I don’t know about you, but this time of the year can be stressful for anyone who celebrates the season. In fact, there are days when I feel that Ebenezer Scrooge had it right before the spirits ever got a hold of him, particularly the part where he tells the gentlemen collecting for the poor that “I wish to be left alone!”
Just think of all of the things that you are ‘expected’ to do. There is the holiday decorating and the baking, the gift buying and wrapping and party planning. Then there are the concerts and end of school performances and recitals and drama productions and work parties and neighborhood celebrations, church celebrations and the addressing of about a million greeting cards and all of this in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
With so much to do and so little time to do it in (not to mention even less time to actually kick back and relax) is it any wonder why so many people get so stressed out?
Here is a question for you. With all the expectations attached to the holiday season, is it possible to live authentically; to be exactly whom and what you are in spite of everything that you are expected to do?
The answer, of course, is yes.
No, this doesn’t mean that you have to become a Scrooge and lock yourself away behind walls of cynicism for the duration of the holiday season. What it does mean is that you take a good hard look at those responsibilities and activities that you have agreed to take part in and ask yourself whether or not they bring you joy.
If they DO bring you joy, then by all means keep them! Yes, I know that baking four dozen cupcakes for your child’s end of school winter holiday party may not be a joyful experience in and of itself, but the look on their face when you walk into their classroom with the cupcakes may be worth every moment you spent in the kitchen.
On the other hand, if you find yourself dreading the very thought of attending one more Messiah sing along, then don’t go! There is nothing that says that you have to say yes to every invitation issued during this time of the year. There is nothing that says that you have to bake all of your sugar cookies from scratch. There is nothing that says that you have to reciprocate every gift you receive with another of equal or greater value.
What it takes is weighing each agreement that you make; every invitation that you accept against how much joy it will bring into your life.
Does that sound selfish? Perhaps in a way it is. After all, at this time of the year especially we are encouraged to think of others first; to put our own wants and needs aside in order to provide for the needs and wants of others. But what never fails to astonish me is how anyone can expect that a person can keep giving and giving without every running out of energy. It can’t be done.
In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to pay attention to our joy. If everything that we do comes from our heart and brings us joy and happiness then each thing that we do for others – which we WANT to do for others – each thing we do for someone else that brings us joy will be magnified tenfold.
It won’t be how much we do, but the quiet intent; the joy inherent that will fill up our lives, and our hearts this holiday season and every day of the year to come.