The holiday season is absolutely brutal. All the expectations; all the money you don’t have; all the guesswork about what to give people you think you should know. There’s the mandatory joy amid the typically atrocious weather; there’s the politics of gift return; there’s the utter chaos of children who can’t manage their enthusiasm. (“No joy at the table!” my mother-in-law is reputed to have shouted once, in a rare fit of grump. Yup. What she said.)
Add into this the subsonic, chronic wail of my need to do more for the world than I do, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for feeling small, inadequate, undeserving.
But here’s the thing: if we’re not aiming long, we’re can’t fall short. I can’t give much to the causes I care about, but I can give something. So this was the year I decided to limit the self-reproach and turn up the joy. We made an Advent calendar of activities for the boys to do, and with the exception of going sledding, we’ve been keeping to it pretty well. It creates some much-needed magic. And so I AM falling short on gifts, on cards, on all the thoughtful details I expected I’d be ready to deliver. But I’m getting home at a reasonable hour; I’m playing with the kids; I’m making bread. I decided three weeks ago I wanted to make a wreath, and I cut and collected greens from the Mugo pine, the unpruned boxwood, the Christmas-tree-sales lot at the shop up the street. They are stacked on the porches, front and back, and slowly getting mauled by our feet, by disillusioned snow shovels, by repeated falls into the dirt below. Will they be usable? Not sure. Will we make a wreath? No idea. But I’m trying to let them remind me not of what I didn’t do, but of what I might yet still be able to create.