Behind The Perfect Holiday Card… Is A Mess

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It’s easy to feel like other people have their lives together, especially at this time of year, when holiday cards arrive in bright envelopes filled with smiling faces.

It can seem like you are the only one sitting at home while others are at festive holiday parties or on vacation or bask in the glow of friends and family. Gosh, even a stroll through a holiday catalog is enough to give you a sense of FOMO.

No wonder this time of year is hard for so many.

Take yesterday, for example.

As I drove through our scenic downtown, every restaurant and café I passed buzzed with life, festivities, and parties I was not invited to—and, I felt this way even though I went to a holiday concert last night! It was like a real life walk (nightmare) through Facebook.

Earlier, after schlepping to school to volunteer at my kids’ classroom holiday parties, I could see the excess and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Volunteering was the last on my list of pre-Christmas commitments. I arrived to find enough parents there to fill a basketball team and enough treats to feed an army. Each family wanted to do something nice for the class; put together, it was way over the top.

Yesterday I ran too hard too long–social events, work commitments, and school activities, on top of several weeks of doing the same, I wore myself out. I was overextended. Even my 9-year-old daughter, who was celebrating with me late into the evening, felt it too. The frenzy of the holidays, the feeling that if you are not out there experiencing life in full color you are missing out, can be toxic.

If there ever was a time to pull back and take a moment to be intentional, it is now.

Today, we’re paying the price for not doing so. My daughter is on the couch in a TV coma as she throws up every few minutes, whether from overindulging in holiday festivities or her flu shot yesterday (yes, I mixed that in there, too, overly ambitious person that I am). My son keeps saying “I’m bored” and “What are we doing today?” as he passes time playing video games on my phone. How wholesome and holiday-ish. My husband is out walking our stinky dog to get some peace and quiet, taking a break from the chaos. And I’m ready to pack it in for the night and year (even though it’s only 1:30 pm).

With Mercury Retrograde these past few weeks, it’s been an especially chaotic holiday season for many of us.

From my own family to my clients, I’ve seen or experienced travel delays, computer malfunctions, cranky children and co-workers, delayed job offers, and derailed projects. It is making, for many, this year go out with a whimper instead of a bang, with issues unresolved and important projects unfinished.

From where I sit, it feels like a wake-up call.

It’s a reminder we need to rest, take a break from the quest for excellence: the perfect holiday, perfect partner, perfect job, perfect business, perfect way to celebrate. To just take it easy for a while.

If you are feeling like you are the only one not doing something wonderful this holiday, the only one who does not have their life or career together, take heart. I am here to tell you confidently that you are not alone.

I’ll let you in on a secret: to make my kids smile on my perfect holiday card this year, I did crazy, demoralizing things. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, it was not my finest hour. I gladly did it to give the appearance of perfection: happy smiling children and a life seeming without blemish. Ha. You and I know the real truth. Life is messy.

And that is truly something to celebrate: our collective humanity. It brings us together in a way that no impossibly-flawless holiday experience will never do.

May you navigate the holidays with humor, knowing we are holding on by our teeth, doing our best.

And that is OK.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash