I got burned out on Christmas over a decade ago. It was a time when I was working full-time, well more than full-time. December was a big push month there so I worked 80 hours a week. On top of that I had to act cherry at corporate functions, school functions, and such. It seemed every weekend was booked by the start of November. So the holiday push for me started with the Halloween costume selection and ran until mid January when the mass annual training event was over at work. I now know why Scrooge was all “Bah Humbug!” he was over worked.
As Aaron has gotten older we’ve worked to slim down our holidays. We spent two Christmases in Florida with no trees, no decorating, and time with each other. Oh yeah, with spectacular sunsets on the beach too. That’s now the Christmases by which I measure my Christmases.
Since lounging on the beach isn’t always an alternative we’re trying to learn to strike a balance between festive but not overdoing. This year I was dragging my feet on putting up a tree. We agreed to do a smaller one. Instead of getting an artificial we got a real one. It’s only 5 ft our old artificial one was 7 ft. It’s not as wide at the bottom and sits on the foot locker that now holds ALL the Christmas decorations. That’s right Mike and I went through our decorations with the idea of keeping only our favorites. In the small foot locker is the storage for all the Christmas decorations we’re doing. However, Mike got cold feet on selling the decorations that didn’t rate space on the tree. So they went into a container and storage until grandchildren or Mike consents to let them go.
I have to admit that in the end I was happy with the result. It’s manageable. It took less that two hours including going out to buy the tree. That’s better than the hours we spent before. The animals don’t bother it any more than they did the artificial one. However I’ve added sleigh bells to the decorations so I can shout NO! when I hear them jingle. Now everyone I’ve talked to that sings the praises of a real tree carry on about the wonderful smell. Well this tree has no fragrance. Nope none. I thought maybe I was just not smelling it being here all day but no return from errands still no smell. Mike bought those pine tree car deodorizer and now they decorate the tree to give the smell. The end story is I think we’ve solved the house decorating issues. No Christmas dishes, only the manager scene Mike made and a small tree.
Next comes outdoor lights. When we first moved here I was all for them. I mean they show beautifully in the snow. In January I came to a bitter realization. There’s more snow and below zero temps when it’s time to take them down. Oh and they freeze to the pole, shrubs, and banister as they melt the snow then you turn them off they go cold in a wet spot and freeze. Removal wasn’t worth putting them up to me. I was raised with no outdoor lights. Heck we lived on a farm, no one could see them. Best we could hope for if we put up lights that the cows noticed. Today Mike does it because he wants it. They are totally in his domain. I just turn them on and off.
A bit more about the lights. I don’t like big showy Christmas lights. Being raised in the energy crisis I see them only as a waste. A few for holiday cheer, okay. Enough that you could be seen from a passing airliner – TOO MUCH. So we have a simple display with the classic big bulbs. However, Mike wanted more lights this year. I guess it makes up for 2 ft less of tree. Except the adding of two more strands of small indoor/outdoor lights kept blowing the fuse in the main strand. So he had to settle for our small tasteful display.
The next chore we set out to evaluate was the holiday letter and card. I’ll be honest I’d forgone them the past few years. I’d bought cards with noble intentions, but nope didn’t do it. We like to do a news letter and honestly like getting non-gooshy ones from friends. There are people we don’t contact often and it’s nice to hear what they are doing. Still writing a letter that is informative, fun, and covers the year for three people without exceeding a single page is difficult. I attempted it this year. For those who got a copy – I’m sorry if I didn’t achieve my goal but enjoy your personally hand decorated letter. Yes I decorated each and every card. Each was unique, yep just like those special snowflakes I despise. Some had Christmas themed decoration like the one in the picture. Others had snow scenes with sleighs and skating penguins. I know I was asking for stress making cards and doing a letter. I mean I’ve got a closet full of nice cards I’d bought the last few years paving that road to hell with my good intentions. Yet what motivated me this year were the dumb foam stickers. I know my inner child was giddy with the prospect of using them. However in the fifth hour of card designing my inner child had fallen asleep and the adult Scrooge was still sticking away. But once done the inner child again strutted about proud THEY had made the cards this year. The bottom line to improve this was make it something I wanted to do. Thin down the list to people to less than 50. Okay it’s doable, maybe sell the stash of cards and each year make it an inner child project. Heck, my list is smaller than Mrs. Astor’s because I don’t have her servants.
Gifts another area that’s been rethought the last few years. Wrapping gifts, something I used to take great pride in as a newlywed. I loved decorating the presents instead of just wrapping them. Then I kept it up to make it special for Aaron. Then presents because placing an order, hounding for lists rather than get one thought gift. I got jaded. Honestly we are lucky if we want something we get it or save for it. The things we save for are too big to put on a list. Try new windows for the whole house as a gift item on your list, really beyond how do you wrap it who wants to spend THAT much? Our answer has been to get back to what’s important giving. With those who were amenable to the arrangement we’ve forgone giving gifts to each other and donate to a charity of our choice in the person’s honor. I’m proud to say that we’ve helped people, rescue animals, sent kids to orchestra camp, and much more.
Still we give small gifts and more to Aaron. So wrapping is necessary. I try to do it all at once. I shop then I wrap. When I wrap I now take over the dining table because sitting in the floor now kills my back after an hour or so. My dining room is now a mess as I wrap gifts very basic – paper and a sticker label. Don’t forget we have several people with December birthdays that’s why the other wrap is out.
In the end I think I was a victim of myself. My trying to do too much. Make it all an event, all festive, all over the top I see that in hindsight. My advice to those starting to feel burnout. You don’t have to do it all. Sit down with those you share the holiday with and be honest, what’s important to your celebration and what can you cut. Do all the gifts have to be a work of art or are they happy with paper and a label? Do you need to make cookies or is that something you’re doing just because you think you should? How much decoration is festive and how much is a chore? Make some decisions so what you do is meaningful not a something that you drop your head put your shoulder pads forward and push through. I wish I’d realized that before this year. I might have actually enjoyed many more holidays beyond the two at the beach.
In the end no one is perfect, no one can do it all but you can do what makes it festive for you and yours. That’s where we are finally going this year. If we’d done this earlier maybe we’d discovered the beauty of the Durkee Mansion years earlier. Still I’m thankful we’re finding our balance, it’s about time.
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Until next time – I hope you are enjoying the season instead of being stressed by it.