I used to hate Christmas. All of it was just too much pressure with too great an opportunity for getting it wrong. The thought of holiday gifts, décor and entertaining all filled me more with dread than excitement. I come from a long line of people who were/are absolute freaks for Christmas and I had neither the will nor the ability to compete.
Buying presents never came easily to me. I’m not the guy who knows somebody for ten minutes and instantly intuits the perfect gift for that person. I am the guy who takes that responsibility very seriously, as in, not comfortable with wrapping meaningless crap just so you have something under the tree with your name on it. If I am going to take the time and spend the money, I want your gift to say that I put some thought and effort into it. Naturally this makes the process ever so much more complicated.
The only thing worse for me than buying presents, was receiving them, for much the same reason. At the risk of coming off like a brat, if you can’t be bothered to think about who I am and what I like then please either ask me what to get or just don’t do anything. Yeah, I’m tough that way. To be fair, I’m not expecting ten-carat diamond earrings or an all expense paid trip to Paris. I’d love a funny card with something sweet written in it. Perhaps a cookie from my favorite bakery wrapped in pretty tissue, or a photo of you and I together in a frame you got at Target that commemorates a good time we once had would all be fantastic gifts.
Decorating my house was a nightmare too. I am not completely lacking in imagination or taste, but somehow I could never get it together to do much more than put up a tree. I loved the idea of outdoor lights and displays but as I am not what could by any stretch of the imagination be considered handy, and had a partner, who, although quite handy, was not at all on board with the idea, it didn’t happen or if it did it never quite met my idea of what it should look like, an excellent opportunity for all concerned to be unhappy.
Entertaining always sounded like a good idea but in reality it was a lot of work to shop, prepare, cook and serve, to say nothing of laying the perfect table for the countless millions I always invited. I can’t even remember tasting or enjoying anything I made or even relaxing enough to converse with my guests.
Yup, that was me, the original Grinch. Not anymore. Of course I miss the people and traditions of those crazy years but being as how I am now physically and emotionally thousands of miles away from all that, I was forced to reevaluate and gave myself the opportunity to make different choices in regards to holidays and how to feel about spend them.
No, I will never be the absolute Christmas professional that is my mother, sister and both sisters in law. I bow to their superior talent and execution in this area but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do something on a smaller scale that’s more me. So that’s what I did. I was intimidated at first, but then I noticed I was having fun and actually liking how it was turning out. I stopped worrying about gifts too, mostly because I didn’t send any. I’ve decided that experiences are more fun and valuable than boxes full of stuff and that is what I am offering those close to me, or actually not so close anymore, at least not geographically. And yes, I am having a holiday dinner party, a small one; with new people I am most excited to share time and a meal with. The dishes I am planning to serve are all ones I have never made before, something that would normally set off uncontrollable waves of panic. Not gonna happen this time. I have given myself permission to let things turn out how they do, I don’t have to live up to anyone else or be even close to perfect. By the way, this is great in theory, and it is absolutely my goal, but if I were you I probably wouldn’t drop by to test my resolve on the 23rd, jes sayin…
Yes, it is a shame that I couldn’t have happened upon these valuable lessons years ago. The holidays would have been a lot more enjoyable and less stressful. Still, I am learning that things come to you when they do and that often the best you can do is be open to their arrival and be grateful that they appeared at all.
Happy holidays from a reformed Grinch!