Do you ever think about all the things that would never happen if there weren't women to do them? I feel that 'Christmas' comes very firmly into that category. Without girlfriends, wives, mothers and grandmothers we would all have a very dismal festive season indeed - for who else would be searching for that perfect gift for Auntie Sue, or spending hours looking online for the only 'must have' toy left in the universe? And don't get me started on the shopping in hot, overcrowded stores with "I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Dayyyyyy' on a loop until you feel as though you are going loopy yourself! Then there is all the decorating, wrapping, and food shopping, followed by that marathon of food preparation on the day itself. A certain young male relative of mine leaves his Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve and is then surprised when he has almost no choice as everything decent has long sold out. I rest my case.
All of these thoughts have been sparked by a 'mind set' workshop I attended recently. At the beginning, Marcia, the workshop leader used an interesting analogy. She said that the first time she heard the emergency instructions on an aircraft she was surprised that you had to put on your own oxygen mask before you attended to any children with you. Your natural instinct in those circumstances would surely be to make sure that your children are safe first. But of course you need to be alive to do so! I think this a brilliant metaphor for many women's lives. How often are we preoccupied and busy fixing everyone else's oxygen masks that we forget that we need to breathe to stay alive too. So my theme this week is 'Christmas Treats' - both in the sense of how you treat yourself and also the treats that you need to give yourself.
I count myself as immensely fortunate that Christmas is no longer the onerous pressure it once was. Sixty-nine Christmases have come and gone. Some were memorably joyous, happy affairs and others were so painfully dire that I literally counted the hours until they were over. I have had Christmases as a child, a teenager, a wife, a mother, a divorcee with my children, a divorcee without my children as they were with their father, and now as a grandmother. I have been a guest and a hostess. I have spent them in this country in the cold and overseas in the warm sunshine and I have come to the conclusion that for me Christmas can take any form whatsoever as long as there is someone in the room who cares about me and whom I love in return. Happily this desire is now completely satisfied by my spending Christmas with either one of my daughters and some of my grand kids. So, here are my thoughts about how to ensure that you too have a happy (enough) time:
Treating Yourself Kindly This Christmas:
1.Ask for or Accept Help. Think of everything that needs to be done between now and the 24th of December and ask for help - or take people up on any offers of help they make. The challenge if you are a) a perfectionist or b) a control freak is that people may not do it your way. So allow them to do it their way.
2.Lower Your Standards. A perfect Christmas is an illusion dreamed up by people in advertising agencies. It includes snow, magic and large and deliriously happy families all having a wonderful time. I very much doubt that such a Christmas has ever actually happened except in these adverts. Aim instead for an 'ok' Christmas and count yourself lucky if you get to January 2nd without any family upsets, tantrums, arguments or 'weird atmospheres' .
3.Don't spend a fortune. There's a tendency to feel that the more expensive the gift the more gratitude it will generate. In my experience there is often little correlation between the two. As I have grown older I have realised that it really is the thought that counts. It's so nice to get a gift which you would have chosen for yourself. My worst Christmas present ever was a carving knife, and in our family it was my (then - now ex) husband who carved the roast on Sundays. Three guesses as to who gave me the knife. We divorced not long afterwards....
4.Stop feeling responsible for everyone else's happiness. If there are ten people in the room on Christmas Day then you bear ten per cent of the responsibility for generating enjoyment within that group. You are of course one hundred percent responsible for NOT generating any unhappiness, with looks, sighs or judgemental comments.
5.Buy yourself a present. I do this every year to compensate myself for having been born on Christmas Day (which sucks). I think of something I'd really love to receive and buy it for myself. If that sounds narcissistic then so be it. So at this time of year I become my own best friend and indulge myself. LFF has some lovely gift packs (see below) - nothing to say you can't give one to yourself.
6.Plan some 'me' time. In my 'mindset' discussion group, one of the women said that she feels guilty if she reads during the day because she feels she ought to be busy 'doing stuff.' So I'd suggest fighting this pressure to be always 'on the go' by planning some time to yourself to recharge your batteries. This could take the form of a pampering massage or as simple as sitting down with a nice cup of tea and a magazine. The important part of this is to resist the feelings of self-generated guilt and see it as 'fixing your own oxygen mask first.'
Last week Lynda, responding to my blog 'Velvet or Sequins', commented 'I do find myself more and more dismayed by the excesses of the season as well as other things that are happening here and in the wider world.' I think we can all say 'amen' to that but I am always wary of thinking that everything was somehow simpler and less excessive in the past. We don't live in the past, nor can we control those 'other things'. So just settle for the one thing you can do - and that is to stop feeling responsible for making everyone else's Christmas perfect and treat yourself kindly instead.
How do you feel about the Christmas season? What's your idea of a perfect (or 'ok') Christmas? What's the worst Christmas gift you have ever received?