Pressure Busting Tip #18
When I was a kid, my parents were all about The Ritual. They excelled at The Event. Even the smallest, most mundane thing was turned into a Special Treat, Something Worthy Of Note, or as my father liked to say, somewhat sarcastically as he skewered the slang of the time, "A Happening." Merely talking about a future trip, a celebration, a gathering--that was more than half the fun. And we all got good at it. I can remember my dad and my mom sitting at the kitchen table, talking about going someplace. They'd describe to each other and, if we were listening, to us kids the route, what we'd see, places we might stop and what we'd do there, how the ice cream might taste, the breeze might be cool, and the way the little puffs of clouds would hang above the horizon over a certain mountain. In the weeks before Christmas, my sister Susan and I would lie awake in the double bed, and she'd say, "Tell me about Christmas Eve." And I'd begin to weave our-ages old, shared story about how we would get everything ready. "Mom will make us get up early, and we'll have to wash woodwork, dust, clean the bathroom, and run the vacuum. Patti will be allowed to hang all the Christmas cards. We'll get out all the candles and make sure they're lit right before everyone comes. Aunt Martha is always first, and she comes in singing Jingle Bells. Aunt June will be in soon, and she'll have her flash camera ready, and yell at Uncle Jul all night. We'll get out the relish plates and the potato salad and...." The routine was so familiar and so wonderful. Susan could have--and often did, in places--told the story to herself, but she loved to hear it. I don't know if Mom and Dad built this into us on purpose, but it was a great idea. All of us learned from it. We learned to appreciate an entire experience. That the journey is as important as the destination.
I think it's something to think about when it comes to Christmas, too, and it can help ease some of the holiday pressure we feel as adults. So many times during Christmastime, I felt like I was rushing, rushing, rushing headlong towards a goal, a sort of finish line of December 25th. It was hard to appreciate or enjoy anything I was doing to get there. All of the Stuff I Was Doing up to then seemed more like obstacles rather than part of Christmas. Shopping, wrapping, preparing food, baking, spiffing up the house, decorating--all of that was in my way of reaching my goal of Christmas. That was my mindset. When I was able to realize that, in those simple terms, I was--to be honest--stunned. And a little embarrassed. Why hadn't I ever understood that before? And when had all that happened? And, more importantly, how can I fix it? It's important to go back to The Ritual. Recognize that Christmas is not a goal; it's a whole season, a many-faceted celebration. It is made up of a myriad of interwoven experiences and memories and traditions and sensory mementos. Pressure Busting Tip #18 is a reminder that Christmas is a journey, not a destination. It's not just you working and running your head off and then rip, crash, bam, it's over in a half-hour of giftwrapped pillaging. It's the kids making Christmas Calendars the day after Thanksgiving and crossing off the days before they go to bed. It's taking the family out for breakfast and then to a store to pick out a special ornament for each. It's going and getting a tree together. It's decorating the tree and then having a special Christmas-themed dessert with a little red candle stuck in it. Afterwards, you can play "I Spy" and lie under the tree, looking up at the lights. It's hot chocolate with little candy canes hanging on the side of the mug. Or going to find a Giving Tree, then picking out a gift or two for a child or family less fortunate. Tell the stories of your Christmas. And build some Christmas Stories of your very own.