Ah, the holidays. An occasion to spend too much money, eat till we’ve gained the requisite 5-10 pounds, drink till we swear we never want to see another glass of wine again, and another opportunity for mothers everywhere to beat ourselves up for not being some nonexistent version of perfect.
In my imaginary life my daughters and I decorate cookies, come up with a meaningful volunteering activity, make homemade gifts, and sit blissfully under the Christmas tree sipping hot chocolate while my husband cheerfully decorates the exterior of our house in white lights. In reality, I frantically dump items in my Amazon cart, cringe at the amount of the cart, remove items, only to put them back in again the next night, hoping they’ll arrive in time for Christmas. The only cookies we eat are the ones other people have given us, and we can’t get it together to even hang up an outdoor wreath much less a display of lights. And then there are the gifts and the spending. The night before Christmas I find myself in a panic as I go through my purchases (most of which have remained in the Amazon packaging until now). While I should be sipping mulled wine and relaxing by the fire (again, in my imagination, as we don’t have a fireplace), I instead go through an emotionally exhausting exercise in self-doubt. Did I get my children presents that they’ll love? Did I get each child approximately the same amount? Have I given them too many gifts, unwittingly contributing to them developing into materialistic jerks? Did I forget anyone? The focus inevitably becomes the gift giving, when that wasn’t my intention at all.
So much time, energy, preparation, money, and expectation goes into having the perfect holiday, that I find the actual day of the big event to be a letdown. I’m so preoccupied with trying to enjoy the day that I’m barely present for any of it. A little voice inside my head tends to narrate the occasion: See your daughters in their adorable matching dresses lapping up ice cream and pie with greedy abandon? Those two little girls will never be this young again. You cannot recapture this moment, so focus on it, enjoy it, appreciate it, goddamn it!
Over Thanksgiving I was blessed to spend four lovely days with extended family, enjoying way too much food, watching our kids run around like sugared up maniacs, and beginning the madness of Christmas shopping. By Sunday evening, all I wanted to do was eat salad, drink tea, and lie on my couch looking at magazines. After several days of socializing, I craved time with my immediate family of four. As mundane as our Sunday evening was, it became special after several days of festivities.
I already know that by the time January 1st rolls around, I’ll be relieved that the holidays are over for another year. I will be grateful to hold my little family close, to do such boring things as make dinner, go to the library, take a walk in the woods, try to hit a yoga class, read on the couch, and find a new show on Netflix. I will revel in the mundane. I will not necessarily think, This moment is perfect or I’m fully present and appreciating every second of it. However, in some bone-deep part of my soul, I’ll know that this right here is enough. This right here is all I really need. My gratitude may take shape through a background route, but I’m pretty sure I’ll still land at the destination I was seeking all along.