Thursday, December 18, 2008

Deck the Halls, Not the Family

I enjoyed Danielle Bean's post today over at Faith and Family Live on how to avoid taking out Christmas-related stress on one's husband and children:

Are you stressed yet? Are you exhausted yet? Have you snapped at your husband yet?

Early on in my married life, I realized the special kind of stress the holiday season can put on a marriage.

We each come into a marriage with different ideas of the “right” way to do Christmas, with extended families’ demands and expectations, and our very own set of holiday emotional baggage. Seemingly simple decisions such as dinner menus, when, how, and where to put up the tree, gift-giving protocol, and whether or not to “do” Santa become fraught with opportunities for conflict. Throw in some of the financial stress and just plain busyness this season brings and you’ve got a homemade recipe for something quite a bit different from “peace on earth.”

Many of us find ourselves on the short side of patience these late days of Advent, and if we’re not careful, the easiest targets just might become our husbands.

Danielle goes on to give advice on how to avoid making our husbands the scapegoats for all our Christmas confusion; read the post if you haven't already.

I've been lucky this year. There's nothing quite like the realization that you lost three weeks centered around Thanksgiving to illness to make you realize with the kind of dreadful calm that overlooks calamities that nothing is going to be on time this year. And the funny thing is that nothing is ever really on time, and I'm always a "Last-Minute-Lucy" with cards and out-of-town presents, but this year there's a tangible reason for it, which makes it much easier to let go and accept the reality of the situation with something almost approaching grace.

Almost.

But I have noticed a tendency to shriek bubbling out of nowhere; I've been way more intolerant of clutter and noise, and I've had moments of downright shrewishness. Not necessarily directed at my husband, mind; not necessarily even expressed audibly. But the Holy Spirit knows when you're outwardly calm, and inwardly muttering "Dratitdangit*@#!itdarnitdratitetc.," in a kind of interior litany of meltdown.

So I'd like to append my own helpful suggestions in no particular order to Danielle's, in the hopes that those who aren't lashing out husbandwardly can still find some inner peace with the Christmas-related stress:

1. Eat. Okay, my skinny sisters are laughing, but those of us with the extra padding do not get shaky-hungry within five seconds of missing a meal, and instead can go nearly all day on a piece of cheese and six ginger cookies. Yes, I do know this from personal experience. Unfortunately, the stamina we get from that extra fat we'd like to burn off anyway only lasts so long before the crash; and then we can get mean. Really mean. Dumping the yogurt over the weird Yoplait ladies' heads mean. If you know what I mean.

2. Sleep. Again, a no-brainer, right? Do not stay up until four a.m. trying to beat the online shipping deadlines. You will regret it the next day. And yes, again, I know this from personal experience. Recent personal experience.

3. Pray. Yes, time is short and to-do lists are long and bedtime is receeding into the distance (and/or morning comes earlier and earlier, for you morning people) and there's no way it's all going to get done...but pray. Say a decade of the rosary while you're folding laundry; sing an advent hymn while you wrap things; spend five minutes reading the story of Christ's birth from the Bible, and think about it while you work. It's when there's no time to pray that we need it the most.

4. Clean. No, don't start an early spring cleaning or get obsessive about it, but don't wake up on December 24 and realize that the house is a mess because you had more important things to do than clean any of it for the last month or so. Do a Flylady crisis clean or find a quick tidying routine that works or do whatever is necessary to keep the house in reasonable order--because otherwise, that Christmas tree and Advent wreath and Jesse Tree and Advent calendar and Nativity set will just start looking like more clutter to you, so that you'll be pacing on January fifth trying to restrain yourself from jumping the gun and tearing it all down--which kind of defeats the purpose a little, don't you think?

5. Prioritize. Okay, so your blog readers had to put up with a week of you blogging elsewhere, and now you have all sorts of things to write, and here it is late afternoon and you're not done with the things you planned to do yet...etc. Which is why this is coming to you so late today; ironically, I'll have more time to blog next week, when the shopping is done and the children have school vacation for two whole weeks which means that I have vacation for two whole weeks woohoo! Which brings me to number 6:

6. Cherish the good stuff. There's always good stuff, and at Christmas there's a lot of it going around.

Only one more week till Christmas! Which means it's time to relax and enjoy the final days of Advent. And if you're on my Christmas card list--well, expect your card sometime during the Christmas season! :)

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