So it's the holiday season. Eight days until Christmas. Normally, every year before this year, by the time I reach this week I'm a stressed out ball of tension and anxiety.
Because usually I place an overwhelming expectation of presents, cards, parties, dinners, packages to far away relatives, and extreme cookie making all on my shoulders, which inevitably collapse in a big, giant mess that effectively ruins my enjoyment of this holiday.
Last year I found myself in tears, baking monster cookies at one a.m. in my still-unfinished kitchen, and because I couldn't find my spatulas in the renovation nightmare, I removed the hot cookies from the metal tray with a meat cleaver.
I can remember being so jealous of Josh, chilling on the couch, not a care in the world about the holiday, and certainly on feeling the weight of expectation and stress that it brings me. I think I asked him something along the lines of "Why do I do this to myself every year?!"
And his reply, in typical Josh manner: "I don't know why you bother. It's not like anyone really cares about perfect cookies. But I DO mind you turning into a crazy woman for 3 weeks out of the year, so it'd be nice if you stopped."
You might not find this funny, in fact, hearing a retort like this from your husband might make you very angry, but for me, that was a very illuminating statement. It made me start thinking about WHY I felt the need to do it all.
And when I honestly answered that question, I didn't really like the answer.
I felt the need to do it all not because it felt good or was fun (both of which it was decidedly NOT), but because it was what all other women I knew were doing. I was going through the motions of holiday rituals I didn't even like only to keep up appearances of being a normal, happy family. (For the record, we are definitely happy - just not very "normal")
The manic cookie making was the worst. I learned that one from my mother, who would make dozens of no less than 6 different types of cookies, even though it turned her into an evil tyrant for 2 weeks in which "DON'T EAT THE PRETTY ONES!!!" was yelled anytime you approached the cookie trays.
So I grew up eating only ugly cookies and found myself doing the exact same thing to my family as an adult.
This last year has been a turning point in so many ways. No more crazy holiday schedule. No more parties unless I actually feel like going. No more manic creation of presents at the last minute. And no more cookie making.
What a relief that has been! James and I made one batch of chocolate cookies and had a great time with it. There was no obsessive-compulsive crazy behavior because there was no expectation behind it. These were made by us for us to enjoy and they didn't have to look good, just taste good because that's what really matters.
Because my time hasn't been wasted running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I've been spending more time in my studio: quilting new designs, and piecing a really cool new quilt:
This year Josh created the gift spices, but has yet to actually mail them out. He wants to finish editing and burning a DVD of videos we've taken of James over the last year. Instead of laying awake at night in a cold sweat, calculating delivery times and shipping costs, haranging my husband to "get it together" or manically trying to throw it all together myself, I'm just not.
It's like my Crazy Button has been pushed and I can feel the weight of the season, but I'm no longer on Autopilot, mindlessly doing doing doing for the sake of appearances or expectations.
So when the urge to be crazy starts up, as it did the other day when I tried to force James into a smock to protect his clothes while we finger painted ornaments for the tree, it's like Manual Overdrive kicks in to remind me of what I really want.
Do I want my child remembering me being a crazy, stressed out, crying psycho, or do I want him to remember me being fun, laughing, and relaxed during this time of the year?
Of course, many women find great joy in going overboard for the season, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
I've just found that less is more when it comes to the holidays. I refuse to go crazy, not even for the sake of pretty cookies.
Let's go quilt,