Actually, I've been there myself many times. One year my husband and I baked 120 dozen cookies, decorated them and shipped them off to relatives and friends. The project took six days. When hatching the plan that previous September, the idea seemed so Christmassy and charming. As the UPS truck lumbered up the street after collecting the boxed cookies, though, I felt exhausted, depressed and a little resentful. Instead of anticipating all those delightful packages being opened on Christmas morning, I was lamenting my use of chocolate morsels instead of a higher quality chocolate product (and other small choices that yielded less than stellar results). I was also resentful of the mess I still had to clean up -- everywhere.
The Rule of Thirds
It's easy to expect a lot from our Christmas efforts and end up disappointed. The cookie project was successful: all the cookies tasted good, looked good and arrived before the holiday. It wasn't successful in that it didn't (and probably couldn't) match my expectations. I'm sure you get the moral of the story.
These days, I embrace the rule of thirds. I develop Christmas plans in advance and then scratch a third of them off my list. That includes menu options and presents as well as Christmas activities. This sounds easy, but it's not. When it comes to making a choice between participating in a cookie swap or a Christmas caroling trip around the neighborhood, it can be a tough call. The same goes for limiting Christmas dinner options. Every year it's classics versus new recipes. (The classics usually win.)
When Christmas Cheer Is Thin on the Ground
This whole Christmas cheer business can be difficult in a lot of ways. Christmas becomes more bittersweet the older I get. In the years I lost loved ones or experienced other losses, the Christmas season was downright brutal. Sadness is a part of the season people don't generally discuss, but it's the ghost of Christmas past in a very real way. I'm not alone in feeling blue sometimes while I'm hanging ornaments or filling stockings. I still love Christmas, but it has more than its share of poignant and emotional and even upsetting moments.
I'm going to get serious here for a second, so click away if you're not in the mood.
Being swamped by negative emotion during the holiday season can be devastating. My father committed suicide during the holidays, so I'm sensitive to the destructive potential of feeling too disconnected or depressed this time of year. I wish I could pull the perfect sentiment to share from my bag of tricks, something that would add luster to your happy memories or at least blunt the sad ones. I will offer this short list of suggestions:
It's better to light one candle -- Add small grace notes to your days to make them more satisfying. They're not "raindrops on roses," but scented candles, hot cocoa, cinnamon sticks, a good book, a hot bath, a glass of Merlot and other things can be a bulwark against stress and depression.
Go ahead and be sad -- The only way past sadness is through it. Well-meaning relatives may try to pressure you into the holiday spirit, but if you aren't feeling it -- you aren't. Accept the fact that this isn't going to be a banner year for you and that next year will probably be better.
Get help -- If you're experiencing alarming thoughts and feelings of despair this holiday, talk to someone about it. My favorite quote about suicide it that it is ". . . . a permanent solution to a temporary problem." A number of studies about suicide suggest that an overwhelming majority of suicide survivors are grateful their attempts failed. If you're in crisis and want to talk with someone, start with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The call is free and confidential.