Behind The Perfect Holiday Card… Is A Mess

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

It can seem like you are the only one sitting at home while others head off to festive holiday parties or head out of town on a wonderful vacation to 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 festive holiday concert last night! It was like a real life walk (nightmare) through Facebook.

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

Yesterday I ran too hard for too long – with social events, work commitments, and school activities, and layered on top of several weeks of doing the same, I wore myself out. I felt overextended. Even my 9-year-old daughter, who was out celebrating with me late into the evening, felt it too. The frenzy of the holidays, the feeling that if you are not out there mixing it up, experiencing life in full color that 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 lying 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 sitting trying to be inspirational when I really just feel 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 wonderful 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 that we need to rest, to take a break from the craziness and quest for excellence: the perfect holiday, the perfect partner, the perfect job, the perfect business, the perfect way to celebrate, and 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.

In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret: to make my kids smile on my perfect holiday card this year, I had to do some crazy, demoralizing things. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say, it was not my finest hour. And, I gladly did it to give the outward appearance of perfection: happy children with smiling faces 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 is something to bring us together in a way that no impossibly-flawless holiday experience will never do.

May you navigate the minefield of the holidays with a sense of humor, knowing that we are all holding on by the skin of our teeth, doing the best we can.

And that is OK.

Photo by on Unsplash