This holiday season, like all of them, brings out my neurotic trifecta; I don’t have enough, it has to be perfect, and I need to make everyone happy. It’s all up to ME. I need more gifts, better gifts, the perfect gift. I need a refrigerator brimming with an exhaustive variety of fresh food, premade casseroles, yummy snacks, and interesting drinks. I need the house to be tastefully decorated, the Christmas trees perfectly trimmed, the mantle prettier than last year. And don’t forget the festive bows on the dogs.
Over the years we have managed to streamline and simplify our Christmas traditions. The blatant excess of our gift exchange began to embarrass us. However, I still manage to make it complicated and layer expectations upon myself. Drawing names and buying for only one person is specific and easy to manage. The itemized wish lists and website links shared over our family What’s App weeks in advance provide enough options and directions for smiles and thanks on Christmas morning. And there’s an upper spending limit, so I am saved from the Not Enoughs.
That’s not the case for my pet project. The shopping for the stockings that I fill becomes a series of forays into stores. I’m looking for a cute, unique, thoughtful stocking–sized gift. I end up with overflowing bags of objects to be stuffed into the large socks. Emptied out on the bed on Christmas Eve after everyone has retired are the drug store items; hand sanitizer and cream, dental floss, eye masks, envelopes of face treatments, aftershave, chapstick, lip gloss.
Next to them lie gloves that have fingertip texting capability, a mug for the new boyfriend with his initial on it, protein powder, spice kits for the gourmets, gimmicks to build grip strength for the golfers, the latest ski goggle accessories. Then there are the gift cards, floating amongst the clusters for each stocking, and the magazines to be rolled tightly and stuffed down the sides. I check for balance and equality. No one should have more or less, better or more thoughtful. They need to be perfect.
The peak of my stress to make the stockings perfect happens about 10 days before Christmas. I have amassed bags from various stores and stashed them in closets and under beds. I forget the details of what I already have, and for whom. I have a pang of urgency as I enter stores, and find myself still searching for the ideal addition. Too often I silence it by buying yet more, convinced I’m not quite done, it’s not quite full, I need a few more things for the boys. I’m feeding the consumer frenzy and my insecurities. It’s exhausting and wasteful.
With 48 hours to go, I have far too much. As usual, there will be items oozing out the top and perched against sides and toe as each stretched stocking, bursting at its seams, rests precariously against the fireplace hearth. I will mentally catalogue the unpacking to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything, Or they haven’t missed a small package of sports gel. Like a surgeon might do before closing to make sure they haven’t forgotten a sponge or staple inside the patient.
My trifecta of energy, indulging in the myth of perfection and responsibility for all, is consuming my ability to be present. I have two days to now be present. To now focus on being together for the sake of sharing space and connection with loved ones. To now be thankful for our health, the abundance in our lives. To commit to persevere with patience and grace through this pandemic Christmas.
At least, that is my experience.