In both my work and personal life, I’m known as the organiser. Or, as one of my besties lovingly puts it, I’m the “CEO of getting sh*t done”. And, even though I am embarrassingly proud of this title, what it also means, is that I’m known as a bit of a stress-head.
I’m also an absolute LOVER of Christmas! Lights twinkling across warm summer nights, the almost deafening buzz of cicadas, hand-rolling rum balls, sipping mimosas, and Paul Kelly’s “How to Make Gravy” ....This is my happy place....
Last week, as I was teaching my four-year-old daughter to count backwards the number of sleeps till Santa arrives, I felt that long-forgotten jolt of utter excitement. How good is Christmas as a kid?! There is literally no more magical feeling. And when, exactly, is the moment that it stopped being wonderful and mysterious - and started being a panicky battle against time and your bank balance? Christmas is supposed to be a time of slowing down, but any fellow parent who’s been bustling around Kmart at midnight this week can tell you, there’s nothing leisurely about it.
And yet, as I'm gearing up for the final days before my beautiful and crazy extended family descends upon my household, just when my ‘to-do’ list should be getting smaller instead of longer, for some reason, when my mum calls to check-in on my stress levels (as one of the few lucky people who has witnessed many of my inevitable Christmas meltdowns), surprisingly, I tell her “You know what? I’m okay. I’m actually really bloody excited!”
Does anyone else feel a little differently this year? For everything that 2020 has thrown at us, I’m feeling proud of what we have overcome, as a family, a community, and as a nation. What this year has given me, and I’m sure many of us, is a perspective shift. Rather than stressing about my Christmas party outfit, how lucky am I do be going out for dinner and drinks with an amazing group of friends? Instead of worrying if Santa has brought my daughter enough gifts, how fortuitous that we can afford to buy her presents at all (in a year where I was not only lucky enough to keep my current job, but also finish my university degree and start a dream role)! Rather than agonising over what my family thinks of my humble home (with its broken bathroom door and falling-down fence), how grateful am I to be able to kiss them, chink champagne glasses, and dance around to Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Sole of Her Shoes”?
Professor Lea Walters, Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, suggests letting go of the ideas of Christmas perfectionism “You don’t need to have the perfect Christmas tree, the decorations don’t need to match”. Say what? Mis-matching tree decorations?! It might take me a few years to build up to this one! .... However, I am drawn to another piece of Prof. Walters’ advice. Rather than focusing on how to achieve the most elaborate table setting, she recommends setting an emotional goal for how you’d like your family to feel on Boxing Day and channeling your festive energy into realising this intention.
Yep, sign me up, Santa. All I want for Christmas is to feel okay. To know that I have done enough. To acknowledge that everyone is doing their version of ‘enough’, whatever that may look like. And so, with that, let me issue a disclaimer to anyone visiting me during the holidays. Don’t look too closely at my floors, cause they won't have been mopped for a couple of weeks. If you have to share a pool-towel with your brother-in-law, just get amongst it. There may be weeds in the garden, cob-webbed cornices, and a few stray doo-poos. But there will also be bon-bonned paper hats, mum’s famous cheesecake, cool-climate sparkling wine, and a killer Spotify playlist.
And come the 26th, my goal is to feel calm, rested, and relieved at not having to cook anything for the next week! I just hope there's enough cherries left-over to watch the Boxing Day test with....
May, C, “Focusing on kindness, not consumption, this Christmas”, University of Melbourne, viewed 17 Dec 2020, < https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/focusing-on-kindness-not-consumption-this-christmas>