Well, the holidays have come and gone, and like so many years past, I sit here feeling like I need another week just to recover from the madness. I have a horrible, horrible habit of overcommiting myself during the holiday season. A combination of poor boundaries, people-pleasing, and perfectionism mean that I spend most of December engaged in some Stepford wife/Martha Stewart wannabe version of my actual life. That, coupled with the fact that I sometimes think the holidays were something invented by extroverts to shame and punish those of us who are introverted. Which is an ORIENTATION, by the way. We are born this way, and the discrimination and prejudice needs to stop. I can’t help it if holiday parties leave me with a hangover even if I haven’t had a drink. Just the mere requisite party chit-chat is enough to leave me in bed for a couple days. It’s all so exhausting.
Every year, I try to simplify the Christmas season, cutting things out and scaling down. And every year, I find new things to fill the hole of whatever boundaries I’ve managed to erect. I finally gave up trying to prove my crafty-girl skills with handmade gifts like homemade soap (2001) or kahlua (2004) or body scrubs (2003) or truffles (2005). I stopped making elaborate scrapbooks of every Christmas photo we receive. I let go of writing actual notes in each Christmas card, or making them from scratch. I no longer take on solos or roles in our church’s Christmas productions. I stopped throwing New Year’s parties. I made agreements with family members that we would pare down the gift giving. All of these things left my holiday season feeling chaotic and stressed, so I started saying no.
And yet . . .
This year, our church was doing a choir. And I thought it would be so great to be involved in the Christmas stuff at our church on a smaller scale, but still feel like I was a part of it. And then, the half-marathon training . . . of course my longest running week fell over Christmas, and I had to run 20+ miles over the course of that week. Then I had the good fortune of receiving lots of toys to review, which meant I didn’t have to spend any money on my kids for Christmas. But it also meant I had to review a ton of toys right as the holiday festivities were underway. And then the Christmas letter – which I always feel pressured to write, and which always leads to lots of time-consuming avoidance tactics because I can never think of anything funny to say. So instead, I embark on overhauling the kid’s toy storage or holding a garage sale or some other nonsense that takes up even more time.
The culmination of this year’s madness came on the Sunday before Christmas, when I had to wake up early to sing at two church services, went to a drive-thru and scarfed down lunch, changed, ran 12 miles, showered, and hopped back in my car to sing at two more services, finally sitting down for the first time at 10pm that night. I came home as tired as I felt after birthing my babies, and possibly as emotionally fragile. And then I had to remind myself that choosing to over-extend myself with optional activities at the holidays did not a crisis make.
Okay, perhaps Mark reminded me of that fact. And perhaps that didn’t go over so well. But he was right.
The next day, I stayed up until 3 in the morning writing my Christmas letter. And not because I was feeling inspired, but because I was so sick of myself feeling this lame urgency that I decided was either gonna write it that night and be done, or not at all. At 3:04am, I hit “send” to have them printed at Kinko’s, and the next day I stuffed and folded (and even got some help from Mark’s friends, who had pity on me). After it was done, I told myself that I was done with the crazy-making, and it was time to ENJOY THIS FRIGGIN’ HOLIDAY SEASON WITH MY FAMILY ALREADY.
And I did just that.