Not realizing how divided my attention was, I headed to Publix for some grocery shopping three days before Thanksgiving. Arriving at 8:20 a.m., I walked into the store and realized I had forgotten to bring my latest collection of plastic bags for the recycling bin outside the store’s front door. A few minutes later I found I had left my reusable bags in the car. And shortly after that I lost my grocery list. Retracing my steps didn’t help in locating the lost list so I decided to walk down each isle to stimulate my memory. There were numerous shoppers in the store making progress slow. When finally checking out, I remarked to the cashier that I had come early hoping to avoid a crowd. She replied that I had avoided the crowd, assuring me that in another hour the store would be jammed with three times as many people.
Feeling frazzled, I left the store and started driving home. I was getting ready to say unkind things to myself and give myself a hard time when I turned on the radio. The first song to play was “Take It Easy On Yourself” by Don Williams. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and right then I decided that this phrase would be my mantra for the holidays. I also vowed to stay in the moment. It’s the only way to go through the holidays without forgetting and losing things due to divided attention.
In that Sunday’s (11-24-19) New York Times was an article by Jolie Kerr titled “End The Year With Your Chill Intact.” She acknowledges the joys and stresses of the holidays and offers some sound advice, such as setting a Christmas budget and sticking to it to eliminate after-Christmas regrets. It spoils the fun to be paying for Christmas in July. Another one was to put yourself on your gift list: Treat yourself to something that makes you feel good. It’s important to give ourselves some TLC.
Jolie further suggests focusing on only those extra Christmas activities that mean the most to us, so we don’t feel depleted halfway through December. Prioritize and say “no” to everything else. When dealing with visitors, we all enjoy those prized friendships that take us as we are, and allow for visiting back and forth without thinking about when the house was last cleaned.
And then there are those guests with whom we aren’t quite as comfortable. They give us short notice so we need to have a quick cleaning plan. Fluff couch pillows, throw an afghan over a chair arm, and grab a box to speedily eliminate clutter that can then be hidden in a closet (yes, you will have to deal with it later). Put out a couple of clean hand towels in the bathroom, or refold the existing hand towels so the clean side is out. Tuck dishes in the dishwasher or hide them in a sink of soapy water. Voila! Things are looking good with minimal effort.
The following are my suggestions. If you have critical friends or relatives, stop any disrespectful remarks. Stop that from entering your sacred living space. If this Christmas involves serious health issues and treatment schedules, you especially need to “take it easy on yourself.” Eliminate any guilt about making personal needs a priority. Clearly state your boundaries and insist they be honored. Remember, the people most likely to object to your limits are the ones most interested in taking advantage of anything you have to offer.
Let’s let go of mistakes — they are part of our learning process. Rather than focus on what we can’t change, let’s refocus on what we can change and give it our best. Let’s celebrate our own uniqueness instead of comparing ourselves to other people. And if we find ourselves cranky, let’s take a look at the kind of pressure we’re putting on ourselves. Of all the months of the year, December is the one where we need to be most kind to ourselves. The best part of Christmas falls into what Fred Rogers said: “That which is essential is invisible to the naked eye.” What is essential is our well of inner love that leads to all our expressions of love. What is essential is knowing in our soul that all is well. What is essential is viewing the world through a lens of kindness toward our diversity. These are the things that touch us deeply. It is also essential to “take it easy on ourselves” this December and enjoy what’s most important to each of us.
Until Next Time – Sylvia