Last week I wrote a post about trying to let go of the misty-eyed dream of Christmas perfection. Turns out that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t trying to be perfect that was driving me mad. It was just being. And doing. Doing Christmas, in particular.
It’s been a stressful week. Needing to find babysitters. And nativity costumes. To make doctors appointments. Keep the children occupied at a funeral. Wrap the extended family’s presents. Make the extended family’s presents.
Remembering nursery Christmas jumper day. Finding a Christmas jumper. Forgetting what to take to toddler parties. Or where I’d put the Christmas cards.
That’s just for starters. That’s without my head nagging me that I’ve missed the overseas posting dates, that my children haven’t had a bath for days, and that it’s not normal to spend twenty minutes every morning desperately searching through the mountain of clean washing for some socks. Any socks. Even if they don’t match.
For most of the last week I haven’t known what day it is. To be honest, I haven’t known much. Except that I can’t go on like this without some kind of nervous breakdown.
Turns out that ‘not having a nervous breakdown’ is pretty high up my Christmas list this year. In fact, it’s right at the top.
I was at a toddler group Christmas party this morning. With the children. Not by myself. That would be weird.
There was food and a puppet show. Santa came round with presents. Joel freaked out a little bit. Everyone ate way more sugar than is recommended at 11am. The usual.
As we were leaving, one of the dear sweet helpers, who gives up every Wednesday morning to serve us tea and keep us sane, came up to me and asked whether I was ready for Christmas.
It’s a simple question. Standard December small-talk.
I gave her a standard December small-talk answer, “Oh, not really. But it will happen anyway, won’t it…it always does.”
On the way home I stopped. In amidst the scootering and the mushroom-buying and the nursery drop-off. I stopped, and I thought.
What if that was true.
I don’t have everything ready, but Christmas will happen anyway. And it will be great.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
What if I just stopped preparing? Stopped stressing? Drew a line in the sand, and said “I’m done. Time for some fun.”
What if I stopped caring so much about the unmade paper chains, and the lists of handmade ‘little extra’ gifts I was planning? What if I decided that we had enough decorations up already? That my cupboard was so full of presents waiting to be wrapped that I wouldn’t buy any more?
My children won’t care if there are no origami napkins. Or if the chutney comes from Tesco. I’m fairly sure Wes would rather have me in one piece than a handmade table decoration.
It’s a bold new plan.But I like it. I feel 3 stone lighter already.
The timing seems perfect. Tomorrow is halfway through Advent. 12 out of 24. 12 days for preparing and planning and internet shopping. And then…stop.
No ifs, no buts. If it’s not done by the end of the 12th, it’s not done.
Yes, there are presents that need wrapping. But now I can do that in the evenings, with a mug of mulled apple. Without stressing that I should be hanging holly on the bannisters or making four kinds of fudge.
Yes, there are family visits that need to be made. Church services to attend. Christmas parties to be had. But now I can be there in mind as well as body. Enjoy them. Without begrudging the time I could have spent writing gift labels or last minute shopping.
I may well make mince pies. Or paint something Christmassy. But now that can be a pressure-free, laid back family activity. Without counting the minutes until we need to move on to the next ‘really fun thing’.
I am reliably informed that Advent is, in fact, about quieting ourselves. About thinking, and hoping and dreaming. Waiting and being still.
There hasn’t been a lot of that around here lately.
Probably because it’s scary. Daring to believe that I’m more than just the sum of what I’ve achieved. That I don’t have to provide the biggest, best, most original present in order to be loved. That my family would rather I curled up with them under a blanket watching Christmas films than cooked up a storm in the kitchen.
That Christmas will be ok. Just as it is.
Because I am ok. Just as I am.
Even if I can’t find my socks.