Countdown to Christmas

holidays2014Hi there!

I’m back.

I didn’t mean to take a break from Red Shutters. I definitely didn’t intend to go into “radio silence” for 11 days—especially after the 33 days of continuous posts that made November and early December so busy here. But, life—that thing we’re all in the midst of—conspired against me, as they say.

An intense period at work and the subsequent recovery period left me drained with a strong desire to go to bed at 8:30 PM (instead of staying up late to write). And then I realized it’s December, and that the holidays are approaching. (The Countdown to Christmas is on! The holiday is days away, people!) The inevitable “holiday to do list freak out” commenced: Christmas decorations, holiday shopping, holiday parties, trips to the post office to mail packages, holiday cards, and on. I took a break from writing to get some stuff done and give myself permission to just be for a bit. (This is where someone else would say something like “I did some self-care in the middle of this busy holiday season” but I hate the term “self-care” (it sounds… I don’t know… inappropriate, somehow) so I’ll just say I slept a lot and got caught up on laundry.)

People (OK, Pinterest) makes the holidays look so perfect, right? A Christmas tree that looks like it came from a Crate & Barrel catalog, holiday cookies that aspire to be on the cover of a cookbook, and expertly-wrapped presents fastened with fancy ribbons and sparkles. That’s so much pressure! And, for me, totally unrealistic.

I chatted with a friend about holiday stress, and she said that, every Christmas since she was a kid, the holidays would make her cry. There was always something about the pressure that came along with Christmas that made it all too much. I understood what she meant. This time of year is hard sometimes, right? It shouldn’t be. It should be joyful. It should be fun.

The Christmas holidays in my house are less Pinterest-y and a bit more realistic: I address holiday cards in a burst at 6:30 AM on a Sunday morning, trying to get them done before the kids wake up. I put out only one-third of my Christmas decorations, vowing to start earlier next year—and maybe actually, finally, in 2015, use those snowman napkin rings. We get takeout Chinese and let the kids eat their dumplings in front of “Frosty the Snowman,” while my husband and I try to figure out our holiday plans. I go to Target on a Sunday afternoon, less than two weeks before Christmas, barely finding a parking space and wondering all the time why I just didn’t use Amazon Prime for all of my shopping.

There are moments of joy in there, too: spending a spontaneous afternoon catching up with friends we bump into while going for a walk through our neighborhood, receiving beautiful holiday cards from friends near and far, baking with my mom and kids (no cookies for us: we make a yummy, messy coffee cake), and watching my kids (when they think my husband and I aren’t looking) act out what Christmas morning will be like (it involves some surprises and a fleeting glimpse of Santa).

There’s also space for listening in there. Listening to what’s important (for us, a quieter Christmas that’s about each other, not things), and listening to each other.

I’ve been listening to myself, too. And, my inner voice said “get back to writing.” So here I am. Thanks for being here, too.