I love the holidays. Really, I do. But if I could get past my anxiety surrounding almost every little thing that makes up the holidays, I know I could love them just a tad bit more.
OK, enormously more.
Year after year, I attempt to plan out shopping, card-writing and get-togethers ahead of time. I attempt to organize my house, our plans, and our gift giving ideas more efficiently. I attempt to decorate more creatively, save more money, and of course, stay more calm—but year after year, I fall short of my own expectation and end up making myself feel even worse.
My anxiety lies in the process of preparing for the “big days” in our family, namely Thanksgiving and Christmas, and heck, I will even throw New Year’s Eve in there. And now, I have the added stress revolving around my children’s birthdays, which both happen to land within two weeks of Christmas Day.
This is hard for me. No, I am not complaining and I am not ungrateful. It is actually feeling just the opposite that sparks my spiral into over-worrying, over-thinking, over-stressing, over-analyzing, and over-self-criticizing.
If you deal with anxiety, you get me. You understand what I am saying. It is the pressure to “do it all right” that gets us. It is the need to “make everyone happy” that gets us. It is the desire to show everyone, and I mean everyone, just how much you love and appreciate them that gets us. It is the fear of disappointing someone; it is the fear of forgetting something important; it is the fear of things not going according to plan; it is the fear of social gatherings and family tensions that get us.
And it is also the fear of missing out on the moments—the precious, priceless moments that occur during the holidays—because we know we are too wrapped up in our own darn thoughts.
Anxiety can be paralyzing any time of the year, but it can get worse during this time of year. To others, it doesn’t look it, of course, because we go through the motions and often do so with a smile on our face. But we know it is keeping us “stuck” because it is preventing us from just being present. It is preventing us from being in the moment with ease. It is preventing us from lifting the mistletoe of warped thoughts hanging over our heads and enjoying ourselves.
So today when I woke up, I started to think of all the things that have been looping through my head for some days now:
I need to make a list for the kids’ gifts.
I need to research the best ideas for presents.
I need to make a list of gifts to get for everyone else.
I need to budget the money I spend and find the perfect gift for each person.
I need to give photo gifts.
I need to upload about 5,000 photos from the past year on my computer.
I should really organize my photos more often.
I should really organize my house right now.
We need decorations in our house.
I need to make a list for food shopping for Christmas Eve.
I need to go shopping for food for dinner . . . tonight.
And it goes on and on and on.
But then as I was pouring my coffee, my son crawled up next to me and I felt his little hands climb their way up my leg as he smiled and looked up at me. When I said “Hi, my little love!” to him, he just started squealing.
He was happy with a smile and a greeting. He was happy with my acknowledgment of his presence. He was happy to just be with me in that moment when I was pouring my coffee.
And I realized that in that split second, in that precise moment, I wasn’t thinking about anything else and I felt a bursting sense of joy and gratitude.
I thought: What if I just focused on stringing together little moments like these this holiday season? What if I just focused on seeing this holiday season, each day, each moment, through the eyes of my children and let the rest go?
I sat with my son and thought about this and decided this is the lens through which I was going to view the next few months. It is hard for me, as an adult, not to worry about logistics, and planning, and gifts, and everything else, but if I choose to see each moment through the eyes of my children, I know in my heart I will be filled with an abundance of tiny moments of pure joy just like the one my son and I shared this morning.
So, when the anxiety creeps in, I will choose to focus on my kids and get on their level. I will choose to look at what they’re looking at. I will choose to do what they are doing. I will choose to empathize with what they are feeling—the good and the not so good. I will choose to make the moments with them my priority, rather than my own head game. I will choose to give myself and my children the gift of presence and I will find ease in knowing that this is what is best for all of us.
My family has a lot to be grateful for this year and I will absolutely continue teaching my toddlers about the importance of gratitude and giving. But, they’re little and my words don’t always make sense to their little minds just yet. So, the best way for me to teach them right now is to show them.
So that is just what I am going to do. I am going to show my children how grateful I am that they’ve made me a mom by consciously choosing to give them the gift of me . . . all of me.
And I hope you do, too. Your children deserve it.
And mama, so do you.