’TIS THE SEASON TO FEEL GUILTY…fa la la la lah…

Did you take a “guilt trip” over the holidays? I took several. Is it me, or has Christmas become one big list of expectations we feel we can’t possibly meet? We Christians know that this celebration of the birth of our Savior is what it’s really all about, and should continue to be about, but that horse left the barn, I’m afraid.

What it has become for many people, including myself, is a season of stress and guilt, even if you try hard to stay focused on the Reason for the Season.

I do love to put up the tree and decorations, and I love the music, but there’s pressure everywhere you look. Did I send out enough Christmas cards? This always falls on the wife, btw. Every year I try to get them out early, or at least have some return address labels printed ahead of time, but suddenly December appears, and I’m surprised. Again. 

I keep a list of people I mail cards to, (I despise Ecards) and the list sometimes gets smaller, or has new people added. People have died, people don’t speak to you anymore…Do you want to include everyone? Then they feel obligated to send one to you, even though they hadn’t planned to, and the guilt is perpetuated. 

Then you always get a few cards from people you forgot…so more guilt.

And although most of us are under the pile this time of year, some people have time to send cards to their doctor or dentist! Or skin care expert. Or any other business. Really? Are ya that far ahead? Please, come help me do MY cards.  

I never have the time or foresight to have a card printed with professional photos, so I usually just include a newsletter and a picture with it. And I keep the newsletter short. You can read it in a minute and half, max. 

I used to have some friends who put a ton of time into doing their annual Christmas photo, complete with formal attire and a glowing newsletter of his professional accomplishments. They put the Kardashians to shame, with their perfect, successful, little family. They’re divorced now. 

And what’s with those people who send you a 1000 word report on their accomplishments over the past year? Who reads that crap? 

Just tell me if you’re still alive, still married, how many kids or dogs or grandkids you have now, what you’re doing, and where you live. Half a page ought to cover it, thanks. 

I don’t mind putting up the inside decorations. I actually love seeing the things I have for a few weeks a year, but of course you have to put them away again. A few hours right there.

Then there’s pressure to do outside decorations. You have to compete with your neighbors, after all, or risk looking like a heathen. This usually falls on the husband. That’s half a day up, and half a day down, right there. 

Then there’s the guilt about where to spend the holidays. This year I spent Christmas Eve with my mom in CA, because my hubby was not able to get away. Dog sitter, work obligations, etc. The expense and hassle just piled up, so we did things separately. I drove home on Christmas Day, to spend that night with him and his side of the family. At least I avoided the snow and road closures in the Cajon Pass. 

Many people feel the pull of his parents or yours. “But this could be her last Christmas…But mine never see us…” and on and on. And if you have kids, shouldn’t they get to have Christmas in their own homes, instead of spending their vacation in the back of a minivan shuttling between grandparents? The answer is yes.  

Then there’s the social stress. The parties you want to attend are all on the same night. Argh. Then you find out about parties you weren’t invited to on FB. Harrumph! Left me out, huh??? More stress.

And let’s not forget about gifts. You simply can’t get everyone gifts, and if you do, often they feel obligated to reciprocate, which causes even more stress. I do keep a few generic “hostess gifts” in my closet, just in case, but still…

You’re afraid to even meet someone for coffee in the month of December because they might bring a gift and catch you empty-handed. Or how about the people who are explicitly told “NO gifts” at an event, but still give you a gift card. Grrr. Now, once again, you feel like a jerk. 

It all makes you want to stay in your house! Maybe it’s just me, but when it’s all over, I’m relieved. I need to get back to work to get some rest! Happy New Year, everyone! See you January 6! 

Heidi Harris

12/30/19

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