It seems that every year we are more and more surprised at how fast the holidays come upon us. For those of us who celebrate the holidays, we seem to get trapped in a ridiculous annual cycle. For me, it is no sooner that Halloween is over than the holiday decorations are hung on the streets; this usually occurs on November 1st.
I don’t know about you, but I spend the first two weeks of November frustrated with how fast time flies, how quickly society moves and denying that the holidays are here again. I fight the force pulling me into the next holiday before my feet have had a chance to recover from the last one. As I hurry to get things in order for Thanksgiving (i.e., shop, prepare, cook, clean, call, etc.) my guests are making plans for their shopping endeavors. That’s right, Thanksgiving is not even over before Black Friday sales start (feels like earlier and earlier every year) and everyone is off to prepare for the NEXT holiday. Before you know it, December festivities arrive and people gear up and are ready to attend a new set of family and work gatherings. As children enjoy their new toys, New Year’s Eve rolls in, the ball drops and, suddenly, it is January 2nd; we all go back to work and another year is off to a flying start!
For many, this time of year is very stressful. We jump around from event to event, while also struggling to juggle everyday life. Among other things, we may have to see people we may not get along with; we may be pressured to spend money we do not have; and we may have to find the time, in an already packed schedule, to go from store to store looking for the perfect gift. By the time January comes around, we are so disoriented from the chaos that the last six weeks seem like a blur.
So I ask you… If we really stop to look, how is this different from everyday life?
- Is it Friday yet?
Much like the rest of the year, jumping from event to event the holidays seem to go so fast that we must stop and consciously organize and plan the steps to take in order to get through all of the holiday festivities, as smoothly as possible. I don’t know about you, but I get through many of my workdays counting down to the weekend, which only flies by. The weeks go by as I count down towards the next paid day off. This world is so fast-paced that it is difficult to imagine that things can get any faster. It seems that individuals are always looking for the next best thing, the next step to take, the next big day, the next holiday. It seems that these few weeks magnify the challenges we face every day. We see the holidays as exceptions, but are they?
- Who has time for that?
In a time when individuals organize their lives through calendars, cell phones for easy access, lists and reminders, we must now budget the time to go shop online or at the mall, looking for the perfect gift. We must organize our thoughts and our wallets to show an appropriate amount of thoughtfulness and love through the art of gift giving. I don’t know about you, but much like life, this art has required a lot more skill in recent years. This too seems like an exaggerated way to learn a difficult lesson in time management. Learning how to “get everything done” during the stress of the holidays can help us learn techniques and coping skills to help us manage our time better throughout our everyday lives.
- I can’t afford that!
A number of individuals and families are living paycheck to paycheck. According to a survey conducted by American Research Group, Inc. (2015), “shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $882 for gifts this holiday season”[i]. Replacing a necessity such as the stove (cost ranging from $777-$1,700)[ii] or refrigerator (an average cost $800-$1,200)[iii] is a difficult expense to fit in a budget, but for the holidays many individuals and families may spend more on others than they can afford. If only it was more socially acceptable to show those we love how much we care without having to sacrifice a household necessity.
- Are they going to be there?
Most of us are forced to see, speak and/or work with people we do not get along with. Even so, we are probably not as stressed going to work every day, as we are when we celebrate the holidays with people we rarely see, but do not get along with. This time of year can be especially difficult if we have lost someone we love or are forced to see someone we have fought with. The holiday season is also a wonderful opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with people we not have time to see throughout the year; and a great opportunity to meet new people or reconnect with someone we fought or lost touch with. Some people say that seeing family for the holiday builds character; some would rather build character by going out of town and avoiding the confrontations. At the end of the day “these people” are family and learning how to get along with them helps us learn how to better get along with those we see more regularly.
During a season full of love, family and a season of giving, I urge you to remember to give the gifts that cannot be purchased or returned…our love and our time. These are gifts we can give to others and to ourselves. We deserve to enjoy the holidays, enjoy the company of ones we love and even enjoy a gift we received; as long as we remember that the holidays are a gift! They are a few extra days off work. They are reasons to get together with the family and friends. They are reminders to show one another that someone is thinking about them and loves them. These days are for slowing down, appreciating and celebrating love and life.
Gifts are easily forgotten, but memories are harder to make and to forget! Don’t let this holiday season be a blur!
[i] November 21, 2015
2015 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Up Slightly, American Research Group, Inc.
[ii] 2016, Cost of Gas Stoves, Homewyse.com
[iii] February 9, 2016, 2016 Average Cost Of Kitchen Appliances, Improvenet.com