Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas in Perspective

I have always been the queen of Christmas. In what I refer to as my "former life," I spent 364 days preparing for the holiday, sewing quilts and making jam in the middle of the summer and setting them aside for winter gift giving, constantly looking for the perfect presents for friends and loved ones. By Thanksgiving Day, my shopping was finished, so I spent the rest of that weekend wrapping packages and decorating the house, leaving the month of December free for writing cards, baking cookies, making candy, reading holiday books to my children, attending holiday activities with them, and playing Christmas music on the piano. Some years, I would even do a little more sewing, making holiday outfits or pajamas for the kids, staying up until the wee hours of the night to finish everything.

It sounds idyllic, doesn't it? Well, the truth of the matter was that, although I loved my children, I was living a lie, and Christmas provided me with a means of escape from reality. Making December 25th the focal point of my year allowed me to avoid dealing with some of the pain and problems that were the core of my existence. As you might imagine, I experienced an incredible letdown on Christmas night; I dealt with that by getting up early the next day, hitting the after-Christmas sales and starting the process all over again.

I didn't realize any of this until after my divorce. And I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with YOU if you love the winter holidays and spend months preparing for them. But for ME, Christmas was an unhealthy obsession.

This year I am experiencing the opposite extreme. There has been no extra cash for shopping these past few months; November was consumed with NaNoWriMo, and I spent every spare minute Thanksgiving weekend working on my writing. This week, all my piano students wanted to know when they might expect to see a Christmas tree in my living room and whether or not I will hang lights on my house. The answers are I don't know and never. The fact is, the autumn cloth is still on my dining room table, and I am not looking forward to digging all those boxes out of decorations out from under my stairwell. My boys are old enough that they aren't much interested in helping; they have busy lives, and friends, and really don't seem to care whether we put up a tree and decorate the house or not. The flip side to that is that they seem to understand that there won't be much in the way of presents this year. But there's got to be a happy medium.

I have been listening to Christmas music since the first of November; I have a large holiday CD collection, and could listen to the songs of the season year-round, although I force myself to save them until after Halloween. I also own a large stack of Christmas sheet music; I sit down at the piano and play every chance I get, and my students are enjoying playing Christmas music, too. I have a small holiday DVD library, and I have watched a few of my favorites already. And I am planning a few seasonal festivities: attending a Christmas house concert in Tennessee, participating in a sing-along "Messiah," and going to visit my family in southern Illinois over Christmas vacation.

But there will definitely be some compromises. For example, I love a fresh cut tree--putting it in the stand, adding lights, covering it with ornaments I have collected over the years, gifts from piano students and souvenirs of travel, keeping it watered throughout the season. But I can't really justify the additional expense right now, so maybe I will pull out my little artificial tree, set it up in the corner of the living room, and festoon it with some simple glass balls. The red and green tablecloth and my Fitz & Floyd collection in the dining room, my nutcracker on the mantel, a few candles here and, my house will "feel" like Christmas with minimal effort. Heck, I might even get inspired to send some greeting cards--and it's a sure thing I will bake a cookie or twenty.

The point is I'm going to do what I can do and not stress about the rest. I couldn't keep up with the Joneses if I tried, so there's no point in comparing my situation with anybody else's. I choose not to mourn for what I don't have, but to be grateful for what I do--and keep Christmas in perspective, with my focus on my work and my family, and not on an much-hyped, over-commercialized holiday that usually doesn't deliver on its promises.


Anonymous said...

I loved that. I can just see you doing all this stuff. It kind of cracked me up, but I'm not sure if you meant it to be funny or serious. So don't be offended. First I have to tell you how much I love Christmas. I love the lights, the music the treats. I could listen to the music year round, and I do on my ipod or when no one is home. Although my family is kind of used to that now.
I say you do what PAM wants to do, not what other people expect or what you feel you should do. You've done for others so long, that it's your turn now.

Nothing wrong with a fake tree, either. We have one of those. Put that up and put your special ornaments on it. It will help you remember good times.

And you know it's not about the gifts. I don't even care if I get any. To me its about Jesus, and Family and just enjoying what you have.

If people acted they way they do at Christmas all year round, imagine the world we could live int.

Okay, that's my two cents worth.


Pam said...

Peggy, it IS kind of funny, but it is also TRUE. And while I love Christmas, too--I guess that is obvious from my post--what I was trying to say is that I think I have put it in its proper place in my life: a special day of celebration as opposed to a reason for existence. I appreciate your two cents worth! :-)

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Pam,

Thanks so much for sharing this part of your life with us. I'm glad you were able to recognize your obsession for what it was. I'm not sure I would have seen that and it makes me question a few 'obsessions' I have. Nothing bad, but it does make one think about why we focus on that 'one' thing, be it Christmas or others.

Thanks for putting yourself out there and letting others see themselves through your experiences. I do wish you the very, very best this year.


Pam said...

Thanks, Tami. I know some Christians who don't celebrate Christmas because they see people worshipping the holiday itself and not the "reason for the season." It's definitely food for thought. Here's hoping 2011 is the best year ever for ALL of us!