Yesterday I went to one of my favourite coffeehouses (like I generally do every week or so), but instead of working, I spent my time there enjoying some tea and knitting -- the first of a few handmade gifts I'm making this year.
These knitted gifts are sort of a last-minute thing -- I'm not generally a handmade-gift kinda girl (and really, a pretty novice knitter). I've got a few to do, and thought I would end up stressing myself out trying to get them all done, but the very cool thing is that I'm not. I'm finding the process incredibly meditative so far -- counting toward my daily quiet time this season.
While I was at the coffeehouse knitting happily away, I suddenly remembered a conversation I had with a friend of mine this past weekend. We were talking about all the stress that often comes with the end of the year, turning what should be a joyful, peaceful time into a season of stress and worry.
At one point, she turned and looked me dead in the eye.
"The thing is," she said, emphatically, "I've decided I'm not going to should all over myself this Christmas."
I laughed out loud. Is that not a great phrase? It's that thing we do to ourselves, when we feel like we should be doing all of the Things That Make The Holidays Perfect. Why do we do that? I mean, isn't the real truth that if we cut ourselves a break -- actually took the time to relax into the end of the year, instead of stressing about it -- the holidays would not only be more fun for us, but for everyone around us, as well?
To that end, I hereby declare this the Season of Not Shoulding All Over Ourselves. * In order to make this happen, here are a couple of ideas for alternatives to doing the things you feel like you ought to do, but really don't want to:
• If you'd rather not write and send dozens of holiday cards ... don't. Just send a few. Or send Happy New Year cards, after the new year starts. Or send Valentine's Day cards. Or do what my friend Gayla does, and send Spring Equinox cards, instead.
Or ... this is radical ... don't send any cards at all. Just wish the people you meet, or speak to on the phone, heartfelt greetings of the season. I promise your friends will still find you as charming as ever.
• If you'd rather not spend hours in the kitchen baking all sorts of goodies ... don't. Skip them, or buy them instead -- there are many bakeries and grocery stores that sell some that are just as good as homemade, and don't cost an arm and a leg. Besides, support local, I always say.
• If you don't want to go to a ton of holiday parties ... don't. Skip 'em all, if you're not in the mood. If you want to celebrate, but just aren't in the mood for huge crowds, invite a few close friends over, and tell them to bring their favourite dish for a mellow, hang-out kind of evening. (Here -- I'll even supply the music for chilling by.)
• If you don't want to fight huge crowds at the mall ... for Pete's sake, don't. That's what God created the internet for.
• If you don't want to spend more money than you can afford on gifts ... then don't. Make handmade gifts -- photographs, art, whatever -- or give a "gift certificate" of your time (offer to babysit, offer happy hour cocktails or a homecooked meal after the holidays, or even a picnic, once the weather cooperates after the new year).
And then, once you've made the decision not to should all over yourself, then by all means, hang some twinkle lights -- on a tree if you want to, or even better, just on a hook on a wall.
Because in my experience, nothing calms like seasonal twinkle lights.