“When I was young and had children still at home, we would put up our Christmas tree the week after Thanksgiving. Twenty years ago, that was early. We were the first ones in our neighborhood to have our big tree up right in the living room in front of the window. It was like “Look at us, we did it, here is our tree and presents!” The children were so excited, as this was a real family event. We would play Christmas music as we decorated the tree. I would bring out the presents that had been hidden for the past month, and we would have hot chocolate and a special dinner the night we decorated our tree. It was all a big deal. I’m not sure when I began to dislike it, but I think it started when my kids left home. No, it was when my mother got cancer”
~ Dr. Gayle Joplin Hall
Every year, the retail stores are rushing to beat each other out as to who is ‘first in line’ to bust out the Christmas decorations. I clearly remember in the early 90’s, stores started shelving their new decorations for Christmas right after Halloween. That seemed so early to me. Now, some stores put up their Christmas decorations in July, right after the fourth. It’s like, “Please, can’t we just enjoy our beautiful fall sweaters, new boots and coats, and the turning of the leaves without seeing Christmas stuff everywhere? What ever happened to long walks in the fall season, holding hands, curling up in front of the fire with a good book or games, and raking piles of those stunning leaves?” Now, we are all in this big rush to bring on Christmas. Or are we all guilty as charged?
I must admit that back in the day of decorating my tree, well, I really did it up big. It took me almost an entire month to decorate my entire house inside. I had bows tied on everything. Garland and ivy were strung to every mantle and hearth. I custom-made Christmas stockings and one year, I stenciled all of the gift-wrapping designs on each present. I was quite the little Susie-Q Handy-Girl. Presents were carefully selected as early as June and hidden away until time for wrapping. I was so organized that now I realize this was just part of my OCD tendency for completion to details. Once I was divorced and was raising my baby son by myself, I started putting up SIX Christmas trees. Yes, six trees were in my home. I had one, nine-foot tree in the family room and then also, there were five three-foot trees in other rooms of the house. My son had his own tree with little cars on it and in my bedroom, I had a pink tree with little shoes and purses hanging on it. The kitchen had its own tree with china doll tea set collections. Now, when I look back, I think to myself, “How ridiculous.” People would come from miles away just to see my Christmas decorated home. The one thing I did not do was to overspend. I always stayed within my budget.
Things changed drastically when my mother got cancer. I did not put up a tree that year. Christmas seemed commercial and fake to me all of a sudden. Perhaps I needed a slap in the face to come back to the true meaning of what Christmas is all about. I had fallen into the trap of retail crap and had forgotten about the birthday of Christ, the meaning of family, and the value of life itself. Sadly, I had been a victim of retail monopoly. For about eight years after my mother got cancer, I did not put up any trees. In fact, I gave them away, as well as all of my decorations. I took them down to the Salvation Army. All I wanted to do was to spend time with my mother and prayed so hard for her to recover. She has survived for 12 years. And, I want at least 20 more years with my mom.
So, by now you must be asking why I wrote this article about Christmas and the holidays. The reason is because I am already receiving calls from those needing advice on how to deal with the stress of the Holi-Daze. People are booking appointments with me, asking for advice on how to juggle so many activities, parties, and family functions. And, then there are those who have nobody at this time of year. This is very lonely and stressful, especially for single parents or the elderly.
The following are: Five Quick Tips for Turning Your Dazed Days Into Holidays You Can Enjoy.
1) Slow down. As silly as this might sound, just please do not feel like you have to be on a wild, crazy clock to get everything completed within a certain time-frame. The truth is, you don’t.
2) Prioritize what needs to be done first. This will require some goal-setting. Once you do this, you will not feel so pressured to get everything done immediately.
3) Enjoy the moments as they happen. Simply stated, if you are constantly focused on where or what needs to be done tomorrow, you cannot enjoy today. Then, you are robbing not only yourself of YOU, but also, you are cheating others out of what and who you are all about.
4) Decide what and who really matters to you in your life. Now, I know this will not be a point that some may take kindly to, but I promised to always tell the truth. And, the truth is this. If you are constantly trying to please everyone, even people you do not like or enjoy being around, this means you are spending less time with those who you do enjoy spending time with. Time is precious and can never be replaced. Use it wisely and don’t let anyone take time who is not worthy of you.
5) Learn to say “NO.” Some people have a difficult time saying “no” to those they don’t especially care for, to parties they do not want to attend, to family members who are constantly dragging them down, or whatever that bugs them. Just say “no” when you need to. You will be much happier in the long run.
If you find time on your hands and want to do something for humanity, you can always offer your services at the local shelter and provide babysitting, work in a soup kitchen, or visit the isolated elderly. Many elderly people cannot leave their homes. The only time they have companionship is when Meals on Wheels brings them food. Did you know this? It is a fact and is very sad. The isolated elderly just want someone to talk with. A couple of hours each week means so much to a person who does not have anyone. This is the biggest gift you can give to someone…the gift of YOU and your time.
Blessings to all this holiday season, wherever you are, and whatever you do. May all of your wishes come true. Mine have, just by being here with you, in spirit and in love.