Last week I somehow found myself leading the women's bible study. All the women. In a big circle staring at me.
Part of me was okay with this, because I am a teacher. I am not a stay up all night plan ahead teacher, I am look over my notes five minutes before and shoot from the hip teacher. As we watched a video, I hatched my plan. I came up with a few questions and an agenda. A week or two before we had heard from a missionary who asked about hardships that we experience, many talked about the pressure to be perfect. The holidays are a time when this comes to a head. Decorations, presents, time with family, all of this we are supposed to execute, while looking lovely, oh and it would be good if you can hand make all of it. I thought I would throw out to the women how do we handle ourselves in the middle of all this madness. How do we focus on the true meaning of Christmas? How do we spend time with family, and give to our children without turning the holiday into this crazy Black Friday madness that our culture hands us?
There were some amazing things that the women said. One said that they don't 'do' Santa because that places the focus on the presents and not Jesus. One said that she checks her motives, is she giving a gift to her mailman because of outside pressure or out of love?
Not one of them, not one of them, said, 'Just don't do it. It might not be worth it.'
My husband says it to me all the time.
I baked a hundred cookies for a tea. I don't mind doing this, I like baking and I like feeding people. Two of the batches came out overdone, taking them from delectable, melt in your mouth,to just kinda dry. I almost re-did them. I stopped myself I had been standing all afternoon, my back felt like I had worked a 48 hour shift waitressing, and I had already used six sticks of butter. I looked up at Scott who was sitting on the couch watching football.
"I shouldn't bake more, right?" He just shook his head. I sat down. I didn't even apologize to the host of the tea, and I'm sure no one cared or noticed that some of my cookies were 'too brown.' In fact there were very few cookies left.
I didn't do it, the only reason I would have re-done them is to appear perfect.
Yesterday I sat hunched over a bunch of hand made postcards for our family. I spend all afternoon making them. I did this because I am bad at fulfilling the North American female duty of providing photographs of my family for all my relatives. Every Christmas someone makes a comment. I hate it. So this fall we went out to walk in the fall foliage and get a photo of the three of us. The weather was colder than expected and Emma was dressed to look cute rather than for warmth, she wouldn't extricate herself from either of us without crying. We went home without a shot of the three of us. I am going to take a moment to point out here that we didn't do this because I wanted to or thought it would be fun or good to do (I am pregnant the last thing I want to do is get in front of a camera), we did it because I wanted to avoid comments from my relatives. So I took the only photo that I have where it doesn't matter if Emma is crying or my neck has disapeared: our new daughter's ultrasound picture and made it into ten postcards for our family.
Normally I would enjoy this task. Yesterday I was stressed and this only added to my stress. But I did it to myself. I could've just printed out ten photos and been done with it, but I didn't.
So I think I am going to come up with some kind of litmus test for keeping the holiday madness in check:
1. Why am I doing this? To display love and appreciation, or because I think I have to, or to appear that I 'have it all together.'
2. Am I enjoying this? No one wants a gift that caused you frustration and anxiety.
3. Who am I doing this for? Me? Another woman? Because, let's face it, men don't care, we do it for each other.
4. What is going to happen to this once I am done with it? Is this card going to end up in the trash? Is this present going to become a teasured part of their life?
Inevitably gifts will end up in the trash or at a thrift store. Food gets eaten. Cards get thrown away. Yes, it is nice to do all this stuff for each other, but in a country of excess something 'nice' has almost become menacing.