Dorothy Harris

Ghosts of Christmas past

With just six days to go, I find myself greeted by the holiday salutation, "Are you all ready for Christmas?" If these joyful folks are referencing the cooking, baking, shopping and wrapping Christmas is supposed to be, my honest answer is no. Even today, about a week shy of the big day, I'm sure I'm still not ready. I suppose I should be overwhelmed by all the things left to be done, but I'm not, even though a shrill voice in my head reminds me just how unprepared I have allowed myself to be.

This voice, let's call it the Ghost of Christmas Past, screeches I should be baking cookies for all my neighbors, just like my mom did. (Sorry, folks, that's just not going to happen.) It tells me it can't believe my tree is still not perfectly decorated with every ornament in its "special spot" where it is placed year after year. This voice asks me if I've planned my holiday menu, pre-ordering that perfect cut of meat to be sure it will be just right. Ticking off the list, it asks if I have polished the silver, ironed the table cloth and ensured there are perfectly matched dishes for all attending. Have I purchased the little candies and décor for my table favors? Have my seating arrangements been planned to ensure everyone is comfortably placed by a proper companion?

To this, the Ghost of Christmas Past, I simply say, "Um, no. Nobody has the time or money for all that." Quite frankly my Christmas past is just too much to live up to and surprisingly, I feel no sense of pressure to recreate these abundant memories. While my mother decorated, shopped and baked for weeks, I may make a batch of cookies and even that's not definite at this point.

For many of us, our Christmas memories can be directly traced back to stay-at-home mothers who had the luxury of time to enjoy festive holiday preparations. Even so, I can't help but wonder how on earth folks were able to afford all extras of the holiday season on one salary. I work full-time hours and whenever I get the crazy thought of decorating my home or preparing some fabulous meal for 10, the cost factor brings me to a screeching halt. I can't afford to do these things, nor do I have the time.

Perhaps many of you are feeling this holiday stress about now. You realize you aren't going to be able to get everything baked, bought or prepped in time. You are frustrated by the constant clamor. You are worried about spending too much and have become too tired. I have a suggestion. Give yourself a gift and let it go. Stop trying to live up to the ghost of your Christmas past.

Perfection is a fluid thing that changes just as you reach it, vaporizing through your overworked hands. Why not do a little less and spend this holiday joyful instead of exhausted and resentful. Lower your holiday expectations and stop trying so hard. Christmas is meant to be a season of reflection and awe. Take a few moments to consider what Christmas really means to you and your family and then celebrate that. Be kind to yourself and break free of the ghost of Christmas Past so you can begin enjoying Christmas present right now. Time is a gift one should use wisely and thoughtfully. Cheers to you this holiday season. May it be restful and joyful.