Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Sunday, December 21, 2008

Been thinking a lot about Christmas and what it means to me. I've known for a while that most of the Christmas activities I partake in every year are solely for other people, not for me. I've never really given myself permission to have a Christmas I enjoy. I'm not even sure what kind of Christmas that would be.

Well, this year, with the emergence of the fragrance sensitivity, the normal activities will necessarily change. Going to my mom's will be an exercise in torture--purely in the physical sense, of course--if I know why I'm feeling like crap but can't get away from it. In years past I just felt like crap and stayed because I didn't know why.

Besides the fragrance, there is the exchange of gifts, a huge stressor for me. I almost feel like I have PTSD about the gifts. Every single year I feel this tremendous pressure to spend money I don't have in order to follow rules of giving which are not ingrained in me. I dread getting gifts, and I dread giving them, because then I might get some in return. Not to mention that I never feel my gifts are good enough.

Then there is the guilt. Guilt about not having the money; guilt about feeling sick at family gatherings that are supposed to be a happy time; guilt about all the family events I have missed over the year; guilt about celebrating a holiday that is named for a religion I do not follow. Lots of guilt for lots of nebulous other reasons.

I have decided to hit the reset button. This year I will not be attending any family events. I will buy gifts only for my children, and I asked my extended family to forgo any gifts for me. I would love for my extended family to come and hang out at my house with me, if they feel like indulging my need for scentlessness. My husband has surprised the hell out of me by volunteering to do the Christmas shopping, so that's one more pattern I've released.

I realized something in all this reset button-hitting. My ideal Christmas is quiet. Reverent. Small. I guess my idea of Christmas is sort of opposite of the rest of the world's, in that I feel it's more of a solitary thing. It's more about the God-given gifts, and I see how that could extend to family and friends and wanting to do something for them, but I want the desire to give gifts to grow naturally from the spirit, and it hasn't up to now. I have to find that spirit again, if ever I had it in the first place. I've been too distracted, too sick, too guilty at this time of year. I'm changing that now. Reset.

{ 14 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Merry Christmas, Sherri. Knowing you is a great gift. :)

  2. Sherri- good for you! I had to adjust my holiday "should" years ago when I divorced and had to do that whole share-the-kids thing. But now our time together includes peaceful rituals like a long walk on the beach or in the woods- things that have nothing to do with shopping or socializing. I've struggled with the gift issue too, but deciding this year to only give books took some of the pressure off. I also, finally, let myself off the hook for feelig responsible for whether other people have a happy Christmas. I figure my own serenity is a kind of gift- to myself and to those around me.

  3. Merry Christmas. Hope yours ends up happy.

  4. Sherri, we gave up the extended family/friends gift-giving years ago and replaced it with a party, where each person brings one gift (of $10 value), and we draw numbers and make a game out of it. It's such a blast. We had ours last night.

    Everyone gets something new (I ended up with a set of martini glasses...go figure! :-) ), nobody spends a lot of money, and we have a great time together.

    And then we get to have a lazy, quiet Christmas day. Joy!

  5. I can relate. In my past life, I was told - by the recipients - how much I should spend on their gifts. Talk about not having the right spirit!

    I try to remember, and perhaps it might help you, too, that "long walk part of gift" thing we so often forget.

    Christmas is hard for non-Christians. I hope you find that serenity and peace you're looking for - not just on Christmas, but on every day of the year. *hugs*

  6. Ian--Thank you, my dear. Likewise.

    Sarah--Those damn "shoulds" get me every time! I'm releasing them, one at a time.

    Knyt--It's already happier, though I'm starting to feel guilty for feeling that way. :-)

    Cheryl--I think that's a great idea, if I can get everybody on board with the fragrance thing. Hoping that by doing almost nothing this year, my mind will be clear to think of Christmas in a new way.

    Fal--It's not like that with my family, the expectations of gifts. It's more of a pressure I've put on myself, having this idea of what Christmas should be (there's the damn should again) instead of sitting still and actually thinking about it. This whole past month or two has been full of resetting, in many areas of my life. This is just the next step on my path.

  7. Happy reset! Everyone deserves a holiday they enjoy--although sometimes these wishes are incompatible, we should try our best. Eeek. There is a should. I don't mean follow someone else's rules or give into pressure you don't need. It is hard to even make a sentence without should these days. Figure how you want to please, and please them. If you want. I am not telling you what to do!

    I give up. I can't talk without sounding like an idiot.

    Enjoy your holidays and be happy.

  8. It seems as though my Christmas is being reset to some degree as well. It looks like my family is doing things a bit differently this year. My father took part in the tree decorating for the first time. Otherwise we wouldn't have even bothered to set it up at all.

  9. Sherri you got it all for me: every anxiety I have, and none of them make sense, and so far I've never addressed them seriously, and I don't know why. Never have I seriously said to myself, "What does this mean to you? What do you want to do?" I just try to go with a flow that I'm TERRIBLE at trying to go with. I am so bad at Christmas and every year I dread it and then go through the whole: I didn't do enough, I'm a loser thing.
    I'm really glad you've made this decision. When I read the comments of your friends I think maybe I should plan this for next year -- long walks? Sounds great. Good for you, Sherri. You're way too wonderful to be tortured so. All of us are way too wonderful to be tortured! love, c

  10. You're right, no torture! I vote for a torture-free holiday season. And yet despite my resolution to have a low-key, stress-free Christmas, I'm still stressing! I'm worried that my brother won't come, and that he WILL come, that my extended family is taking all this personally. So I start assessing exactly how much cleaning I have to do in case they come, and how much food and what kind. Luckily, I catch myself and say "no more." If the bookshelves are dusty, if the sink has toothpaste in it, if the kids' beds are not made...Nobody is going to care. It makes me feel a lot better to know that I'm not the only person who has this weird aversion to Christmas. :)

  11. I *totally* agree with you about hitting the reset button. My family always goes WAY overboard and instead of feeling grateful for all the things that they have purchased us, we always seem to spend the ride home from their house enveloped in guilt. This year my sister and I got together and tried to get my mom to cut back - we'll have to see what happens on Christmas Day.

    We finally stopped going on our family vacation because we didn't understand why everyone else was having a good time and we were miserable for a week after a 12 hour drive there and back. It was hard to explain why we weren't going, no - it wasn't because we didn't love them, but that it just wasn't our thing. Christmas is about giving and the best gift that they can give you is the freedom to celebrate the holidays as you wish.

    Ben and I wish you all the best - happy holidays!

  12. Christmas is about giving and the best gift that they can give you is the freedom to celebrate the holidays as you wish.

    Hear, hear! Happy holidays to you, too. :)

  13. Behavior doesn't change overnight. Hit the reset button on a computer and change happens--presto. Seems to me that when you hit the reset button on a life it takes quite a while for the change to be felt. Do you're best. Next year do better.

  14. [...] So I deleted everything and started my personal Reset Button campaign, which I blogged about at Christmas. It’s all about balance, [...]


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