I’ve looked at Christmas as being forced to spend money I do not have on a bunch of shit no one needs. This year, I have been particularly vocal about this materialist society killing everyone’s understanding of joy, happiness, peace, fulfilment, etc. No material good gives happiness. Happiness comes from within. To me, happiness and love are synonyms, and no thing shows or gives love or happiness. Happiness, love, and Christmas are actions, not words and not gifts.
Am I angry about Christmas? No. I just had the simple realization that I spent 1 or more months of my life spending money, preparing, and doing shit for one day. Christmas became a burden. It was a neverending series of compounding expectations, which ultimately created a stressed out and exhausted me. I said to a friend: “No single day can live up to that amount of effort. The ROI (return on investment) is fucked. This is why we’re all so goddamn miserable. We spend months of our lives delaying being happy for a day.
The inevitable feeling I always had to tuck away on Christmas night was “All that for this?”
There are a lot of people questioning why we have a holiday that makes us feel obligated to go into debt for our loved ones, etc. I’ve felt this way for so long, but I assumed it was me being weird. Everyone else seems happy. Clearly, my overwhelmed, exhausted, etc. state was my fault.
I have always looked at Christmas has a metaphor of our best selves. We’re all happier, more loving, kinder. Why, then, do I need to work so hard to achieve that? Why do I save it for a day? I can throw tons of synonyms to describe happiness or being happy. Or, I can give the truth: it’s your choice. Happy is a feeling which is a reaction. Every feeling you have is a reaction, and what you do with that reaction dictates your response. Your response is your choice. All feelings are transient and temporary.
Part of my problem with Christmas is the expectations I would set for myself and my family. I wanted to create amazing memories and moments as well as find the perfect gifts for everyone. I created so much anxiety and insanity for myself in this desperate need to have the best, be the best, etc. I’d have images of these perfect festive scenes that never came to fruition. Most of the time I’d be so damn exhausted, I’d feel like I was barely there anyway. Last year, I focused on taking better care of myself at Christmas time. I cut things off the to-do list, focused on meditation, yoga, and journaling to help me stay calm.
Happiness is cultivated in your mind. For years, I pretended to be happy as I ran around like a Christmas-y chicken with my head cut off. In reality, I cultivated guilt, expectations, and disappointment. It was me trying to make up for being a “shitty mom”. I don’t know why I believe so deeply I’m a shitty Mom, except to say, I look at the expectations of society and I don’t match. Now, I’m thrilled I do not match. I finally understand parenting and happiness are not one size fits all. In striving to achieve Facebook-worthy statuses, pictures, etc. I was robbing myself of genuine happiness and authenticity. I’ve found greater happiness in the smallest situations than in all the convoluted schemes I’ve contrived.
My kids don’t understand money, etc. Why would they? That’s when I saw the stupidity of my expectations: my kids have no concept of all the shit I’m doing because Santa does the work. They have no concept of money because kids do not understand the stupidity adults live in. All the expectations I would place were with all the time, energy, and money I’ve put out, and the kids have no way of understanding or appreciating that.
Christmas is a consumer-driven holiday. There’s nothing about Jesus in the money I’m spending, etc. Jesus is in the hugs I give my children, and the I love you’s and the giggles while we make a mess baking cookies. None of this is dictated by a date on the calendar – originally the solstice, which was taken by Christianity for Christmas, to drive pagans to Christianity. Now, it’s been taken from Christians by Corporations & Credit Card companies to drive everyone to debt. I was wondering how I can get away from this consumer crap. I don’t want my life dictated by shit. It could be the nicest whatever, ever, but at the end of the day, it’s stuff.
Yet, my kids want presents. I can’t say, “Well your mother has realized society is idiotic and we’re abstaining this year.” This is my problem, not theirs. So, I changed my attitude. Everything in this life is a tool or a weapon, depending on your choice. A lot of people mistake what Buddha taught regarding attachment. It’s not to have nothing, want nothing, etc.
It is to cling to nothing: no moment, no thing, etc. In the fleetingness of Christmas, my greatest disappointment was it was just one day. One hour, really. I’d spend days upon days wrapping presents, and within an hour all that time was scattered on the floor for me to clean. If the kids hated a present, I’d be upset.
I don’t think Buddha would advise me to change anything but me.
Instead of buying gifts, I thought in terms of investments. I am investing in my children’s happiness. Sometimes, you make a good investment, sometimes bad. This lets me detach from the expectation of outcomes – happy, sad, indifferent. It’s an investment, and we shall see how it goes. I did my purchases with the word “Tool” in mind.
Attachment is allowing something to control you, versus you being in control. If you are constantly chasing stuff, money, tail, this controls you.
Reaction/Response. A reaction is a base instinct. A response is controlled. It’s a higher level of being. The way words get interspersed leads to a lot of confusion in this regard. The things I purchased were with helping the kids connect with passions, hobbies, and ways of cultivating happiness for themselves. What they do with these gifts is their choice, and if it goes to waste, I’ll consider it a lousy investment. I won’t get upset, etc. because I know I did my best, and I know they choose happiness for themselves. I’ve been talking to the kids about gratitude almost constantly. Pointing out everything we all take for granted – hot water, our home, food, etc. I feel like we all so easily get caught up in the “buy me, buy me” we forget how lucky we are. I forget I’m fortunate to even be pissing and moaning about buying presents or baking cookies.
Many believed I was “anti-Christmas” this year, and I’m not. I’m anti-killing myself for a bunch of crap no one needs. I’m anti-anything that doesn’t cultivate happiness. The way I was doing Christmas did everything but cultivate happiness. It dumped a ton of happy feelings in one day, a fleeting, transient thing. In changing my perspective, outlook, and actions, I’m showing the kids with the example to take care of themselves, and create happiness and love – every day, not just December 25th. Nothing I did over the past month was really about Christmas. It was just about being a family and loving each other. Christmas is a day. I won’t kill myself for a day anymore.
Some changes I made:
- No More Wrapping. Too much time and effort with NO payoff. I’m killing trees and myself for, what? A pretty picture?
- Solution – I bought a ton of adorable cloth Santa Sacks. I put presents inside and place sack under tree. Done.
- I’m making investments, not buying gifts
- Obviously, the kids got a few toys. More than that, though, the bulk of my money went towards developing hobbies: a snake for my youngest, because he’s wanted a pet, and I thought responsibility/caring for an animal would be good for him. My daughter wants to be an artist – she got an art kit and art desk, and my oldest is getting a telescope because my motherly instinct is telling me exploring the cosmos is right up his alley.
- Not just kids, though. I focused everything I bought as an investment in someone else cultivating happiness or a better life. Re-discovering hobbies/joy they had as a kid, etc. It challenged me to be creative, attentive, and do more than just mindlessly buy crap.
- I’m creating opportunities to teach gratitude – for the people in our lives and the tools we have to create happiness
- I listened to myself
- When I was tired, etc. I just listened to my body. There is literally nothing about Christmas that is more important than my health and wellbeing.
- I blew off friends/commitments if my energy was low
- I did not do more than I was capable of doing
- I am staying present
- The magic of Christmas and in my mind, the magic of life is in the smallest moments. I overlooked them in my hyperfocus on the “big day”. Singing and dancing to “Must be Santa” with my baby, ignoring an overflowing sink of dishes to play dolls with my daughter, etc. Christmas is tomorrow. Right now, I’m ignoring my overwhelming children and taking a time out to blab on here, because I’ve been too busy/tired to write. 😉 balance!
- I’m not perfect
- I’m the only standard I’m holding myself up to
- Did I do my best? Perfect. 😉
- I made Christmas, love, and happiness synonyms.
- I am grateful
This is not just about Christmas, these are attitudes and thought processes I’ve been cultivating. I’m not spending 364 of my life looking forward to 1. I said this month, I’m not spending 30 days or whatever prepping for a day. I spend 365 days a year cultivating love and happiness – in myself first, and through sound investments 😉