It's no surprise that it's only midway through November and I'm already consumed with thoughts of the Advent season (which will be upon us before you know it!). As I've said before, finding myself excited for Christmas, really any time of the year, doesn't surprise me at all. What suprises me is how much stress I'm already feeling this year as we approach the holiday season. It might just be that we have an unusually busy November, and so I feel like the full schedule has already begun too soon. It might be because I'm working a lot more than I want to be right now and so the weeks seem to FLY by lately (which I'm not a big fan of). It might be because I really want to build margins into our schedule this Christmas season, so that there will be plenty of hours spent doing nothing more than listening to my favorite Christmas albums on repeat mode, gazing at the lights on our tree, and appreciating all this season means to me - and those margins are going to be hard to preserve this year.
Whatever the reason, I've come up with a few ways to alleviate some of the stress I often submit myself to this Christmas:
- No big homemade gifts this year. I'm a huge fan of homemade gifts- I love the price tag, the creativity required, the fact that a ton of thought, time & love goes into something homemade. But, because I'm not the best craftsperson and am a total perfectionist, I end up getting so stressed out about finishing in time. So, I'm just not even going to try this year. There will be a few little ones, but nothing stress-inducing.
- We'll pick our favorite things to do, and then not worry about the rest. Yes to trips downtown to see the lights, ride the carousel, etc... No to stressful Santa pictures that never turn out, are expensive, and can instantly turn me into a much more uptight version of myself. (I'm already enough of a perfectionist. An even more uptight version is probably my husband & daughter's worst nightmare.) Yes, I'd love to be able to look back each year to how our kids have grown- but it's just not worth it for me to have that be on Santa's lap. I want to come up with an easier, less stressful alternative.
- I'm giving up control of our tree this year. I'm getting rid of some of our breakable glass ornaments and am going to let my daughter help me decorate it. (keep in mind, in our 6 years of marriage, I've never even let Matt help decorate it) And, I'm opening myself up to the possiblity of bringing home a less than perfect tree. That's right- this will be the first year ever in my life that I'm going to try a tree from somewhere other than a perfectly groomed tree farm (it's a big step, people!)
- My goal is to not make any trips to the mall. Usually I spend the 2 months prior to Christmas constantly going back and forth to stores trying to find the perfect gift for all of our friends and family members on both sides. It's stressful; it's expensive; it's doesn't honor the reason for the season; buying more new things not only isn't necessary it's not the best stewardship of the earth - both the production and future disposal of the item; and in the end- it's rarely something that the recipient really needs. So this year, most everyone on our list is getting 2nd hand gifts (just to warn those of you that I exchange gifts with). It makes so much more sense to me on so many levels and I don't want to get sucked into the "consumeristic Christmas on crack" (as I affectionately call it) that our culture tries to sell us this time of year. Friends & family- feel free to do the same for me. There's really nothing that I need and definitely nothing that I need to be brand new.
- And I'm building in more time in my schedule for relationships this Christmas. It's what matters so much more than gifts in the long run. I want to spend time with friends and family celebrating the holidays in laid-back ways: baking cookies, having low-key parties, watching "A Christmas Story", sledding if there's snow, visiting friends I don't see as often as I'd like. This is what I'm truly excited about this year.
How about you? Any ideas on where to build margins into your life, what to simply give up, and how to narrow it down to what really matters?
If you're seeking out inspiration in this area, you've got to watch the Advent Conspiracy videos-especially "Enter the Story." I re-watch them every year - such a good reminder of where our priorities should lie.