I just put away all my Christmas decorations. I’ll be sweeping up pine needles for months and the last thing I want to think about is next Christmas. But … I’m going to force myself to spend fifteen minutes planning for next year. This past December, the holiday felt like a full time job, for which I was paid in stress, children’s happy faces, stress, red wine and stress. Christmas is my Super Bowl, and while I did win, it was a back and forth game for a while. My goal being not only victory, which I measure in kids’ joy and maintenance of my own sanity, but survival, which I measure in my ability to stand up straight and hold an adult conversation on Christmas night.
Just as one reflects after a job interview or project on what could have done better and what was done well, I’m reflecting on last month. Heaven knows I will not remember anything 11 months from now, so I am writing a letter to myself and putting it away with my Halloween decorations. This is an example for public viewing. The real thing will be much more embarrassing, but it is going to sound something like this:
You were a rock star last Christmas. Everyone had a wonderful season and you only lost your patience once … maybe twice. We won’t dwell on that. Right about now, on October 20th, the carols are starting to play in the stores amidst all the skeletons and cobwebs, and you are feeling that familiar tingle of anxiety. Let me ease your mind. Yes, it will all get done, but only because you will do it. Don’t panic. Let’s first talk about what you did right and should do again.
— Start shopping early. Bang out the group or personalized gifts that don’t need gift receipts, e.g. teachers’ gifts, work gifts, ornaments, hostess gifts, etc.
— Wrap as you go. Buy extra scissors, tape and tissue and establish a set spot in your house exclusively for wrapping.
— Take care of yourself because, again, the only way it will all get done is if you do it.
— Plan some adult fun.
Now, let’s talk about what you could’ve done better.
— Christmas cards can be ordered stamped and addressed EARLY. The kids are not going to change in the course of 2 months. Think how happy you will be to get that done before the madness sets in.
— Put up the outside lights on the first warm day of December, even if you have to cancel plans. Test them BEFORE you put them up.
— Follow up on every online order, so there are no surprises.
— Save boxes. No stores will have any left.
Finally, some reminders:
— You used _____ cards and you had just enough.
— You overbought for _______ and underbought for _______.
— Your husband is only a man and therefore incapable of being truly helpful at Christmastime. Tell him exactly what you need, but don’t expect Buddy the Elf.
(Now, the pep talk.) You’ve done it before. You can do it again. Make time for deep breaths, gratitude and egg nog. While you would snap at anyone else who told you this, hopefully you will believe me. Most of the things you stress over, will amount to nothing. You deserve a nice holiday season too. Only you can make it happen for yourself.
Your friend in Stressmas,