So I’m back after a bit of a break to re-focus. I’m sure you enjoyed the break from me too. D’you know the first thing my husband said to me this morning?
“I think it’s two weeks today. You know, Christmas”.
It was just such joyful news to hear, that I jumped straight out of bed, opened the advent calendar, and punched the air with excitement.
Actually, I sighed, very deeply and buried my head in the pillow. A loooooooooooong list of things I should have done by the momentous “two weeks till Christmas” mark flashed up in the front of my mind in NEON LIGHTS, followed by a long list of expletives (silently, obviously).
This year was supposed to be different. But I’m being hard on myself really. This year is different. Not in terms of organisation, but in terms of my attitude. And that, I think, is a lot more important. I still haven’t even sent any Christmas cards let alone anything else, but this year, as my perspective changes, I’m starting to be more joyful in my chaos (aside from those PMT moments of course), rather than wallowing in it pitifully. Next year, I might write a survival guide for myself which gets me organised a little earlier, but I reckon I’d have to do the steps for that one in like… July. I’m not sure my new positive Christmas attitude is quite that evolved yet.
So, lets have a little look a what we have in store for Day 11 of A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide. Let’s hope there’s some magical cure for getting my Christmas act together. Somehow I think I might be sorely disappointed on that front….
Day 11 – A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide.
There’s a quote my husband often likes to tease me with (usually when I’m being a little “me-focussed”):
“Marriage is all about two givers trying to out-give each other”.
I’m gonna rephrase that, for the purposes of today’s step for survival….
“Christmas is all about givers trying to out-give each other”.
Picture the scene. It’s Christmas Eve. That friend knocks the door unexpectedly. You know that friend don’t you? The one who NEVER buys you a Christmas present and always forgets your birthday? I mean never, as in never before THIS Christmas. The colour drains from your face as you invite her in and she’s clutching a prettily wrapped gift with your name on it. You mentally go through all your cupboards trying to think of something you can wrap in a mad hurry while you excuse yourself to “use the bathroom”.
You quickly realise you have nothing except a bottle of wine, and that’s in the cabinet in the room she’s standing in. You already used up your last “emergency” gift yesterday. You feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. She shoves said present in your hand. You didn’t even write her a card. This is BAD.
“Ah, that’s so erm, so kind of you. You know I’m so disorganised this year! I haven’t even got around to wrapping! I was gonna drop yours round later” you say, squirming.
“Oh don’t worry about wrapping it! I don’t mind, you can give it me now if you like”.
There’s no danger of you “outgiving” this friend. She’s already done you favours this year at a ratio of 20:1. You’re gonna have to spend the whole of January babysitting her kids to make up for this. It’s a serious “friend fail”.
Move on to Christmas Day, round the Christmas tree. A relative who’s “just visiting” hands you a gift…. “I just know you’re gonna love this!!!” they exclaim, grinning from ear to ear. Now, a few years ago, you got a new cat. So you quite like cats. Last year, this person bought you a cat ornament and a cat calendar. You try not to guess what’s coming…
“Oh how erm, adorable” you lie “it’s erm, a… what is it, exactly?”
“It’s a cat doorbell of course, look: (they demonstrate) it ‘miaows’ whenever someone’s at the door. And you can even set it to purr or hiss too! Isn’t it cute?
All you can think of is, “how on earth am I gonna get away with not putting this on my front door? Can I just do it whenever I know this person is coming over? What if they turn up unannounced?” (highly likely).
You knew this was gonna happen. Which is why you decided to buy them a hideous ornament of a horse to help with their horse-phobia. Miaow!
Ah, you’re just two givers trying to outgive each other. How lovely.
Seriously, this whole present-giving pressure does my head in sometimes. Even if the above doesn’t happen, it’s quite likely that instead of enjoying the whole process of giving and receiving, for some of us, our inner monologue will be running ten to the dozen with…
“Oh crap, he just spent three times the amount on me that I spent on him. He’s gonna think I’m so tight”.
“She always buys me expensive presents. I spent a fortune on her this year so I didn’t feel bad, and this year I get a pair of socks? Is that all I’m worth to her?”
“He didn’t even say thank you. Doesn’t he realise I had to practically get crushed to death to buy that on Black Friday and use my credit card? So ungrateful“.
“I really should have put a bit more thought into buying for her after what she’s just bought me. They’re gonna think I’m a terrible friend.” Cringe.
“Great, last year she bought for me and I didn’t buy for her, so this year I got her something. Looks like she didn’t buy for me this Christmas because I didn’t buy for her last year. Hmmm, well isn’t this just a bit awkward eh?“
Thought for the day:
Last week, in my post “A Damsel in Dis-stress” I mentioned that I wanted to get rid of some of the mindsets which actually add unnecessary stress to my Christmas:
“I believe that the weight of perfectionism, pride, unrealistic expectations, guilt and insecurity all end up tipping the scales towards breaking point.”
So this year, I don’t want to be a giver trying to outgive just because I don’t want to be the one who buys the cheap rubbish gifts. That’s just pride getting in the way. I want to give for the right reasons. I want to give from the heart, completely free from the shackles of pride, guilt, insecurity and unrealistic expectations.
I think that real, honest, stress-free gift-giving (and receiving) needs me to be real, honest and stress-free. Well that’s kind of obvious, but how do I do that?
I have to look beneath the surface at the mindsets and behaviours that steer my gift-giving attitude. The way I see it, I need to trade pride for humility, perfectionism for a willingness to fail, unrealistic expectations for realistic ones, and find an antidote for guilt and insecurity. Easy peasy right?
Task for today:
The only real, lasting way I know to smash destructive mindsets is firstly, to recognise that they are there, and then to recognise that I can’t change them on my own. I need God’s power. That power is so strong that it raised Jesus back from the dead. That power is available to me to destroy destructive mindsets before they destroy me. But I have to want to access that power. Ironically, there are many people out there who are too proud to ask God for help to get free of pride and be humble instead. There are people who are too obsessed with perfection to ask for God’s help to feel free to fail. There are people who can’t let go of guilt and accept God’s grace and forgiveness. And that is one big humungous shame.
I’m not saying that we can’t help ourselves. We HAVE to help ourselves. But trying to do it alone, without God’s help, will only get me so far. That’s like the difference between drinking a caffeinated drink to energise me, or making sure I have a regular intake of nutritious food and water. The caffeine helps in the short term and takes less time and effort, but I’m basically accessing my own reserves of adrenaline rather than drawing energy from a source outside of myself. It’s only going to get me so far before I run out of steam.
So firstly, I’m just going to be more aware of what’s going on for me emotionally, behind the scenes so to speak, when I choose and give a gift.
Secondly I’m going to draw on power that is outside of myself, to bring about real, lasting, deep healing and change. That’s a long process, and it won’t be over by Christmas, but it’s a case of getting started.
In the words of the apostle Paul: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.
Jesus is my greatest role model when it comes to showing humility, grace and love. He’s got the perfect antidote to guilt, insecurity and unrealistic expectations – that’s the fact that he loves me just as I am, and any stuff I do that’s bang out of order or just plain destructive, he offers complete forgiveness. That’s what he went to the cross to sort out, so I need to quit beating myself up and talking myself down. And as for perfection, well, he’s the only one who ever got to those dizzy heights, so I should really cut myself some slack on that one, and others too, while I’m at it.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time….
(Taken from The Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr)
(Bible verse taken from Ephesians 3.16)