It’s December 8, folks. High freaking gear for the holiday season. Are you ready? Are you freaking out? Do you feel your heart rate rise just thinking about December 25th being less than three weeks away?
To date, I have ordered some gifts online, my family holiday cards arrived in the mail yesterday (but need to be addressed and posted), and I stopped at the Dollar Store to buy a few holiday gift bags for that inevitable moment on Christmas Eve when I don’t have a single gift wrap left in me and I allow myself to surrender to the less lovely, but far more user friendly gift bag.
With the holidays, as with most things in my life, I follow the simple rule of “good enough.” Will my preparations be good enough? Will the tree be good enough? Will the decorations we manage to put up be good enough? Will the love and anticipation my kids feel on Christmas Eve as they lay out a plate of cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer be good enough? Will the mix of lovingly prepared cookies and brownies, most likely made from a mix this year, be good enough? Will the gifts I choose be good enough?
My answer for all of the above questions is a resounding, “YES.” Everything will be good enough, because I will be doing the best I can and that is all there is to it.
A dear friend posted this “cry for help” — her words, not mine, by the way — on her Facebook feed a few days ago.
This is my girl, yo, so don’t any of you get any funny ideas of slicing and dicing this gal in the comment section.
In the moments after I read her text, bravely posted publicly for all in her Facebook orbit to see, comment, and silently judge, I just wanted to transport myself to that Target parking lot where my friend was and hug her and hold her close and assure her that it was all going to be alright. Not having any kind of cool technology that enables me to transport myself (maybe I’ll get one for Christmas!), I did the next best thing and left a supportive response. “Oh, honey. Your kids have everything they need. For real. Your love and support and nurturing and wisdom and humor and kick ass cooking. Take a page from Frozen and let it go.”
We are too hard on ourselves, especially at the holidays. For whatever reason, and I know there are many, we convince ourselves that more is more. If we did this last year, we should do THAT this year to make it better. Did Facebook create this culture of more? Do people see what their friend’s elves are doing every morning and translate that damn elf into feelings of inadequacy and emptiness? Are we all required to morph into Martha Stewart / Betty Crocker / June Cleaver in December?
How amazing would it be to absolve ourselves of that pressure?
Full disclosure, I had a hard time relating to my friend’s post, feeling sympathy for her more than empathy. I hate that she was hurting in those moments, I hate that the pressure she was feeling was real and legitimate, but I have never truly felt that pressure myself. Cue the “good enough” mantra I live my life by. READ THIS POST I wrote in 2012 to understand what those words mean to me.
We don’t need to be perfect and our kids don’t need for us to be perfect. They need for us to be present. Sure, around the holidays they like and expect presents, but the most valuable thing we will ever provide them is being there for them. Showing up. Every day. That is enough. It truly is.
I think back to the Christmases I had as a kid. My memories are a mix of bitter and sweet, like the chocolate we put in our cookies. We had an artificial tree that was well worn and way past its prime and required copious amounts of anguish and hope and sheer force of will to put up and make vertical year after year. My Dad suffered from depression and the holidays really weren’t his bag — my Mom flew solo the holiday season. They fought about Christmas shopping and money and even getting to the mall, as my Mom didn’t drive for much of my childhood.
The flip side of that Christmas coin are fond memories of listening to super swanky 1960s holiday music on our ancient stereo. Enjoying Midnight Mass as a family along with my Dad’s two sisters who were nuns, bellies full of homemade cookies as the beautiful service unfolded, the church twinkling in candlelight. Lying in my parent’s double bed on Christmas Eve with my three older siblings, giggling with anticipation, and tearing down the stairs once my Dad, who always, miraculously, found his Christmas spirit just in the St. Nick of time, had rung the jingle bells on the front door yelling out, “HO! HO! HO!” signaling that the Christmas booty had been deposited under that precariously teetering tree.
My childhood Christmases were a hodge podge of stress and tension and joy and light, but ultimately, they were good enough. I trust that they might be very similar for our boys. When you live in grief, as we do, it’s hard to escape the heaviness made heavier by the holidays. But alongside that are the things my husband and I do together to make, what we hope and believe, is a good enough holiday for our sons.
We have no elf and the holiday books we read are the same ones that got packed away the previous January. We might nosh on boxed brownies instead of eight different types of homemade cookies. Our tree will be fresh, but it will be small, probably no more than five feet, and probably not make an appearance before the 15th. We like it that way. Our gifts, even the ones already purchased, will no doubt sit naked until after the kiddos go to sleep on Christmas Eve, making for a marathon wrapping party late into the night (that’s when those gift bags I scored at the Dollar Store will come in so handy).
It’s what we can manage and none of it is perfect and all of it is okay. Merry Christmas, folks. May it be good enough.