Just the term ‘silly season’ should give us a clue about what is really going on. 2020 was no different for me. Months of planning, preparation, organising, agonising over gifts, event planning, anticipation, excitement and of course stress by the bucket load. Every year, I look forward with such anticipation to Christmas. It’s a time of family togetherness, downtime, sharing and spending valuable time with our loved ones. Yet again, I got to the end of another Christmas with a similar sense of letdown. Why does this happen each year? The build up and the lead in with so much emotional charge, with the actual event often anti-climatic at best and downright emotionally draining at some points.
Now please don’t misunderstand me here, I love Christmas and it’s absolutely my favourite time of the year. Nothing pleases me more than watching the children open their gifts from Santa whilst I nurse a hot cuppa tea and smile at hubby over their heads as they squeal in excitement over their presents. I love that feeling of having my efforts all feeling worthwhile in that moment. I love attending mass with our family on christmas eve, taking time out for a moment’s peace and simple reflection. This is the good stuff. Unfortunately, that is not all that comes with Christmas.
We usually have Xmas Eve with the in-laws, and Christmas Day with my family, generally at our house. We enjoy hosting and have often had the right set up with a pool and outdoor space to accommodate the large group we have become. In addition, there is about two weeks leading up to Christmas filled with social events, work parties, friend and neighbour catch ups that involve eating, drinking, exchanging gifts and so on. My husband jokingly calls it the Festival of Tash. Evidently, I am guilty of cramming as many social events and catch ups as I can into the calendar, dashing from one to the next, ensuring no one is skipped. I struggle to say no, despite my best intentions, and find myself being dragged from pillar to post in a blur of festivities.
It’s no wonder that I get to the end of Christmas Day itself and feel absolutely exhausted. Why do I not learn that each year, I get caught in the same trap and neglect the signs that it is all too much. It takes me literally days to recover from it all. Those who know me or have read some of my previous blogs know that I am naturally inclined to be a people pleaser and helper. It is the way I learnt from a young age that in order to prove my worth and be loved. By being the consummate and gracious host, anticipating everyone’s needs and ensuring everyone is happy, I fulfil my need to be loved and worthy. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to trigger this behaviour in me. My hubby joked with me as we slumped on the couch close to midnight on Christmas night after the epic clean up that it is hilarious to watch me spur into action when my family arrives. I buzz around the house tending to people, fixing drinks, cleaning up messes, hovering over the children trying to ensure everyone’s needs are met. According to my activity tracker, I had walked 6km that afternoon, basically in circles around the house. I barely sat down.
Now this narrative is not about you feeling sorry for me or a poor me story. Rather I think my story is rather unremarkable and not at all unique to many of the women and mums out there. I know just in my circle of so many women who spring into action during this time running on adrenaline to ensure that their family and friends have an enjoyable time and everyone is happy. A friend of mine explained that she spent her entire Christmas lunch trying to manage the conversations between the different relationships, ensuring everyone was feeling included, sharing their story and diffusing conflict as she saw them arising. I completely resonate with this as this is what I find myself doing. I am constantly on the lookout for what others might need and I am jumping out of my chair to do things for others to ensure their comfort and enjoyment. Heaven forbid if someone might need to grab their own chair or find their own drink. That would be a poor reflection on me and could tarnish their view of me as the perfect host. The question I ask is why do I do this?
The immediate answer might be that I’m selfless and deferring my needs in favour of others. But I think we need to dig a bit deeper. In reality, I am fulfilling my own need to be needed and my feeling of unworthiness, so actually this is a selfish act. I am also not serving those around me as I am not present in the moment and actually with my family. By doing all these things for people too, I am unwittingly saying that they are not capable of doing it for themselves. I am perpetuating an unhealthy cycle that begins and ends with me. Only I can change it.
I felt really flat in the few days post Christmas and I complained to my hubby about the mental load of it all and how it’s so exhausting. But to be honest, we do it to ourselves do we not? I assume complete control of purchasing all the presents for everyone (both sides of the family), I liaise with both families about the xmas plans (including negotiating the politics of who gets the coveted ‘lunch’ slot), I organise all the social events leading up to Christmas to ensure we see everyone. I do it because I like to be in control, I like to feel needed and I like to show my worth and value to others. That is the truth, and it is why I struggle every year to let go.
It is only as I write this blog that the truth hits me hard. I am not hard done by, I am the master of my own creation. Only when I decide to let go will I be able to try to approach Christmas differently, and perhaps have less of an emotional hangover when it’s all done and dusted. So this year is gone, but there’s always 2021!
How does this pattern play it out in your life? Does the silly season amplify this behaviour or have you learnt how to navigate your way through? Please share with me, I’d love to hear from you.
Live, Love and Laugh,