Pre-Christmas Sanity Checklist #38
Keep, Ditch or Delegate?
These Love letters are for over-caring, over-giving, people pleasers who are worn out and need to put some zest back into their lives.
Weekly tips, hints and guidance so you can become more of your True Self and let go of the shoulds, have tos and musts that keep you stuck and start taking some actions towards more freedom, fun and flow.
Dear Lovely You!
The way you do Christmas is (most likely) the way you do everything.
On top of everything else you have to do, here comes Christmas and more pressure.
When I was a child the Christmas decorations went up Christmas Eve after my brothers and I had gone to bed. As a small child I thought Father Christmas put them up when he delivered the presents.
There's no doubt in my mind that it can be a magical time for children, assuming parents are well enough and wealthy enough to provide all the trimmings.
We had one present from our parents. No stockings. And random presents from grandparents and aunties. Often they were things we needed like socks, jumpers and hot water bottles. But also plasticine, pens and felt tips. Colouring books and Ladybird books. Action men and their helicopters. And I also had a toy typewriter and post office set once.
One year I asked for a Tiny Tears doll that cried. I didn't get it and I don't know why. Was it too expensive or did my mum just prefer the other doll she got me instead? It's seems bizarre to me now that I should want a doll that actually cried! But maybe not so bizarre when I know that I was already a deeply caring person.
Even though we were told that Father Christmas would bring the presents, it was quite clear that the adults in our lives actually bought them. Having never had stockings myself it didn't occur to me to ever do it for my own children. This I realise now has saved me a lot of time, money and energy over the years and have my children been neglected as a result? I don't think so.
What’s really behind the pressure to buy presents?
It only occurred to me recently why all the shops and TV adverts start so early. There's a process to selling and we've all bought into it.
The shops online and off seem to be full of crap that everyone wants but nobody needs.
On top of the pressure to buy is the pressure to entertain, spend more time with loved ones, eat more and generally do more at a time when nature is asking us to rest and recharge. Before the invention of the electric light bulb, winter nights were long and people couldn't do much but rest.
For families these days, there are also all the school plays, concerts and raffles to contend with. Costumes to be made. Tired kids to drag out on cold nights and drag back home again tired but now wired and not able to wind down.
No wonder people get run down and ill over Christmas.
No wonder people are frazzled by the time it arrives.
And what's it all for?
If you were to take an inventory of all the things you think you have to do for Christmas what would it look like?
Buy or make cards - but first you have to find last year's list and decide who to add and who to bump off.
Buy presents - but first you have to think about your budget and what kind of things people want and where you can buy them. You see things you like but will they like them? You see things they’d like but you wouldn’t normally buy in a million years and resent having to buy now.
You order special food - but first you have to decide whether you're going to invite anyone over AND take into account likes, dislikes and food intolerances.
Write cards - and try to think of something interesting to say to people you haven't seen for another year. And what do you say to people you see regularly?
Buy a Christmas tree or dust down the artificial one from the attic.
Post or e-cards unless being hand delivered. And what's the point in hand delivering when you can just say, 'Happy Christmas,' to their face?
Buy wrapping paper and buy or make labels.
Put the decorations and tree up. Or shall we wait a bit longer? Maybe Christmas Eve even?
Wrap presents. Write labels. Put parcels into family or friends batches.
If you have small children, wrap presents in the evening (when you're knackered) so they think it's all come from Father Christmas.
Deliver or post presents.
There may be food preparation days, if not weeks before the big day.
Depending on whether you are a Christian you may want to attend Church and get involved in your community there too.
And when the day itself comes you have to get up at silly o'clock to get the humongous turkey in the oven that’s going to last four days.
You spend all day cooking and eating. Drinking and watching TV.
Then the rest of the week hungover and lethargic before you start all over again New Year's Eve.
I know! Bah humbug!!
I'm sorry but it just seems bonkers to me.
And I just want to help you take the pressure off yourself and be realistic about your own energy levels and wellbeing.
Priorities, boundaries & rewards
What's really important to you about Christmas?
What really matters and what doesn't?
Make a list of all the things you think you have to do and be honest, which of the things on that list are meaningless to you? Cross them out.
Which do you hate doing? Cross them out too.
You can always delegate them to others.
Now what’s left?
As my children grew up and we didn't have to pretend there was a Father Christmas any more, Christmas got a lot easier.
I started to question what I was doing.
Buying a Christmas Tree, forcing it into the car, usually on my own (I’m 5ft nothing and petite), finding somewhere to store it until we were ready to bring it in. Finding a bucket it would fit into and weighing it down with stones and decorating it every year, only to have to take it all down a couple of weeks later and clean up all the pine needles.
I asked the then teenagers a few times if they really wanted a tree. They were vague and certainly not bothered enough that they wanted to help, so I stopped. They didn’t really care enough to make any effort, so why would I go to all that effort for something that none of us really appreciated that much?
And gifts now mostly consist of money. What on earth do you buy people who don't actually need anything?
The youngsters want money. The teenies want toys or books which is easy. The men don’t really seem to care.
That said, I do enjoy buying the special women in my life something to cheer them up or nourish them. There are a few whose Love Language is definitely Gifts!
I enjoy wrapping the few presents I do buy and imagining their faces as they open them. I want them to know I care and love them.
What’s really important? Just do that.
For me the important part is sharing food and catching up with a few people (but not too many). We eat well anyway, always cooking wholesome meals from scratch, so that’s not so different.
But mostly I enjoy resting. Long walks. Good books. Nourishing company. Watching Love Actually for the umpteenth time.
Lowering my expectations has made Christmas less stressful, simpler, manageable and enjoyable.
I am not a Christian so that has never been an important part of it for me but it might be for you. It’s important to honour what has meaning. I have enjoyed Carol Services at our local church, which might seem hypocritical, but it’s an opportunity for the village to gather and that sense of community gives me a sense of belonging to something greater. And I do love to sing!
So back to your list. Keep, Ditch or Delegate?
For each item ask yourself: is it meaningful to you and do you enjoy it?
If the answer to both of these is no, forget it. Consider ditching or delegating those things when you get a no to both questions.
Be honest be ruthless.
“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” Burton Hills
Allowing external pressures to dictate your life is, to me, insane.
Life is stressful enough already.
Take a pragmatic look at what's important and what's not.
Make discerning decisions about what's important and what's not and adjust your actions accordingly.
You don't have to do what you don't want to do.
And if others want different things, then they can do it themselves.
“Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words.” Harlan Miller
According to English Heritage’s – Origins of Father Christmas, Father Christmas or Santa Claus (depending on where you are in the world) was originally a character responsible for making merry at adult parties but was adopted and adapted by the Victorians to bring a more calm, family oriented tradition to their lives.
And we all know Christmas is big business. The more we spend the richer the corporations get but do we?
If you love buying and giving presents. Great. Do it.
If it makes you uncomfortable in a world - we're told - has finite resources or you can’t really afford it, maybe think again about what really matters.
Your sanity certainly does!
And not everybody’s love language is receiving gifts.
Maybe you can show your love in a different way. Maybe doing a job for someone or taking them out to the theatre later in the year. Maybe spending more time with someone next year. Maybe writing letters or poetry on a regular basis might lift someone’s spirits or telling them how much you appreciate them.
Certainly, children these days don’t need more stuff but I can see that they need more of us. More of us paying attention to them, hanging out with them, playing and yes being bored.
“I don't think Christmas is necessarily about things. It's about being good to one another.” Carrie Fisher
If you actually take a moment to consider yourself and what you really need at this time of year you might actually reconsider your options.
“But I did know that nobody ever asked me what I wanted for Christmas. Had any adult with the power to fulfil my desires taken me seriously and asked me what I wanted, they would have known that I did not want to have anything to own, or to possess any object. I wanted, rather, to feel something on Christmas Day.” Toni Morrison
What do you want to feel this Christmas?
Exhausted, burned out and resentful or bubbly, playful, loving and peaceful?
Or something else?
How about being kind and compassionate to yourself and giving yourself the gift of the midwinter feelings you want to feel?
How about taking the pressure off to perform and have a perfect Christmas?
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” ― Bob Hope
And maybe it’s time to love yourself as much as you love others.
From My True Self to Yours
PS. Come and join me in the comments and let’s have an honest conversation about what we’re choosing to Keep, Ditch or Delegate and how we feel about it. Eek! See you there.