Early this morning, drifting between sleep and wakefulness as a snowplow rumbled past my bedroom window, I snuggled deeper, strangely relaxed after Christmas. Normally, I would be sleeping the heavy sleep of exhaustion after the high stress of the holidays. But this year we had the most relaxing Christmas I can remember in my whole adult life. Because I made a seemingly simple, yet monumental, change.
First, you have to understand what the holidays meant to me before. Christmas has always been an exercise in chasing perfection. Remember those old Christmas movies like White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Christmas in Connecticut? Despite trials and tribulations, everyone joins together to create the Best Christmas Ever!
I ignored the troubles and focused on the perfect Christmas at the end. We could have a Best Christmas Ever if only I could buy the perfect gifts for everyone, bake and decorate the most beautiful cookies, fantastically decorate the house and then, create the perfect ambiance of joy and wonder and excitement on Christmas morning. (You know where this is heading.) And year after year I plunged to the depths when some things just wouldn’t work out the way I planned.
This year, I was not looking forward to Christmas Day with my side of the family. The thought of spending the day in the same place, with the same traditions and memories of old conflicts and worries over new tensions had me looking for excuses to get out of it. But how could we skip Christmas? What about the kids? My mother would be devastated! All I wanted this year was a peaceful Christmas. Ha! So, I invited my whole clan over to our house for the Sunday after Christmas.
This way, I had Christmas Day at home with my little family that I’ve craved for years. We stayed in our pj’s most of the day and watched movies and laughed!
I also had a Christmas celebration with my side of the family that, despite the problems, was unthinkable to miss. Having it in a new place kept us from falling into the same old patterns, ways of thinking – and arguing. Now, I know this is not new for a lot of you. But my parents have had Christmas as their house since I was a child. This was a big leap for us. I expected resistance, but everyone agreed to the change, and it worked out well. It felt different and we actually had fun!
How does this all tie in with my writing? The perfectionism I described before was the way I tried to live my life for so many years. When I took Holly Lisle’s writing course, I began to see the mental barriers (perfection being one of them) I put up to keep from writing. But I also learned that I used those same mental barriers in all parts of my life. It took time and persistence, but once I began knocking down those walls, life in general didn’t seem quite so difficult and exhausting.
But I didn’t go into Christmas this year consciously thinking these things. I just didn’t feel the strong need for “perfect” this year and I honestly didn’t feel the lack.
Because I took a leap of faith to write, my life has changed in ways I never expected. To me, that’s better than the perfect endings in those old Christmas movies.