Day 84 of 100 days of Blogging
Do you make conscious choices about celebrating Christmas or other holidays?
A friend posted on Facebook about how she was upset because a work project got in the way of getting things done for Christmas. (It was a work project where she felt fulfilled and passionate about completing. The looming deadline happened to coincide with the holidays.)
She felt like every year she wants to do the traditional Christmas things: writing cards, baking cookies, decorating the house and everyone else seems to have their act together and are creating a Hallmark Christmas. She was frustrated at her “not getting it together” and asked the question: Anyone else go through this?
My response to her on Facebook: Do what you want to do. I stopped buying Christmas presents in 2009. It stopped having meaning for me. Switched to creating experiences with people throughout the year instead. Much more fun! Last year 16 of us gathered in Florida with four generations of people arriving and leaving over a two week period. Peaked in the middle with all of us there. We went to the movies, ate meals together, played games, This year we are spread all over the world and I am giving myself a 4 day retreat with a dog sitting job. I will Facetime on Christmas with my daughters. I am looking forward to silence and writing and sitting by the fire. I am happy…What will make you happy?
I think we all have memories of Christmas or other holidays that include some years feeling up and some years feeling down. When I think back on the most memorable years, it was when I let go of it looking like Hallmark or the years when I had a breakdown and made a change.
Last year during the Christmas holiday, when I was in Florida for two weeks it *was* a beautiful two weeks that had threads of triumphs and challenges throughout the visit. My daughter, Hannah and I were the first to arrive and the last to leave. The peak of all of us being together was in Daytona Beach and we got to experience the joy-filled moments and notice the stress. All in all, I look back on those two weeks fondly because I remember the good, I rode the waves of the bad, and I didn’t get caught up in other people’s “feelings.”
Christmas brings up a lot of feelings, right?
Contrast that to this year. I scheduled two days of dental work that required rest for my mouth and my body. I chose to do it on the days leading up to Christmas and arranged to be on retreat in a beautiful home with four little dogs and a fireplace. I made a plan to watch movies, write and take long, hot salt baths.
Changing the patterns of expectations of Christmas isn’t always easy unless you can consciously see the warning signs, the red flags, the “wake up!” messages and respond to them with a different routine.
One year, I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to make homemade ornaments for 20 family members and friends while working 35 hours a week, raising an infant and a toddler and barely functioning on 5 hours of sleep a night. I had lots of internal messages and pressure of Christmas expectations. One night, around midnight, I was trying to finish one more ornament before going to sleep. I was at the kitchen table, hunched over the embroidery and then I realized I couldn’t move my legs. I had a moment of paralysis. I called out to my husband. He helped me stand up and once I could lean on him, I had enough strength to move my legs and climb into bed. All night long I kept saying to myself, tomorrow is Al-Anon. Fall asleep. Go through the motions in the morning and just get yourself to Al-Anon at noon.
At the meeting, I confessed my physical situation from the night before, crying throughout my story. Someone asked me what would happen if I showed up on Christmas without the ornaments? I started sobbing even more when I said I didn’t even think my mother-in-law liked them. That was the last year I made ornaments. The end of a ten year cycle of making homemade presents and it was time to change.
After that, I still had years when I tried to do too much or stressed myself out with gift buying and baking. But that experience stayed with me and helped me to modify my expectations quicker. It also led me to take a longer look at Christmas activities ten years later when I was homeschooling my kids and leading community groups including Girl Scouts and Destination Imagination while we were renovating a house ourselves. I realized I needed a break and we all needed some down time to rest and hang out with no pressure.
Leading up to Christmas that year, I declared that I was going to wear my pajamas all day on Christmas. I was willing to go to the movies or to my sister-in-law’s house for dinner or to go visit friends, as long as I could wear my pajamas. That declaration was embraced by everyone in my family. The first pajama Christmas we spent at home. I made two kinds of soup the day before. We ate a special breakfast. Opened presents. I put out the soup, bread and salad buffet style and we watched movies, napped and played games the rest of the day. In the following years, the tradition continued. We did wear pajamas to the movies one year with pajama clothed friends joining us and some years we visited friends and family in their homes with all of us arriving in pajamas. The symbol of the pajamas made gave it the feeling of relaxation, rest and casual connection.
There are some traditions I enjoy every year like playing Christmas music, walking through neighborhoods and looking at the Christmas lights, connecting with my daughters on Christmas through Facetime or texting photos. It is a feeling of appreciation for the love and the light that is so present.
The year we wore pajamas was the first step I took to reclaim my power over Christmas and teach my children a new way of celebrating. And since then, every year has been different, consciously choosing the events and activities and tuning in to the real meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is L-O-V-E
Andrea Hylen believes in the power of our voices to usher in a new world. She is the founder of Heal My Voice, an organization that inspires women and men to heal a story, reclaim personal power and step into greater leadership. Andrea discovered her unique gifts while parenting three daughters and learning to live life fully after the deaths of her brother, son and husband. In addition to serving as Heal My Voice’s Executive Director, Andrea is an Orgasmic Meditation Teacher and Sexuality Coach.
She is following her intuition as she collaborates with women and men in organizations and travels around the world speaking, teaching and leading workshops. Her passion is authentically living life and supporting others in doing the same. To connect with Andrea and learn about current projects go to: www.andreahylen.com and www.healmyvoice.org.