Just thinking about it wears me out. In my earlier years, I felt pressured to make Christmas extra special for everyone. Yet, it depleted me physically, mentally, and spiritually. Keeping up with the Joneses exhausted me. It stressed me out. And I guarantee you, it drained me of joy.
About five years ago, I questioned, "Why am I trying to maintain the status quo? Is it necessary to follow the world's holiday standards? Why am I doing this when it steals my joy?"
Ironically, I discovered an intriguing post on ADDer World, a popular website for adults struggling with ADHD. It was a guest post by a comical guy named Steve who shared his serious struggle with ADHD during the holidays. As I read about how he was challenged to write and send out Christmas cards, I burst into laughter because I related to it.
What was funny, yet frustrating for Steve (and many ADDers) was staying focused long enough to buy the Christmas cards, sit down to write a personal note to each person, sign each card, complete the addresses on the envelopes, place a stamp on each card, and send them on their way to be delivered.
For those who don't have issues with concentration or staying on task, it may seem like no big deal to go through each step involved with sending Christmas cards to friends and family. But for those who do experience short-term memory, lack of attention, and cannot stay on task, it's extremely difficult.
Steve creatively crafted his predicament in such a hysterical way that I was able to find humor in the midst of my own ADHD battle. Poor Steve started to write notes on each card, but stopped because he needed a caffeine fix. So he headed down the street to a local cafe to get a cup of java.
When he returned home, he got sidetracked with cleaning. Then he got hungry so he needed to make something to eat. One distraction after another led to an entire day of feeling defeated. The end result was that the Christmas cards were not sent out. And Steve lost all joy for the holidays.
After reading Steve's enlightening post, I realized that I am not alone. I'm not alone as I wrestle with distractions. I'm not alone when I'm juggling too much. I'm not alone in trying to keep up with the Joneses. I'm not alone in running myself ragged during the holiday madness. And I'm most certainly not the only one who feels wiped-out or lacking joy.
Add on top of this my diagnosis of fibromyalgia with aches and pains, which can result in a Christmas missing the "merry" part of it. An invisible illness is easily misunderstood. People can look at me and think I look physically fine. Yet, what they don't realize is how the colder weather causes my muscles to become stiff, my body hurts all over, and I may have intense insomnia at times, which flares up my fibro even worse.
On a brighter note, I do find pain relief from natural alternatives, such as turmeric supplements, CBD oil (no euphoria), magnesium, and soaking in a warm bath filled with Epsom salts. However, I must avoid over-extending myself, especially during the holidays, or else my pain levels will increase. This means that I create realistic ways to enjoy Christmas Day and New Year's Day by honoring my limitations.
For me, less is more. Here's what I've come to terms with. It's more important for me to focus on authentic joy, rather than obligations.
To get back to the basics of Christmas. To consider the "real" meaning of this special day. It should be about celebrating the birth of Christ; not beating ourselves up over unrealistic expectations or trying to be Wonder Woman. (Or Super Man.)
When I started to contemplate why I make holiday cookies, I knew in my heart that I've never enjoyed baking. I only did it because I felt that I had to. Isn't this what all moms do?
God gave me plenty of gifts, but being Betty Crocker wasn't one of them. It's about time I came to this revelation.
It's okay to not bake Christmas cookies. It's perfectly fine to find an alternative. Actually, now that I've been gluten-free for medical reasons, there's even more challenges with baking. (And eating at holiday functions.) For me, it's more convenient to order Christmas cookies at our local gluten-free bakery. It's safe. There's no cross-contamination. I stay healthy. There's no baking for me to worry about. No dirty dishes. No hassles. It's pure brilliance!
Another way that I've brought joy back into my Christmas is by examining which traditions were a priority for me and deciding on the ones to eliminate. Online shopping has become super convenient and I love it! Gift-giving does bring me joy. On Christmas morning, I can't wait to see the expressions on my son and daughter's faces when they open their gifts with happiness written all over them.
As for sending Christmas cards, it was more of a chore for me. Similar to the story up above about Steve, I've always found the whole ordeal tedious, time-consuming, and stressful. Not to mention expensive.
Therefore, I have no guilt, no shame, and no condemnation for choosing to no longer participate in exchanging Christmas cards. Letting go of this old tradition has led to much more joy. And freedom to do what I enjoy.
Some of the holiday traditions that remain include my family and I decorating our home, having several Christmas trees (a red cardinal themed tree is my favorite!), and having a nativity set up in our dining room as a reminder of the birth of Christ.
In November and December, my daughter's and I enjoy wrapping gifts as we listen to festive music. It's become our little tradition. On Christmas Eve, my family and I love to play the white elephant game. It's competitive and a blast with lots of laughs! Then we play board games, like Apples to Apples or Taboo. Even though my daughter's are now adults, they still love our chalkboard to countdown the days, until Christmas Day.
As for my individual self, I have a tradition in which I enjoy reading Christmas romance from November through December. My three favorite Christmas movies that I never grow tired of watching are While You Were Sleeping, The Holiday, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. (Buttered popcorn is optional.)
Do your holiday traditions fill you with dread or excitement? Has it become chaotic? Are you in the midst of a whirlwind of stressful activity? Do you want to bring back the joy into your Christmas?
Today, I challenge you to rethink your holiday traditions. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses or getting bogged down with unpleasant obligations, consider what you can reduce to add more joy back into your Christmas.
For each person and family, it can look different. The key is to examine what's best for you and your family during this current season in life. Instead of getting worn out trying to do everything, find doable activities that lift your spirit. Most importantly, the goal of Christmas traditions is to create fond memories that are meaningful and joyful.
"Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:9-12 (NLT)