What’s more crazy than this time of year? Aside from May, which has it’s own patent on chaos, the end of November through the New Year is a whirlwind of pumpkin, turkeys, snowman sweaters, evergreen, and confetti. I can already feel myself getting wrapped up in the excitement that this time of year brings. I think about visiting with family and friends, about decorating the house, about all the traditions that we have started to build as a family, and I shift into overdrive.
Let’s face it, this time of year brings a sleigh-full of stress. For those traveling, there is the packing and preparation and traffic. For those hosting, it is the grocery shopping, the food prep, the house hose-down. What are we thankful for again? Give me a minute, I’m still decompressing from the build-up to this moment.
Where is the joy? Where is the gratitude? All this time spent doing and we are lost in craziness without a morsel of happiness to sustain us. What are we doing? Who are we aiming to please?
I think about my boys, and their excitement leading up to Thanksgiving. As we add each date to our calendar Max will count how many days are left until we visit Uncle B and Aunt M, and he and Quint cheer that it’s almost Thanksgiving! You know why they are excited? To see people, to play games, to laugh, and to ENJOY their time with special friends. To my knowledge Quint has never mentioned his expectations regarding the turkey preparation. Max has never once said that he hopes Aunt M irons her napkins. Why?? Because they are simply contented to live in the moment. They are arriving to Thanksgiving…wait for it…thankful to be there.
So, Full Confession: I am a perfectionist. For those of you reading this who know me well, this is like calling the sky blue. We ALL KNOW. I will admit that I have reloaded a dishwasher or two in my day, and may have followed behind a certain husband of mine, Clorox wipes in hand, after he claims to have “cleaned” the bathroom. I have expectations. I set high standards. Mostly, for myself. I have a vision of how I want things to go down, and quite honestly, when that doesn’t happen a certain discord reverberates within my soul and I have to set things right.
I also *sigh* have this horrible habit of comparing my expectations with others’. It’s annoying. I recognize that. I can feel myself getting agitated with the insecure part of my brain, and can literally envision this stare-down happening, like who is going to win out: Reason or my 12-year-old persona. Good grief. It is like Judgment Day over every and all circumstances. Do I wear have to wear jeans today? What will the cafeteria workers say about the lunch I packed? Should my kids make their own Valentine’s Day cards? Did I spend enough on this birthday present?
How do I compare to all these other people?
And in the very moment that question bubbles to the surface, my joy about any and every decision I have made dissipates into dust, making me wonder if it ever existed in the first place.
Which brings me to the holidays, and our struggle to keep up. Did you make your pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin and whip your own cream? Do you have a tree in each room, each decorated to a different theme? Are your presents piled to the ceiling? Does your Elf on the Shelf have to orchestrate clever tricks each night? Did you make Pinterest-worthy treats for your child’s classmates and teachers?
Are you experiencing any joy in what you are doing?
If so, carry on. If not…let’s talk…please. Because, dear reader, there is nothing wrong with any of the things listed above; if (IF!), they are what your heart desires. If you find fulfillment in doing them.
You will soon see that I go all-out with my Elf on the Shelf. We got his reindeer pal last year (dubbed Smart Frisbee), and this year the St. Bernard will join us. This very fact might cause you to roll your eyes and Unfollow me instantly. That’s OK! I will not TP your house – or more importantly – change what I am doing to appease your particularities. My boys are thrilled with Ted’s shenanigans, and as long as they find him amusing, I will continue to plot our adventures throughout December. I will wait to TP your house until January. It’s only fair.
Thanksgiving dinner giving you grief? Ask those attending to contribute a side dish or dessert. Maybe don’t even volunteer your house as a place to break bread. There are responsibilities and then there are the “should do’s”. I have to put the dishes in the dishwasher so they are clean tomorrow. I get no joy in doing this, and yet it must be done. I don’t have to hot glue beaks and gobblers to rubber gloves to make turkeys, but I do because they are adorable and make me snicker every time I see them. If I know that another mom is going to make her parents’ gifts out of her child’s hand-print and I start to think, “Oh, I should make something homemade for my parents too,” I might be headed down that slippery slope of “shoulds”.
Jealousy, envy, and greed have no place in our holiday stories. What ever happened to celebrating someone’s ideas and being contented – thrilled even – with our own? High-five to the dad who made omelettes for every family member Christmas morning, and a gold star for the mom who bought the fun cupcakes in the center aisle at Walmart. Are we always in an invisible race to be the best? Who even determines what “the best” is?
I have come a long way. Perhaps it is out of survival that I hardly care about the comparison game anymore. I have been told by more than a few people that the older I get, the less that others’ opinions will weigh on my own. Funny, that in college, I was known as someone who wasn’t afraid to be herself. I stumbled on that a bit, but am back to being more on the confident side of the tracks. I have worked so hard to achieve happiness and fulfillment, that no one can take that from me, except me. Watch it, Insecure Megan.
I realize that many of us do the things we do out of love. Love for our friends, love for our family, and that kind of sacrificial love negates the groaning and moaning about any unsavory task we face. I want my children to witness my acts of servitude and see that joy can be spread through loving your neighbor. I yearn for them to know that their benevolence can heal hurting hearts, and conquer loneliness. You don’t have to go very far to find someone who needs a little extra love. It might be that the actual thing you are doing isn’t exactly earth-shifting, but the motivation behind it is that of selflessness and compassion, which can be life-changing.
Maybe crafts aren’t your forte, or service for that matter. And if you say to me, “That’s not my bag, baby,” then I can totally appreciate where you are coming from; especially if you say it like Austin Powers (Please say it like Austin Powers). I have found what brings me joy. As seasons continue, that might change. I am not an orchestrator of great things, but I like to contribute nuggets of kindness here and there. Gifts are not my forte. If I am inspired, you will get a great gift. If I am not, then…sorry. Socks for you. My husband and I agreed long ago that we wouldn’t exchange gifts. Not for birthdays, not for Christmas…The task was tedious and horrible and neither of us got any enjoyment out of this CHORE, so we said “Forget it.” If I happen to be perusing the aisles of Target within the month of December and find…Oh…4 items thatIcannotlivewithout, then I call it “my gift to myself from my husband” and move on. That’s winning, people.
In all seriousness, I find that if I pray about what I should do – instead of trying to handle it all on my own (Take a knee, God, I got this) – I usually get a response about what direction to take on my joy journey, and about a number of other things to be honest. It is amazing what you can hear when you take the time to listen. I am actually in awe of the responses I have gotten when I have earnestly let go, and let God.
So, please, for everyone’s sanity, get out the mental drone and scan your holiday plans. Heck, scan your every day. Those things that you said you’d do because everyone else was doing them, is that how you want to spend your time? Those “jobs” that should be fun but aren’t filling your bucket? They might be better off with someone else. Find something that speaks to you and brings you life. It could be that you are in a phase of suffocation. Sit this one out, and allow someone else to step to the plate.
Now, before you go skipping a diaper change or leaving the toilet to self-clean (a great idea! Someone get on that), LIFE is full of things we don’t want to do but as I shared with my MOPS ladies, sometimes you gotta turn up the music and dance your way through it. I can’t have a hoard of newly irresponsible folk gallivanting about because “Megan said do what finds you joy!” We all have stuff that needs to get done and my motivator happens to be music, and the desire to make others happy…but let’s start with the music. Give it a try. Your neighbors might not get joy in your screeching lyrics and interpretive dance, but you very well might. I have a beautiful singing voice, by the way. Just ask Quint.
Doing the latest thing to garner the approval of others is discounting the unique and special individual you are. Be a trailblazer. Don’t hang up those Christmas lights. Declare Thanksgiving a “wear your crazy socks” day. Hand out food at a soup kitchen before you start your own meal. Make the moments your own. Because, in the in end, fulfillment will come to those who celebrate authentically. Cheers to a festive Thanksgiving – full of gratitude and your very own personalized manifestation of joy. I can’t wait to see what it looks like.