Thanks, Christmas

True confession: I thought I was ready for Christmas. I had posts written and ready to publish. The kids didn’t have any spelling homework the last week of school. I was feeling all fa-la-lah and sprinkling fairy dust and being joyous of spirit. What could go wrong?

My last day of work was also my birthday.  A mellow day at work with everyone’s brains already on vacation; we ate chocolate and finished up loose ends. On my way home I picked up a decadent chocolate vegan cake. We went out for dinner as a family. The kids were overwhelmed – unwinding from the last week of school and field trips and as many candy canes as you can hang on a twelve point set of antlers.

Then it was the weekend. I was overwhelmed. Suddenly I felt like the holidays were coming too fast. I finished baking, but still had a traditional christmas bread to make, presents to buy and wrap, and food to make. The weekend felt disjointed and I felt off. My counselor had mentioned that the holidays would be a change and a shift in scheduling. Thank god, I thought… I can sleep in, run when I want, spend time with the kids in daylight hours.

vanocka

The Christmas bread I usually make went from last year’s uniformly braided and crafted sweet masterpiece…

to this year's falsified jigsaw puzzle of an attempt.

…to this year’s hopeless result that looks like I tried wrestling with a jigsaw puzzle and lost.

I didn’t want to plan and schedule our holidays. We were staying home and could just chill and lounge at home — sometimes that is rare for us as a family. I wanted the holidays to be easy, and spontaneous, and we could do whatever we wanted.  Things do not always turn out like we hope.

The kids had a hard time with so much time off: the first week they were like rats in a hen-house. The Christmas rush came suddenly after only a few days off and the house, although still in the process of being decorated, quickly looked like the cat had digested and then thrown up bit of wrapping paper everywhere.

I also feel like Christmas is about spending time together and the food and the peace, love, joy, blah, blah, blah – with a rousing chorus of “Angels we have heard on high!” This Christmas I couldn’t feel farther from these sentiments. I was done: I was lying in bed under the covers instead of making Christmas dinner. I was ready to cancel the whole thing.

My husband saved the day and whipped up Christmas dinner. He even remembered to use the Christmas dishes and lit candles. It was lovely. I just didn’t feel it and I didn’t want to be faking things for someone else’s behalf. Who was I lying to?

I am glad my vacation is over. The last two days I forced myself to get up hours earlier than I could godly imagine to prepare myself to get to work on time. I was glad to have the time off work but I am glad to be coming back to structure. This time of year is hard when there is so much expectation and stress and there is time yet we never really get to turn “off” completely. I will miss sleeping in and running in daylight hours. I will miss eating cookies for breakfast and leisurely days. I will miss the non-work, -school, -homework, -extra-curricular activity days.

These past two weeks have been a condensed pressure cooker of emotions. Maybe getting back to routine will help me sort out what it all was. Maybe after a few days of spelling homework with my kids, the holidays may not seem so bad after all.

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16 thoughts on “Thanks, Christmas

  1. Sad to hear that your holidays felt off-kilter; I hope you feel better now that you’re getting back into your routine. I think the holidays are especially challenging when you’re the person that does the baking, cooking, card sending, decorating, buying, wrapping etc – there’s a lot of pressure to get everything ‘just right’ – I would make myself crazy with two Dec birthdays (and happy birthday to you!), holiday baking (like an insane baker holiday baking – not just a couple of cookie varieties – but like 9) – then I’d get all stressed and start losing my mind…I finally learned to pull back – it felt weird the first year I did – like I was letting everyone down…but the next year I could feel the change in myself and I enjoyed the holidays more and my family didn’t have to walk on eggshells because Mommy was in the Holiday-Crazy :) – so it’s ok if your bread didn’t braid! It’s more important for you to be with your loved ones in a joyous frame of mind – next year, take a breather – see what you can scale down to make it easier on yourself!

    • Hi Denise,
      thanks. It *IS* hard to not put pressure on yourself when it feels like you are “the one” in charge of Christmas. It wasn’t so much that our Christmas is a really big deal (we celebrate on the 24th and it’s not nearly as elaborate as general 25th celebration) but everything does take time. And it still was Christmas and then I knew that the next day would be more in-law and family Christmas stuff. I was feeling overwhelmed from the expectations of everyone asking about our Christmas — what I made, what did we eat, what did we get for gifts…. That kind of stuff adds pressure to what can already be a tense environment.
      I think it is a good idea to pull back a bit so that things are manageable. It’s hard when the holiday seems to creep up on you and suddenly the weekend is over and it’s Christmas! I think I planned things fairly well; I just didn’t plan for my sanity through it all.
      (Sorry this is a late reply. Just spent last few days with very sick kid in hospital. What a way to start the year!)

  2. This is the first holiday season in years where I didn’t do much, didn’t stress out much and everything turned out okay. I apparently surrendered before it even started. That being said, I’m writing some holiday cards today, January 3rd. Merry new year, Tanya!

    • Hi Michelle,
      I like the idea of writing holiday cards after the fact. They are probably more coherent this way!
      It’s good to hear you did less, and it was still enjoyable. I think my goal is to make things special for the kids, but then when things fell apart they didn’t seem to mind either. They understand it is a lot of work as well. Surrender is a good place to be. Thank you!

  3. Every year I forget that the holidays are anything but a “vacation.” They are usually the busiest two weeks of the year. Most years I’m stressed and disappointed, having such high expectations that rarely pan out. This year was different, but probably only because of what I’ve been through. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

    • Certainly you have been through an extraordinary time! There is the expectation that the two weeks will be relaxing and rejuvenating. I found them off-kilter, unscheduled, and although I did rest a lot, tiring. It’s good to remind ourselves of what we think will happen doesn’t always pan out.
      I’m glad it’s over and I’ve had to reassess what I *don’t* want.
      Thanks for commenting. Great to see you back. xx

    • Indeed. I think there is an expectation that we will all enjoy ourselves and sometimes we don’t. I guess I felt bad that I wasn’t “liking” things when it’s supposed to be a most magical time. I wanted it to be special for my kids but I think they need to be part of that magic in order for it to work. Seeing mommy running around haggard and stressed is not very magical.

  4. This post resonates with me, Tania. As you know I spent Christmas out west with my family. It is a very tranquil pace when I am there and yet, I thrive on the mania that is New York City. After about 48 hours I am conflicted. Part of me is itching to be back in my big loud aggressive metropolis and the rest of me is appreciating the time spent with my family and best friend from college where the loveliness of the Napa Valley, a place I like so much, is just a short car ride away. I also only see these very special people (and a very special dog) only twice a year. But I know what you mean about having a tough time getting away from one’s established routine. I almost missed working at The Grind. Almost. I’m only partially insane.

    • Dear Lame,
      Yes — I find it very hard to be taken out of my routine. We didn’t travel anywhere this year partially because it takes too many days of our holidays, but because it throws us all for such a loop it’s not really a vacation. I think that what we are used to in our daily lives (although stress inducing as well) is what gives us comfort. I think I hoped the vacation would be a toned-down version of my regular days in which I could change what I wanted and leave the rest. Of course that didn’t happen. Maybe we find comforts in our insanity. I know it’s hard for me to go from one extreme to another.
      Just spend the last week dealing with a sick kid which ended up in an overnight in hospital. It was like sensory deprivation there… hot and stuffy, no sense of time, and not much variation in the day. NOW I need a vacation — except I don’t know what that looks like!

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