I always have mixed feelings about the holidays. I love Christmas and always have. I love the potential for wonder, joy, magic, love, and all the warm-fuzzies that come with those things. I enjoy the anticipation of parties and family and presents and goodies (cookies!). I like thinking of things to give people, creating items, first with my mind, then my hands. Like this year, I made all my Christmas cards from pieces of cards I've gotten in years past. It was fun to piece them together in different ways and personalize them all for the recipients.
Yet mixed in with all this happiness and joy is frustration, disappointment and irritation. I get frustrated with all the "buy! buy! buy!" messaging we see everywhere. I get frustrated with the incessant faux-holiday spirit we are bombarded with in every retail outlet we go to, every radio station, every website ad. I get irritated by the sheer madness of trying to do everything, see everyone (and please everyone) and get done all that I want to in the period of one month. I am inevitably disappointed by the things that do not live up to my expectations, especially those that I had hoped for the most.
Every year I long for something simpler, more honest, more pure. I hope for less frenzy and more friends. Less commerce and more conversation. Less expectation and more surprise. This year I am doing some of what I can to make that happen. I made my own Christmas cards. I visited friends to make Christmas cookies, and then shared them with my neighbors. I am giving nearly all recycled/reused gifts, and of course everything is wrapped in reused packaging and tissue paper. I have spent less time out (actually, none) desperately trying to find something to give to someone because of an obligation, and more time thinking about what I love and cherish about this time of year.
I am trying to release my frustration that others may not do this. That our family and friends will have limited time, energy and focus. That we will get cookie-cutter-Christmas cards instead of phone calls. That we will get presents that were well-meaning, but not really about us, but about giving "something." That we will go to several parties where everyone is already worn out and sits around the TV instead of around the fire.
I am also trying to remember that I can only do what I can do, and that I have to give my best to the ones I love without expectation. That is what a gift is. Not an exchange, or a trade, but something freely given without strings, conditions, or requirements. So perhaps the best gift I can give this year is my own patience, non-judgment, and love to all those I encounter. In that way perhaps I could create more of the Christmas spirit I so long to see.