What I Need This Month: Letting Go

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Last year on Christmas night, on an empty road between my mom’s house and ours, I fought a losing battle against a deluge of tears.

Something was seriously off.

We spent the whole day rushing around.   Jack was sitting on my lap, Gracie was fast asleep behind us.  I buried my face in my son’s soft furry neck, wanting to stop the emotions dead in their tracks.  My husband reached over and squeezed my hand.

“God, why do I feel so drained and miserable?” my voice barely above a raspy whisper.

“Because we’re exhausted,” he said softly.   “We work to make everyone else happy and ignore what we want.  We do this every year.  And every year we promise that we will do it differently the next time around, no matter what it takes.  And then we never do.”

I went from sad to resentful in a flash.  The season, and Christmas Day, is a time that is all about brightness and love.  A time that only comes once a year, a precious time really, a time that we can never get back once it’s gone.

And this is how we felt last year when it came to an end.

How do I explain this delicately?

I really can’t.

Let me put it this way.  We usually spend a good portion of the day with people who, to put it mildly, make it feel like work.  As we fulfill our obligation, suffering through decades old tension, feigned interest and idle small talk, we find ourselves looking at the clock and exchanging knowing glances, quietly, stealthily planning our escape.  Yep, it sounds awful.  But I have said it once before, and I will say it again.  If I do nothing else here, I will always keep it real.

I’m sure some of you out there have a similar story.

So here I am at the start of the month, and as promised, I have thought about what I need emotionally and what I have to do to achieve it.  Overall December is a happy, loving time for me, for reasons I will share in my next two posts.  But as Christmas and its prelude inch ever closer, I will need a determination within myself to avoid the ritualistic Christmas night breakdown.

I need to let go.

And that means many different things.

It goes beyond my desire to limit obligations, specifically my time with certain people.  I need to let go of the need to be perfect overall.  I need to let go of the pressure to feel happy all the time, because I often feel a bit blue, missing lost loved ones and thinking about what could have been.  I have to be free of the tendency to over commit, because it only compromises my health and energy.  I need to escape the stress over the inadequacy of my finances, because honestly my gift giving desires are always the stuff of fantasy, and that isn’t what the season is truly about.

I also want to let go of any potential self loathing when I decide to eat too much, and then skip a workout.   I want to let go of the disappointment if I can’t hunt down that perfect present for Mom, because really just having time with her,  enjoying holiday flavored coffee at Starbucks, watching the world go by, is what we want from each other most.  I want to let go of the frustration if my gift wrapping doesn’t turn out perfectly, or I burn the cookies.   I want to let go of the worry that something is wrong with me, because I would rather stay home in my jammies and pass up the social gatherings that often leave me feeling awkward and exhausted.

There will be busy days, and cold, rainy days when I will want to step away from this blog, my book writing, and social media.  I will choose to spend my time in good, loving company, relishing the color and traditions of the season; or spend my time with the pups, a cup of hot tea in my hands and a Hallmark holiday movie on tv.  Because when “A Dog Named Christmas” is on, there is nothing in the world that makes me happier.

As appealing as all of this sounds, there will be moments when it won’t be easy.  I know I will feel that all-too-familiar twinge of pressure when I spy an immaculately decorated home; or an acquaintance shares her tales of marathon shopping and her over-the-top plans for the perfect Christmas dinner that would put Norman Rockwell to shame.   I will feel guilty when days go by and I don’t write a single word.

When those moments come, and they absolutely will, I will rely on those three magical words.

Let it go.

I hope you find the strength to do the same.

Have an amazing December, everyone.

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