Forget it! I'm not going out! I'm staying home today and baking cookies!
I used to not understand that. It seemed silly to me. What on earth does baking cookies solve? It seemed like an avoidance tactic to me. Now that I'm middle age, I think I understand it better.
Being a grown up during the holidays is hard. There's a phenomenon that sets in sometime around mid-November every year that I've dubbed "Christmas Brain." People are distracted by their personal life, and they don't want to work. Mind you, they want things done by Christmas. They just don't want to be the ones to do it - they want YOU to do it. I often tell people in December to watch yourself, because everything seems to come in half baked this time of year, if you know what I mean. Nothing is simple. People want to do the minimum, and still get maximum results. Unfortunately, reality doesn't work like that. And it usually winds up in frayed nerves, hurt feelings, meltdowns, breakdowns, tears, anxiety attacks, arguments, and lots of hurled insults telling everybody things about themselves that they don't know.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
This is my blog, so it's a safe space for you to be real. We aren't kids anymore. This isn't school, where you got 2 weeks off, or even college, when you took finals in early to mid-December and got a blessed month off of classes. This is adulthood, where it's your responsibility to make the magic happen, and ensure that the holly-jolly Christmas is a success for us all. Being the magic maker is stressful. It's a lot of work, a lot of responsibility, and that's on top of the already full life that you have. Add a pandemic that's turned life upside down over the past 8 months, and it's a recipe for disaster. You notice that I didn't do my annual blog on dealing with grief over the holidays? I didn't forget; I just felt it would be overkill this year. We're all grieving. Whether you've lost loved ones, jobs, your own health, economic stability, or just your way of life, we're all grieving in 2020. Nobody has escaped this pandemic unscathed. If the real world consequences haven't gotten you, then fear has. So for starters, let's all let go of our pride and admit that 2020 has damaged us all, and we're doing the best we can with the pieces of reality. We're still figuring it out. That's ok. We're going to have to lower the bar this Christmas. We just can't reach the expectations we have before.
There. Now wipe your tears, get up, get dressed, and let's face reality together. You still have to get through this week of work at least, and maybe part of next week as well. You can do it. What you have to do is divide and conquer. Compartmentalize your life and stop this insanity of multi-tasking. When you're at work, work. When you're at home, deal with personal things. Apply a bit of "mindful meditation" and focus on what's in the moment for you. Enlist help if you need it. Admit what you can and cannot accomplish, and develop a plan to keep it moving.
Finally, take a time out. If you can't take a day off or are an essential worker who can't work from home, claim this evening as yours. Pick up your favorite take out (yes, on a weeknight), scrap the workout and evening chores, and veg out behind the TV watching reruns of Seinfield, That 70's Show, or whatever sitcom tickles your funny bone. Weather permitting, wear comfortable shoes tomorrow and take a walk outside on your lunch break. I had to put the truck in the shop this morning (which is about 1/5 mile from my house), and I think the walk home in the cold and quiet did me more good than anything else I've done lately. This weekend, take a day off to go to your favorite secondhand bookstore and stock up on some good reads for the winter. Or go out and buy a present for yourself that you know nobody else will give you for Christmas. Or by golly, bake your cookies. It's ok. The point is that if this holly-jolly Christmas magic is going to happen, then you need to take a break. So give yourself permission to do whatever restores your soul.
And there is one more thing I recommend - open the calendar app on your phone and scroll to December 2021. Now, one day between the second and third weekend of the month, put "Mental Health Day" as an all day task. Take the day off work, or schedule a Saturday or Sunday where the only item on agenda is whatever you want to do. Make it a recurring task every year. Because the most important way to prevent the holiday meltdown is to know yourself, and to play your life accordingly. So note how you feel today, and plan how to take preventative action from the holiday breakdown in the future.
I get you, folks. I'm not saying shame on you, because this hasn't been an easy week for me either. I'm speaking to you from genuine experience. Yes, I've learned better about baking those cookies, even if I'm not much of a baker myself. The point is to do whatever sooths your soul, so you can come closer to finding the peace you need for that holiday magic today, and every day. The madness won't stop until December 26, folks. The secret is to find your way to weather it and make it through the storm of insanity that strikes every year when all of us have had enough.
That's all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.