Ah the perfect holiday. We all have the dream of it don’t we? Instead of visions of sugarplums we have images of the whole family sitting around the Christmas tree holding hands and singing just like Whoos of Whooville. Fah who For-aze, Dah who dor-aze Welcome Christmas -Come this way! Everyone is happy and filled with the Christmas spirit. Your gifts are the best ever and expertly wrapped. In fact you have had all your shopping finished months ago. Despite all your purchases your credit card is at zero. Your decorations and culinary delights out-do Martha Stewart. Relatives with long standing grudges suddenly find forgiveness at your dinner table. A gentle snow falls at exactly the right time on Christmas Eve. Your children, perfect angels that they are, grow halos as they sleep. Your holiday is so darn perfect you hire an artist to commemorate it as a Norman Rockwell –like painting.
But then it hits you like a brick.
Oh wait…this is a daydream and not reality.
Maybe these scenes are more like the holidays you know:
• “You invited her to Christmas dinner??? You can count me out then. I ain’t coming.”
• Reaction to receiving a gift: “I already have this.” Hands it back. “So what are you going to get me?”
• “You spent how much on a present for your sister? Do you see our credit card bill?”
• “Tell me you didn’t send my mother a box of candy and nuts. She has no teeth and is a diabetic!”
• The dog finds and eats all the cookies left for Santa and leaves a gift of diarrhea under the tree.
Need I go on? The crowds, the credit card bill, the lines at the post office, the rude relatives, the office parties you don’t want to go to, the tinsel that makes your cat sick, the pine needles on the floor, and the endless re-play of the many versions of Tim the Tool Time guy as Santa makes you want to wish for a time when this is all over.
You almost reach a point like The Grinch as you think the thing that you dare not say aloud: “I want to stop Christmas from coming…but how?”
But then your son or your daughter comes to sit in your lap. Their eyes look as big and wide as Cindy Lou Hoo’s. They want to hear the Night Before Christmas. Your surly teen son gives you a beautiful wooden chess board he made in woodshop. Your neighbor stops to admire your decorations, “Nice lights” he says. You receive a small Christmas card from a friend you haven’t heard from in years. The cashier with the Santa hat gives you a discount for being a regular customer. A friend puts cookies in your mailbox when you tell her you don’t have time to bake this year. Someone gives you their place in line at the supermarket.
You begin to notice a conspiracy of kindness. There is something in the air. Your turn on your TV and watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story for the 100th time. And it dawns on you that maybe the reason why we love such movies is because they show how imperfect life can be. Why would the holidays be any different? As you sink into your easy chair you let go of your pent up anxiety and tension. As the Grinch found out, Christmas will come regardless of the boxes, ribbons, and bows. The holidays do not have to be perfect. In fact, they never will be. Let go of the perfect Christmas and you will find that you have more time, more space in your heart to enjoy it.
I fully recommend going outside on a winter’s night to look at the stars or even the moon. Your worries, dreams of perfection, and holiday anxiety will seem as distant and as remote as those stars. Breathe in the cool air and grasp the vastness of the night sky. Everything else seems…so small.
Don’t let anxiety ruin this time of year for you. Focus on what is important. Be open to small kindnesses. Let go of being perfect. And enjoy. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and peaceful holiday.
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Happy Holidays everyone!
PS: For more ways to cope with both anxiety and depression during the holidays please read my newest post on our depression site: The Twelve Days of Christmas: Anxiety and Depression Free
Published On: December 19, 2011