My Family with our Dog Clarissa in 2013

All I Want For Christmas Is Peace (Of Mind)

Christmas is filled with promise, and it’s perfect in our imaginations. Twinkling trees, sweet treats, and reading Christmas stories with your children  by the fire. The idea that Santa Claus and his elves think of nothing other than making the gifts of your dreams. To boot, he delivers them flying through the night sky, fueled by eight sweet reindeer. It’s love and magic.

But the truth is, it’s also too much! Christmas can be a perilous business. To give you an example, when I called my psychiatrist last December to make an appointment, the message offered two options for an immediate response: extreme mental anguish or trouble with the holidays. Every year I go through the holidays on anxiety-fueled autopilot. Knowing this was a common problem was both comforting and alarming.

Finding all the right gifts, the ones that show how much you care and understand your family’s needs is a delicate business. Getting all the gifts wrapped on time and looking lovely under the Christmas tree, well, I just can’t do that. The whole thing reminds me of that TV show The Amazing Race. You make your list, run all over the place in a panic, and finish on your face. Then you lose receipts and tweak when you look at the ones you still have because there is no rational explanation for what you just spent.

When my children were still children, Christmas Eve was the tipping point. As midnight approached, I’d sit on my bed with tape, ribbon, boxes, and simmering anxiety, worrying that I’d forget to eat Santa’s cookies or the reindeer’s carrots on the front stoop. And always, are those little gifts in their stockings actually fun or funny? If you made it to Christmas Eve mostly sane, you were gifted. And I never quite made it.

Christmas Photo 1996

A Lucky Shot Christmas Card Photo, circa 1996

And the family photo? I suspect some people start taking the happy family photo in the summer, just in case that get-dressed-up and be cooperative plan doesn’t work out in November. Thinking about getting everyone to sign the Christmas cards, address them, and dump the substantial pile at the post office on time makes me queasy. Since adolescence arrived, we have an argument every time we try to take a family Christmas card photo. Why can’t we just make a few cookies, decorate the tree, and share a gift or two?

Peace of mind is the best gift I can think of during this holiday season, especially this year as so much of what we cherish is changing. I am looking forward to long and simple family dinners, watching movies together, and all going on a low-key outing. We are at our best as a family in these circumstances. Writing this I realize how fortunate I am to have these simple moments with my family. My holiday wish for you is a quiet moment where you can reflect on everything you do that is good. I suspect you’ll have a long list.

P.S. If you’re looking for some soulful holiday gifts, from an amazing business that gives everything back, visit Thistle Farms. Merry Christmas Mamas and Papas! xoxo, Maureen