Last week I felt Christmas coming toward me like a high-speed train. I felt as if I was sitting on the tracks, an impossibly long to do list in one hand and imaginary whip in the other. I sighed and thought “just hit me already!”
Then a video arrived from a friend. It was her 18-month-old grandson, Thomas’s, first encounter with a Christmas tree. He approached it in full toddler gate. He stopped. He gasped. Then he giggled. Then he shrieked. Then he began a more serious investigation toddling all around the base of the tree. He stopped every now and then to reach his chubby little arm into the tree’s branches to touch the lights. Finally, he stepped back, inserted his thumb in his mouth and simply regarded the tree.
What does Thomas know that the rest of us have forgotten?
Thomas still practices what one of my teachers once coined – abundant expectancy, no expectations.
- No expectations that food be abundant and prepared to perfection.
- That we give the perfect gift to everyone in our lives.
- That we be the ideal host, volunteer, caregiver, parent, grandparent.
- Expectations that we get it all done, it all be perfect and we do it with a smile.
All those expectations; all that trying, trying, trying. It’s exhausting and disheartening. And nothing will kill the joy of the season faster than the ever-growing list of things to fit in and that voice in your head telling you to go faster, faster, faster!
What would a Slow Season look like?
So, here’s where I need to be real with you.
- You probably could have used this post three weeks ago before you launched into your annual seasonal frenzy. I get that. And perhaps this can be an invitation to halt the frenzy here.
- Please don’t let this post become another whip to unleash on yourself. Don’t add ‘the slow season’ idea as another ‘should’ in a life that is drowning in ‘shoulds.’
- Please understand, I am in total solidarity here. I SUCK AT THIS! In fact, if you want to feel better about yourself, check out Confessions of a (not so) Lovely Girl: How my inner critic stole Christmas.
I contemplated sharing 10 things you can do to slow down for the holidays. Problem with that is, it’s just 10 more things to go on the list.
So here are three things.
1. Slow it down with breath.
Stop and notice how you are breathing. If you’re thinking about your to-do list, your breathing may be shallow and constricted. Or you may be holding your breath. The constriction makes it worse. It makes your entire world feel closed in. It’s a clench your body doesn’t need.
Open it all up with one long slow breath. Imagine that life is unfolding in slow motion. As you take a big belly breath, think, “deep and slow.”
2. Savor a favorite thing.
The very first movie I ever saw in the theater was The Sound of Music. I was eight. In it, Julie Andrews sings the holiday classic, My favorite things. That song is one of my favorite things. Yesterday, in a moment of list overwhelm, I cranked it up on iTunes, danced around the kitchen like a fool and bellowed “And then you don’t feel so bad” so loud, the neighbor’s dog howled.
When you feel the anxiety or irritation rise, stop, and indulge in a tiny pleasure.
3. Let go of perfection.
Embrace the art of good enough or the humor of total flop!
This week, my grandson’s elementary school held their first Christmas Concert in three years. It featured the grade six band. If you’ve ever been to a school Christmas Concert, you’ve no doubt encountered the ear-splitting and blood-curdling tones of the grade six band. This one chose Queen’s, “We will rock you” as it’s opening piece. My husband and I bit so hard on our lower lips trying not to laugh that our eyes welled up. IT WAS HORRIBLE! AND WE LOVED IT!
That is what makes the season so special! Not the impeccably adorned tree, the perfectly wrapped gifts or the pile of Christmas Cards not yet addressed. It’s not the frills; it’s the unexpected moments that arrive all on their own. It’s the small favorite things that cost us nothing. Well, this one cost the grade six band teacher hours of torture, but it cost us nothing and brought so much joy.
Whatever this season means to you, take it slow, take it easy and savor every moment.
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