmas, just couldn't take it anymore and he broke down, running to his grandmother's closet to cry.
I spent a good part of the day crouched there with him, trying to give him comfort and talk him out. It didn't help.
Eventually he came out on his own, bounced back and had a pretty good time, but after that, I was done.
Fifteen years of trying to make the three Christmases in a row thing work just wasn't working anymore. My husband and I agreed that day to do it differently this year.
We had hoped to be out of town, preferably somewhere warm and tropical. It was not to be.
Although I searched and searched - Google, Expedia, Kayak, TripAdvisor, etc., etc. - I just could not find the right spot at the right price.
And my son - the one who was crying in the closet - he doesn't want to go anywhere. He is adamant. He wants to stay home. Right here in the eye of the holiday storm.
So what to do? And how to do it in a way that doesn't leave one of us crying in the closet on Christmas day?
The answer is, we don't know. We honestly have no idea. This is something we are figuring out as we go. And in the meantime we are doing not much.
Last Saturday we got a tree, which remains half decorated, boxes of ornaments and decorations littering our living room.
More holiday cards arrive each day with their happy greetings and perfect family photos. I am temped....I could just find a picture from our road trip...NO! I tell myself, Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
And what about the gifts?
We are trying to do that differently as well, without hurting anyone's feelings. Giving experiences instead of presents. Regifting things that are meaningful to us that others might enjoy. Cutting back where we can on unconscious giving.
What I am realizing as I tell people about our attempts at a different kind of Christmas is that others are looking for a way out of all the busyness as well.
Standing on the playground last week, talking to two moms, one said, I am just so sick of it all. The Giving Tree and my kids' lists, and my family and in-laws and all the
different charities. I love them all and they are good causes and
some people out there truly need things, but most of us just don't and it makes me want
to pull into myself and say 'Enough!' I don't want to give
The other mom, nodding her head, I feel like I just want to get it all over with (making a shoving motion with her hands) teacher gifts and kids' gifts and my hair dresser's gift. Here take it, I'm done.
These are not greedy, heartless women. These women have given me a lot - they have hosted me in their homes, had my kids over for play dates, brought meals to teachers, volunteered for field trips, checked homework, planned events and served on the PTSA board.
If we are all feeling this way I can only imagine there are more of us out there. This is not the reason for the season. To give beyond what you have to give. To give to "get it over with" and end up worn out, exhausted and broke at the end of December. Where's the love? Where's the peace? Where's the Christmas spirit in this kind of giving?
I try and imagine what my great grandmother's Christmas might have been like. Church on Christmas Eve, some new mittens, a few nuts and an orange in the stockings, a special meal. It would not have started on November 1st and lasted 55 days. It would not have included trips to the mall and the post office and the hardware store. Or hours stamping and addressing cards to everyone she had ever known.
I don't want to sound like a Scrooge. I love the idea of Christmas, I really do.
Sending photos and letters to friends and family. Love it. Buying thoughtful gifts for those I care about. Love it. Baking special treats to share. Love it. Enjoying a good meal with those I love. Love it. Making our house look warm and inviting with fairy lights and a live tree. Love it. Giving tips and recognition to those whose service means my life is easier (the garbage man, the milkman, our kids' teachers, and babysitters). Love it. But all at once? All in the space of two or three days? It's overwhelming. It's exhausting. And it's killing my Christmas spirit.
How can we celebrate the birth of Christ - by all accounts modest and spare - in the midst of all this activity?
That's what I want this year - the true Christmas. The Christmas of Jesus. Simple. Quiet. Slow. Yet full of light and joy and love.
It's what I want for 2013 as well.
Spending ten days doing nothing but meditating, walking, eating, and resting, led me to this realization: "Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much."
The world tells us we need to do MORE. GIVE MORE, MAKE MORE, BE MORE. What if what we are giving, doing, making, being is already too much? What if we need to do LESS to enjoy it more?
Giving a gift from the heart and not from the mall. Taking the time to be truly present for the person you are with instead of rushing off to the next activity. Making a simple meal, instead of a feast and enjoying every bite.
I'm not an expert at this by any means. Every day I need to check my impulse to make a list, check it twice then rush out and DO, DO, DO!
Then I remember that doing, doing, doing does nobody any good. That for the past fifteen years doing, doing, doing has led to one unhappy scene after another. That we need to do less to enjoy it more.
Happy Holidays. May you do less and enjoy it more this season.