I switched on the computer, adjusted my chair, then quickly swiveled back around again toward my husband, “Are you sure? You don’t mind?”
“Me?” he made a swift waving motion as if swatting a fly. “Psht. Yeah, I’m fine with it. You?” He lifted his head and locked our eyes a little more securely, “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I said firmly, without hesitation.
“OK, good,” my man turned back to his phone, “Love you.”
“Good,” I confirmed. A rush of relief swept through me as muscles I didn’t even know were tense suddenly relaxed. A bubbling surge of energy had me turning back to my desk, excited to dive into my day’s work, “Love you, too.”
That day, for the first time in our 29 years together, my husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.
And it was awesome.
It was like successfully slipping your arms from under a sleeping baby after a fretful night of teething. It was like putting on your scruffiest pair of old jeans and finding a $50 bill in the back pocket. It was like waking up Friday morning and getting ready for school, then finding out it’s actually Saturday and suddenly your schedule is wide open.
It was like getting back a day of life to do the things I most love, the things I most need. The ordinary things. The calm, steady things. The quiet daily efforts, comforts, and joys.
But holidays, says a disapproving voice in my head, everybody needs holidays. They give us refreshment from our relentless routines, they grant us re-connection with our roots and relatives, they grow our remembrance and reverence for the gift of life itself.
Well, I can’t argue with that. It’s true.
Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of holidays, especially family gatherings. I vividly recall the wonder and magic of those times: the delight of seeing my parents revert to childhood antics in the company of their siblings, the endless feasting, and the sweetness of belonging, of being in the midst of my people. There’s a power to those memories, a holiness, I still feel all these years later.
The word “holiday” literally means “holy day.” Holidays don’t have to be religious, but they’re meant to be personally meaningful in some way. They exist to refresh us, lift us, empower us, and leave us better than they found us.
The trouble was that most holidays just weren’t doing the holiness job for me.
Too often, holidays rocked up and played me like a flash mob house party, leaving me drained, dazed, frazzled, and guilty, with my house in shambles and my bank account disgruntled and abused. What I wanted most from holidays was to share the moment with my children, yet perversely, all the many extras the holidays required of me made me feel less available to my family than ever.
And there are just so many holidays! When you’ve got growing children, you’re like Percy Jackson battling the hydra—for each special occasion you strike down, two more rise up to take its place. Like, suddenly I’m supposed to be celebrating World Book Day and having a costume ready for my child? And apparently, St. Patrick’s Day is a gift-giving occasion now? (We’re not even Irish!) May the 4th is for Star Wars observance, and we eat pie on the 14th of March (3.14 is π day, get it? It’s a math thing . . . ), and that’s on top of my obligatory tooth fairy and birthday event planner duties.
It’s a lot.
For me, it was too much.
I was struggling, overwhelmed, discouraged, exhausted, and unwell. Feeling like a failure. Wanting to give the best to my family but feeling miserably and utterly unequal to the task.
It was then that I came to a startling and liberating realization . . . I don’t have to do a holiday just because it’s on the calendar and themed merch is already on the supermarket shelves.
I have the power to decide what holidays come through my door. My family and I get to choose what we celebrate and what’s important to us.
In the strength of that epiphany, I made a radical commitment to myself and my family:
I will never again serve a holiday that doesn’t serve me.
They’ve got to be meaningful and enriching to me and my family. If they don’t give us back at least as much life as we put into them, then they are not a worthy investment.
My husband fully supports my approach and feels the benefit to my health and vitality is well worth the small effort our family expends on creating new habits.
It’s exciting and fun to have the freedom to construct a personalized calendar of celebrations! We make our holiday selections as a family, inviting our children to share with us what activities and traditions are most special and holy to them. For example, one daughter adores holiday decorations. She selects them, we buy them. She puts them up and takes them down. It works beautifully for us all.
In reclaiming my ordinary days, I reclaimed my health and my family’s happiness.