Friday, December 5, 2008

The Holiday Greeting Card Trap

It’s that time of year again- time to spend a nice afternoon in the card store. I simply love walking up and down the aisles of those shops full of small treasures and row upon row of greeting cards waiting for that special someone. I look at all the beautiful artwork and illustrations; I pour over the verses of sentiment. I laugh at some of the funny ones. So much to pick from, so fun to buy and send. I think this one would be perfect for her. This other one says exactly what I feel for him. Oh, wait, what about this one?

As cards begin to mount up in my basket, I turn them over to peek at the price hidden below that gold crown and, more often than not these days, I get sticker shock! How can something so perfect come at such a steep price? “Holy crappola! It’s just paper and ink,” I think. It occurs to me, then, that lots of things in life that seem perfect do come with a heavy price attached. I reconsider my pile. I start to calculate if these brightly colored, perfect holiday greetings are worth the cost.

Some of us have small families and some have large ones. Many of us have friends and neighbors that we think of as our family. I’m not sure about yours, but my friends and family sure are interesting. They are, also, far from perfect.

We have the usual intrigue of who is angry with whom, and which one slighted the other unintentionally or by direct attempt. We have the one that everyone goes to with problems, not because they have the solutions, but simply because they always listen with complete attention as we pour out our woes. We have the one who makes us howl with laughter at their jokes and stories. We have the one who just makes us bristle merely by entering the room. And, one who gives absolutely the most exceptional hugs and pats on the back.

At any other time of the year, I accept that these differences are simply the way we are and I’m okay with that. That is, until the holidays roll around; then I wish that I had that greeting-card-perfect group. I also want my house to look like a magazine spread, the food I make, the presents I give, the events I plan, to look and feel perfect like Martha Stewart and Hallmark all rolled into one. I begin to stress and fuss. I get frazzled as I pick at this bow, or re-wrap that gift, or re-do the envelope to this card because it wasn’t completely perfect. I fall into my chair in the evening desperately grumpy, in need of a time-out, and an attitude adjustment. Twelve days of Christmas? Are you kidding me?!

If I keep this up, all I'll get for Christmas is coal in my stocking. Because, I'm pretty sure strangling someone with a string of lights constitutes a permanent place at the top of Santa's Naughty List.

Perfection comes at a really steep price. Why do we do it to ourselves? What makes many of us take such a glorious time of the year and turn it into a marathon of emotional melt-down and exhaustion? It’s a greeting card conspiracy…it’s the holiday specials…it’s the commercials. It’s a trap! Without realizing it, we are brain-washed as we sing the songs or watch the images on television. It all looks so easy and alluring.

We forget that Martha Stewart couldn’t be the Maven of Holiday Perfection without her hundreds of minion who make all the magic happen. We even forget that Santa wouldn’t be Santa without all those elves making the toys and managing all the decorating and baking. We fall victim to the campaign of, “When you care enough to send the very best!” Well, who among us doesn’t care to give the very best to those we love? To prove it, we push, and we rush and struggle on until the holidays become the holidaze!

I can’t say what’s happening at your house, but in my home, I promise that there’s not an elf in the place to do my bidding. And, Martha has yet to send a production crew to get all the cooking, baking, and decorating done so I can sit back, relax, and look fabulous. All I have is me, my family, my home, my hopes, and my desire to make each holiday the best I can. When I review that list, I luckily have most of the ingredients for holiday magic. The critical one that is missing, however, is having a more realistic expectation of me!

So, I’ve decided to give myself a gift this year- I’m giving myself the Gift of Permission. Permission to not bake every cookie recipe ever created and decorate every inch of the house. Permission to keep it simple. Permission to attend only those functions that are meaningful and fill me with a joyful spirit and the beauty of the season. Permission to shop less so my credit cards don’t melt and I can meet the New Year with hope instead of dread. Permission to accept that my world is imperfect and enjoy it instead of attempting to mend it! How about joining me?

Depending on what has occurred, some years the holidays feel better than others. But even when they’re not all that I hope, I don’t want to trade away a single chance to have a holiday season. When you consider that even the longest living of us gets only a small, finite number of them in a lifespan, it seems a true shame to waste even one more on the crazy notion of making it perfect.

Give it up. Just do what feels right for you! Find ways to have fun. Slow down and share yourself with others. You become the gift when doing something as simple as taking time to share a cup of tea and a store-bought cookie with someone. Give the present of your presence.

The best gift does not come in a box or bag; most of us have enough stuff. What we yearn for is the comfort of company and time together. That’s what creates the perfect memory of any holiday. Be the glad tidings of comfort and joy to those who mean the most to you.

By the way, I’ve decided not to go to the card store. This year, I’m going to make my cards, (since I gave myself permission to pare down the huge list, I can do this!) Trust me, they won’t be perfect by any means, but because I am spending my time on them, it shows that I truly do care enough to send the very best. With each one that I make, I’m sending me with lots of fun, love and hope for an imperfect, but perfectly unique, holiday season.

Bright blessings for a warm and memorable holiday that is filled with the truly extraordinary gift of You. If you stop all the doing and just be present to those who love and care about you, in response you’re likely to hear, “It’s just what I wanted, and I love it! It’s absolutely perfect!”

Namaste' Till Next Time,

1 comment:

raindrop said...

Yes, Yes, and Yes. I am not decorating every inch of the place. In fact, there is not one holiday thing in my basement (Lower Level, to some.) I am not baking the usual pile of cookies...I purchased some pre-made sugar cookie cut-out dough and will wait until a child appears to create them. I scaled my four-state Christmas card list to about 80 and am determined to do better next year. I, also, intend to enjoy the holiday and that does mean, as you say, having the time and energy needed to spend quality time with loved-ones and not-so-loved ones. Good tidings to you, Miss Holly!

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