How I plan to slow down and enjoy this December.
I ran into a friend of mine at the market a few days ago, and when I asked how her Thanksgiving was, she sheepishly said she had spent a quiet day with just her small, immediate family. She described a day with no chaotic cooking for a huge group; it involved reading, watching TV, puttering around the house and ordering out food. It sounded divine!
Not that I didn’t love my big meal with my big group of family and friends, but it affirmed something I’ve been thinking a lot about. The pandemic found us all having small gatherings, mostly with just our household members, slowing it all down, forgoing “must-dos” and obligations. It’s reshaped how we celebrate this time of year, and it’s not all bad.
Each year in the before times, I’d get frenzied and have an impossibly long list of to-dos, often letting go of things about this season that I truly love in favor of trying to produce this big, grand (possibly imaginary) Christmas that would make the world a perfect place for my children for one two-day stretch in late December. In addition to making plans to see friends, decorating my house just so, sending out cards, filling Advent calendars, volunteering, and the list goes on. I could never really see a way off the holiday hamster wheel.
I’ve noticed over the past decade or so, my favorite nights in December are the ones where my kids and I watch a Christmas movie without a lot of fanfare, have a meal together and hang out. Not the nights where I’m frantically cooking, trying in vain to make everything perfect, or getting every last gift on their wish lists plus cool stuff they haven’t even thought of yet. That gift they’ll open and proclaim, “Mom. you’re the best mom in the whole world for thinking of this amazing, unique thing!”
Add to the gift frenzy: making sure I’ve remembered every friend, family member, teacher, service person and neighbor. While all of that is nice, and aspects of it appreciated, it mostly stands to make me cranky and less present. It’s also all material, and fleeting.
Letting go of much of this during Covid was a gift of cosmic proportions. It was like collective permission to say, I don’t want to do that, and I’m going to do things differently now. We had Chinese food last Christmas Eve instead of the traditional meal I always make. It was so easy, I felt guilty. But I absolutely plan to do it again this year. I was more mellow and way more present because I wasn’t cooking for hours. This is at the heart of Tarry Life; pausing a little more, reflecting on the past year, and having a heck of a lot more fun.
This year has been a rather challenging one personally, and I’ve been feeling kind of meh about the holidays. However, I think it may be largely because I’ve felt the old pressure now that things are “back to normal.” I’ve been internally resisting the go-go-go because I saw a glimpse of the other side.
I understand that my crazy Christmas frenzy is of my own making (and a bit my parents, too, who set the holiday bar sky high!) It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I must do this! I must do that! Or it’s not Christmas!” But when it was taken away during Covid, it was still Christmas, and we still managed to have a meaningful time. Those of us lucky to be able to slow down, of course. It really was an immense privilege.
I’m vowing here to do less of what only serves to make me frantic and more of what brings me joy. It sounds overly simplistic, and even a bit cliche, but I’m giving myself permission to do the holiday season with real intention of enjoyment. To have a Tarry Christmas (sorry I couldn’t resist). Sinatra said it’s the most wonderful time of the year, not the most crazed, so I’m going to attempt to prove him right.
Share your intentions for a truly happy holiday season on IG @thetarrylife