Now that the holiday season is officially upon us, I've been asking myself the following question: Do I like Christmas … or not?
People who know me would be shocked SHOCKED to hear this. For many years I've had a reputation for being the Christmas Queen. Or if not exactly the Christmas Queen, then at least her first runner-up. Or if not exactly her first runner-up, then at least Miss Christmas Congeniality.
Beginning with my Great-grandma Pat (a Wyoming game warden who famously slept with her shotgun), I come from a long line of fierce women who nevertheless melt into little puddles of sentiment at the sight of a fresh fir tree loaded with homemade ornaments. To not adore Christmas in my family would be unthinkable. It would be like a die-hard Ute fan suddenly switching out his colors and cheering for the Cougars.
But last year after the decorations were put away, I found myself acknowledging that I hadn't enjoyed the holiday. At all. And, in fact, I honestly hadn't enjoyed it very much for the past few years. I really, really hated to admit this, but there it was. The naked truth.
What went wrong?
I'm still not entirely sure. Maybe the holiday season has become just too looooooooooong. Stores put out merchandise in September. Radio stations start playing Christmas music in October. By the time December actually rolls around, a body can already feel flattened, which is BAD NEWS because December herself is so very busy.
There's a lot of awesome stuff going on at Christmas time concerts, parties, family gatherings. But sometimes it feels like too much awesome stuff, don't you think? As my friend Boyd once said, Christmas can feel like being force-fed your favorite dessert (rhubarb pie from Croshaw's house of pie in St. George!) six times a day. And no matter how much you love your rhubarb pie … well, too much of it is gonna make you feel a little sick.
And then there's this: The Christmas season triggers unrealistic expectations. I mean, we all know this is true, right? But somehow in our heart of hearts we still hope the turkey won't burn, the tree will stay fresh, the money won't run out, the butterflake rolls will rise, the family won't fight. We hope for perfection. That's a lot to ask of a holiday. And of each other.
Here's the deal. I have a lot of excellent history with Christmas, and I don't want the two of us to break up. That's why we're in couples' therapy right now, Christmas and I, and here's what I'm learning: A person ought to pick the things she or he enjoys the most and then focus on those.
I asked my friends on our walk this morning what they liked best about the season. Kathy was all about the food and the music. Nancy said she likes the games her family plays. (This year, they're staging a pinewood derby, and here's the best part: Everything's legal! So get the lead out, Nancy's kids, because this thing is ON.)
Me? Genes matter, apparently, because like my crazy great-grandma, I love me a tree loaded with a lifetime of random ornaments. And once that tree is decorated, I just want to sit next to it and remember the all of it the babies my husband and I had and the ones we lost, the vacations with kids and cousins to sandy places, the afternoon I spent with Becky making salt-dough angels in a warm, messy kitchen.
OK! I get it now! That's what went wrong last year. I didn't make time for quiet time. I was so busy bringing the holiday crazy that I forgot to be still.
This year I want a moment of stillness.
What's your holiday bliss? Find it. And carve out your moments to follow it.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.