My good friends, Connie Cavanaugh and Kathy Howard have got the right idea: simplify Christmas! I hear “gasps” world-wide as women race to their Christmas trees to give them a protective hug. Believe me, I empathize with you!
“You’re not taking this away from me!” I hear from folks who have gone way overboard on ornaments, tinsel and garland. It’s a seasonal disorder. I have it too, it is probably inherited, and it requires me to overcompensate for lack of providing fun and frivolity for my family the rest of the year! It’s a guilty pleasure!
It has grown to such epidemic proportions that rather than feeling the “Joy of the Season” I find myself dreading the annual decorating of the house and would rather climb up that craggy mountain with Mr. Grinch and just “Bah! Humbug!” the whole thing.
Christmas, believe it or not, used to be my favorite time of year. I LOVED decorating and shopping…I was never much of a baker to begin with, but I made good attempts at Christmas even though I never baked during the rest of the year. What I couldn’t prepare, I store-bought. My kids didn’t seem to mind. I had my shopping done for everyone on my list by October! Now I tend to procrastinate…and procrastinate….
There was a time I couldn’t wait to put up my trees…yep, TREES! One year I put up four of them! I wouldn’t let my family help of course, because part of my disorder was that I believed no one could do it as well as I. Certainly I allowed my children to assist when they were young, to give them that feeling of satisfaction when I said, “Good job!”, but later I could not stop myself from re-organizing and re-arranging ornaments they had put on the tree(s). I hoped they wouldn’t notice. They did, and eventually stopped helping as they got older. As I got older, I got resentful they wouldn’t help. I never thought that I had brought this behaviour on myself.
My husband had one task and one task only: put the lights on the tree. I think he cheered quietly to himself when pre-lit trees were invented.
As the years went by my Christmas anxiety grew and grew because as I got older, it was more a chore to deck those halls and I was becoming less and less merry. Anxiety I’ve learned is one of the major side-effects of this disorder. Feeling weary by the demands I placed on myself, I knew I had to find a cure. I had to stop the madness. I had to down-size my decorating.
I also knew that it was not going to happen overnight. No, I had to take it slowly, so it wouldn’t shock my family who had become accustomed to my seasonal disorder, and I knew I had a compulsive need to decorate. To limit my decorating would be a shock to my system. So, I thought of it like losing weight, no fad diets for me that might help drop weight quickly but can’t be maintained. I knew the only sensible and long-lasting solution was to have a gradual reduction to help me and my family acclimatize to the new changes.
So I decided to put up one less tree. No one commented or seemed to notice. It was a small victory. The following year, I only put up two trees! Again, no hint of displeasure. I was starting to wonder if my family were just uncommonly unobservant but I let it go. The following year, I opted for pre-lit trees but I combined it with another change: the tree in the living room was no longer nine feet tall but now only seven feet tall. I thought no one would notice. I was wrong.
“Why’s the Christmas tree so short?” The oldest said.
“Where are you going to put all your ornaments?” Said the middle child.
“Hey, wait a minute…we’re missing some trees!” The youngest spouted.
The guilt was nearly overwhelming. I had ruined Christmas. I thought the kids would never forgive me.
They did. Especially when they observed that their presents looked bigger under a smaller tree. Go figure.
For many, many years now, I’ve been less and less focused on the decorating and more and more focused on the true REASON for the Season – Jesus Christ.
But I will admit my decorating habit is a hard one to break.
Last year I let the grandbabies help decorate the tree in the living room. They could only reach the bottom branches. My daughters challenged me to leave the tree as is. I tried. I REALLY tried…
Let’s just say I’m a work in progress.