The moment I got out of bed I was already off kilter, knowing things weren’t as they should be. It was Christmas morning and nothing was prepared. I wasn’t the first one up, I hadn’t prepared the morning’s breakfast the night before, I didn’t have the perfect background music playing and I hadn’t even finished buying everyone’s gifts. Panic set in and I thought that Christmas was ruined – until I woke up.
Full of relief, I opened my eyes to realize I was only dreaming and had about two weeks before Christmas. Ready to settle back into my pillows and attempt to dream of sugarplums, I was flustered once more. Did I really just have a nightmare about not having the perfect Christmas set up?
I had to laugh at myself, otherwise it’s just sad. Of all the things to wake up breathless about, perfection shouldn’t be one of them. But how many of us around the holidays attempt to reach or expect to achieve perfection? The perfect tree, the most elegant table set-up, extravagant outdoor lights and even cookies to make Betty Crocker jealous adorn our social media walls. From October through to the New Year, we are constantly on schedule, one event after the other, each of them important to us in many different ways. Each of them in need of decoration or display and perhaps, for some of us, it goes too far.
I’m naturally a Type A Person; I thrive on organization and structure to a fault. I imagine things first in perfection and can become easily stressed when it doesn’t compare in reality. During the holidays, my home set up is something I care way too much about. Cleanliness, symmetry and flow take over my brain, putting me on autopilot moving from one stage to the next. That’s just how I am and I have always acknowledged that while it’s not always fun, it’s just the way I operate and makes me, me. This year I’m seeing it more as a hindrance than just a personality trait. My ridiculous “nightmare” was the final straw.
I am victim of the great Christmas expectations and in being so, I’m missing out and losing focus. The holidays are not about perfection or perception, they’re about family, friends, giving and loving. While I’m cleaning counters, lighting candles or adjusting garland, my family and friends are caught up in conversation, food and laughter. I’m missing all of it and for what?
Once I was married my family doubled in size, bringing with it huge holiday gatherings that always stressed me out regardless of how much I was looking forward to it. I would always be caught up in making sure the house was perfect for guests, that we had enough food to feed several armies and that I could constantly maintain the “perfect” ambience. It drove me crazy because it was always a losing battle, but I never thought that perfection was unrealistic, I just assumed I was failing. Failing at what? Well, in my mind, failing at being a great host or making things nice to create new memories. My problem was that I was not a part of the memories I was trying so hard to create; I was off sweeping somewhere or adjusting cookies plates. I know, I have a few issues.
In the years since our Christmases became a blend of families, situations have changed, people have moved and getting together gets harder and harder. It’s been quite some time since I could say that we’ve all been under the same roof for the holidays. The first time it happened, and our beautifully set dining table had a sparse number of place settings on it, I quickly thought that my job would be easier and I could relax a bit. But when the day came and we sat near empty chairs, I felt sadness instead of relaxation. I missed everyone.
So give me the dirty dishes, cookie crumbs, messy paw prints and the scattering of gifts. I’ll take it all, trying my best to contain my panic attack, so long as the house is full and loud. The only expectations I need to worry about are being together. I can’t tell you that I’m suddenly a changed person and won’t be wiping counters or washing dishes because I’m pretty sure that will never happen, but I can tell you that this year, it won’t stress me out to do so, it won’t take me away from the day. I won’t allow myself to worry about being perfect, only to enjoy the moment whether it’s Christmas day or just another Thursday.