There’s no point in denying it: I’m a creature of habit. When I shop for new clothes, I usually come home with outfits that are essentially new versions of the worn-out clothes that I’m replacing. People are often shocked when they learn that I’ve been a volunteer dog walker at a local shelter for almost twenty years, but it seems normal to me. I’m perfectly happy going on our annual Florida vacation each year, and my husband and I eat at our favorite restaurant so often that the manager not only knows us by name, he also knows our preferred choice of wine.
And things just get worse when Christmas rolls around. I drag out the same decorations each year and place them where I always have always placed them. OccasionaIly I get daring and add something new or give away a decoration I no longer care for, but if I look at photos of our Christmas celebrations in the past ten years or so, my house looks basically the same. There’s just something about Christmas that makes me embrace tradition even more that I usually do, and I guess that’s why I was really looking forward to the holidays this year, because it meant I could get back to my “normal” celebrations.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…..they really do “often go astray.” At least where I live, the pandemic is under much better control than it was last year, but it’s still a factor that has to be considered in our celebrations. Beyond that, our daughter was expecting her second child in mid-December. Not knowing when the baby would actually arrive and how comfortable my daughter and son-in-law will feel being a part of family celebrations means we won’t be able to make our usual plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year. “We’ll see how it goes” has become our new mantra, and rightly so.
And while I understood that our family traditions couldn’t be guaranteed this year, I still clung to the idea that all of my other Christmas traditions would proceed as normal. Never mind that this resulted in a schedule that became so hectic I couldn’t possibly keep up with it, I stubbornly refused to cancel even a single gathering or commitment. It’s the Christmas season, so I had to carry on as normal, right?
Luckily, I have a friends who are not only willing to confront me with truths I’m not willing to admit to myself, but they are able to do it with tact and kindness. It takes a special sort of person to be able to say to you, “What in the world are you thinking? You can’t possibly manage all this!” in such a way that I not only took no offense, but actually believed cancelling a few of my commitments was my idea.
As we move into what is often a far too hectic holiday season, my hope is that we all have that friend who will gently speak the truth to us. Because we need to hear, and believe, that it really is okay to slow down and simply enjoy the season, doing only what doesn’t feel like “too much.” And maybe, if we’re really lucky, that’s a truth that will stick with us well into the new year……