Only a few days to go and we’re awash with “Now 80% Off!” “Hurry—Shop Today!” and the most dreaded, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Relax. What hasn’t been done so far probably wasn’t that crucial. And what remains that is vital can be done more happily with a few of the following ideas.
Savor the season. Slow down, today, even right now. Delight in the simple pleasures—sparkling lights, annoyingly familiar carols, the fifth plate of gift cookies. These come once a year and remind us to celebrate the season. Appreciate the unexpected and perhaps undesired. Janene Wolsey Baadsgaard shares in Families Who Laugh…Last that one year she found her young daughter in the bathroom in the midst of hundreds of white paper pieces literally everywhere. In mother mode, Janene told her to clean up the mess. Later, she understood after receiving a special Christmas gift—a homemade snow globe. Can anyone say “mother guilt”? So rejoice in what comes your way daily, especially the plentiful opportunities to lift someone's load. While at breakfast with a friend we noticed a lady leaning on a walker. We offered to help with her packages and she accepted. In just those few minutes I felt full of a tangible joy from simply being available to help another. These are the experiences that make Christmas fulfilling.
Don't force the celebration. So the cookies burned or the person bringing the main dish didn't get the message. Live the dream anyway! Let down and be part of the experience without choreographing a successful experience. My husband and I host a company party at Christmas time. Because some of his floor installation crews speak a limited amount of English, sometimes I’ve worried if everyone is enjoying the evening. However, this year I promised myself to stop stressing and just enjoy their company, even if it meant some awkward silence. And it was amazing! I was able to talk with a woman who had suffered polio as a child and now walked with a crutch. She also volunteered for several organizations and was studying filmmaking at school. Currently, a few of her documentary films on homelessness and domestic violence were being shown in homeless shelters. What a fabulous connection we enjoyed. This year, let go of being the Stressed-out Happy Fairy (i.e., “Is everybody happy?”) and instead, be in the moment.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Watching the play A Christmas Carol with my son, I thought of a friend’s recent comment on this story: even though Scrooge had had a change of heart—as incredible as it was—the Cratchetts and Scrooge’s nephew and wife still had to frankly forgive him. They didn't know what he had experienced. And yet, they welcomed his change with open arms. We can do that too. Even when a family member hasn't experienced a “mighty change of heart,” that's okay. We can still let go of being irked at their choices and choose to love them for this season. Instead of becoming angry, try a quick smile and change the conversation, or plan ahead for predictable choices (i.e. Uncle Bob is always late, Aunt Midge is typically bossy). We can let Aunt Midge decorate the table as she likes—what does it matter in the long run? Just for now, we can open our arms and hearts without pre-conceived prejudices, and simply let people be.
As Christmas Day approaches, let’s give ourselves permission to let go of the cookie cutter Christmas. Instead, revel in the carols, sample the baked goods, and appreciate the unexpected but profound before us.
Connie Sokol is a mother of six—expecting her seventh—and an Education Week speaker, and TV contributor on KSL’s “Studio 5”. She is the author of several books and CDs, including Faithful, Fit & Fabulous. For tips, columns, and books/ebooks, visit 8basics.com.