When I was a kid, I would sneak into my Mom’s closet every December looking for Christmas gifts. My mom was one smart cookie, so they were always wrapped up tight. This only made me work harder and be a little more creative in my sneak attack. I would quickly unwrap the gift, take a peek inside, and then meticulously re-wrap it — all within a few minutes.
While it sounds sneaky and disrespectful, especially to my sweet mama who worked hard for every penny, I wasn’t trying to dishonor her or our Christmas traditions. I just hated surprises. Loathed them actually. It made me feel unsettled as if something was ahead that I wasn’t prepared for. I felt happier about Christmas morning when I knew what to expect from the wrapped boxes under the tree.
As a side note, my boys are still shocked by me unwrapping my Christmas gifts as a kid. When I’m correcting them about something, they’ll jokingly say, “Well, at least I didn’t unwrap all my Christmas gifts early without my mom knowing.” Why is parenting so hard? Ugh.
For someone who hates surprises, this pandemic and all the unrest in this country has been an overwhelming season. Then you layer on the holidays … HAVE MERCY!
I feel like I’m in hypervigilance mode all the time, unable to settle down and constantly afraid of what is ahead. All the hurt for others is heavy on my shoulders and extra love is needed in every direction, but my tank feels empty some days to even give back and pour into others.
What has helped tremendously in this season is authentic conversation with others. I am so thankful to hear honest truths about how others are coping and working through their own self-care during these tough times.
One friend shared her mantra is to just stay in the day. It’s too much to think too far ahead, especially with expectations constantly changing due to COVID, so she stays focused on the right now. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a start.
I’ve decided this Christmas to start paring back. Simplifying the season. Instead of making a to-do list of the hundred things I need to get done, I’ve made a list of the things I love about Christmas and the things I just trudge through because, well, it’s “tradition.”
To stay in the day, I’m only going to do the love list this year, which includes sending Christmas notes, a real tree with no ornaments, burning an Advent countdown candle, and vintage Christmas tunes. I’m going to let slide away the excessive Christmas decorating, buying gifts people don’t want or need, creating a huge gift list I don’t need, and all the Santa hype.
I’m also going to try to be more open to surprises this season (those under the tree and in my daily life). While I often recognize that I am not in control and God has the master plan, I still hold tight to the reins of control like a mad woman, especially during stressful seasons. I’m all grown up and yet there are days I’m still the little girl in the closet unwrapping and re-wrapping gifts to avoid the unknowns. I like to think it’s a beautiful thing to be a work in progress.
What are you holding tight to this season and what are you letting go of? What are you learning about yourself and then constantly having to re-learn? What is the best surprise you’ve been given this holiday season?
My prayer is we can all stay in the day and soak up the beauty of this winter season.
Heather Feeler does not ruin Christmas surprises anymore. She’s also made amends with her mom for all the surprises she ruined during the 80s and 90s with her snooping. She’s still an excellent gift wrapper after all those years of practice.