It’s November, and Thanksgiving is near. The Happiest Time of the Year is barreling toward us. Are you ready? We know it’s coming every year and, as financial guru Dave Ramsey likes to say, “Christmas is not an emergency.”
Putting aside money to buy gifts is a simple matter of doing the math and making a monthly deposit, but creating a memorable, magical celebration also takes a huge amount of time and nearly superhuman effort. Of course it’s foolish to bankrupt ourselves financially, but we can’t help running ourselves ragged in pursuit of the perfect holiday. We end up weary and harried, snapping at our children and snarling at store clerks and innocent spouses alike.
We are an achievement-oriented society. We love to cheer for the action hero who pushes himself beyond the limits of normal human ability to accomplish some spectacular goal. We’re in awe of his courage and endurance in the face of tremendous obstacles.
In real life, discretion is more often the better part of valor. Legendary mountaineer Ed Viesturs’ mantra is “Getting to the top is optional; getting down is mandatory.” Mount Everest is littered with the bodies of climbers who were seized by summit fever and pushed prudence aside to gain the top at all costs, then died on the way down. They promised themselves to summit Everest or die, and ended up doing both, too exhausted to negotiate the harrowing descent.
Preparing for Christmas is a personal Mount Everest for most of us moms. Our family has expectations and must not be disappointed; childhood memories depend on it. On top of the normal work and family duties, we must attend, smiling and appropriately attired, every recital, party and pageant. We must purchase, wrap and deliver gifts that surprise and delight. We must make travel plans and pack for the family. We must bake and entertain. The house must be spotless and beautifully decorated, because company is coming. And who is going to address all these cards? Pile on a couple of sick kids, an ice storm and a hard-to-find toy, and you feel like you’re bivouacked without supplemental oxygen at 27,000 feet.
The only way to stockpile time and energy against the coming onslaught is to start now. I attempted to bridge the chasm of frustration between what I do and what I should do last year.
On Dec. 9, I wrote my future self a letter. I opened it this year on Oct. 1 and read: “Please start your holiday preparations today. I know you think you’re busy, and it can wait, but you’ll be three times busier in December and won’t be able to enjoy the holiday if you haven’t started early.” I recounted everything that went on that week –costuming my husband and daughter ready to play Santa and Elf, the annual church brunch, attending a middle school orchestra concert and baking gifts for five teachers. I begged myself not to stress me out like last year.
This year, I’ve vowed to get as much done as I can before Thanksgiving. I hope that crossing shopping from the list of December’s tasks and planning family events well in advance will help.
Christmas can be the happiest time of the year, when we are free to truly cherish the company of family and friends, treasure the magic and wonder and worship the savior whose birth we celebrate. I want to enjoy those blessings, and I’m trying to take control so that will happen. Let me start today by wishing you a “Merry Christmas.”