At this time of year, it often feels like everybody is asking for something. And with the growing dependence in our world on social media, it feels like an awful lot of them are asking me to provide it. In-laws send group emails trying to schedule the pre-Christmas gift exchange, the office party evite requires the perfectly appropriate and yet wildly entertaining white elephant gift, and my mother has texted twice in the last hour wanting to plan Christmas dinner. And in case you’re wondering, no, we’re not doing the green bean thing this year. My inbox overflows with emails urging me to seize today’s deal on anything from new shoes and cupcakes to the season’s best books/movies/Netflix can’t miss shows. On Facebook and Twitter, I’m urged to donate to causes friends and celebrities are endorsing. The deals are rampant and the causes deserving, but the overload of information leaves me with a sense of seasonal paralysis.
I can’t do it all. And more importantly, I’ve realized: I don’t want to.
This year, all I want for Christmas is a little peace. A silent night that spills over into the daylight hours, if you will.
I’m not talking about world peace, although of course that’s right up there on the list. It just seems difficult to arrange. Many more experienced people have tried, and it never seems to quite work out for long. So until someone comes up with a way to effectively resolve that issue, I’ve decided to start small, with a personal peace. I want a calm that persists for longer than a few minutes. I’d like a time of stillness to reflect on the season without it rushing past so quickly, and the opportunity to appreciate all the gifts of this particular time of life. My nearly grown children, all home for the holidays, the husband who still makes me laugh after all these years, and family and friends gathering to celebrate together.
It might be selfish, but I don’t want to spend this precious time worrying about the never ending to do lists of the holidays or driving all over town or scouring the internet for the perfect present for the often cranky relative I haven’t seen in a year. That approach to the holidays just leaves me cranky as well. Instead, I want to cultivate a sense of kindness, taking time to make eye contact with people, asking how they are and really listening to their answers. I want to maintain my composure at the large family gathering with the kids/teens/dogs/crazy uncle and know that my presence matters.
So this year, if I don’t pick the perfect present or don’t contribute to every cause, I know that it will be ok. I will search for those moments of peace, even if they seem few and far between. And in those times, I will be there for the people in my life, giving them the gift of peace, if even for just a moment, because that may be the best gift we can give each other.
Catherine Gentry is a writer living in Houston, Texas. She retired from practicing law to raise her three nearly grown children, and her writing has been featured online at Literary Mama, Grown & Flown, the “Voices” section of the Princeton Alumni magazine, and in the Houston Chronicle, as well as on her blog, “Words Count” https://catherinewordscount.wordpress.com/featured-writing/