If the Joy of The Season™ washes over you in a cascade of bubbly gaiety, no need to read any further. For the rest, chances are, you are the designated merry-makers of your family or social circle. If you are merry-maker adjacent, I invite you to learn the ingredients of holiday sausage-making.
It begins with an undercurrent of panic that crackles beneath the days of us party throwers. At this point in the calendar, you may be thinking, “one down, three to go.” Not so festive.
There’s a reason for that. The entire production is on us and our efforts never feel like enough. We aren’t making this up in our heads. Confirmation from both culture and family comes through loud and clear: you can always do more. And do it better.
It is all but guaranteed that many of us will field complaints from the very people who do little if anything in return. And there is no one to blame. We have all been conditioned to do exactly this.
So, my ever hopeful, tireless merry-makers, let’s talk. I’m here to suggest something different for all of us this year.
Let’s unlearn the not-enoughness.
Understanding its origins is the key to surgically removing it from who you are. Not feeling enough doesn’t come from your paltry efforts. YOU DO PLENTY. How do I know? Because society has convinced you that your worth absolutely depends on it, so you do it.
This creeping crud has seeped into every inch of our lives. NOT ENOUGH is the battle cry of a system that has us believing our fulfillment lies somewhere out there and we will find it, wrap it and present it to our loved ones.
Not a bad haul for Jewish kids
No doubt you have your own collection of stories that illustrate the point. Here’s one of my many:
When my kids were little, I joined the PTA as a Room Mom.* The children of those mothers shone in a spotlight like tiny celebrities. I wanted that warm glow for my kids, so I volunteered.
I was terrible at it. The waste drove me bananas. I argued with the other mothers to scale it back. I pushed for eco-friendly reusable plates, cutlery and decor. Also recycling. At a private pre-school in Miami, this unpopular MO came to a head in an altercation so epic, one dad recorded it.
Until the boiling point, however, I sat my bewildered frog self in the steaming pot. During one party planning session, negotiations with another mom broke down. She felt the pre-school Christmas party should have a theme: gingerbread houses. The cost of her admittedly adorable decor would exceed the classroom budget by hundreds. We would need to re-purchase all supplies.
“But the reusable plates are green,” I argued. “Isn’t Christmas the theme for Christmas?”
“We have to make it special for the kids,” she insisted with a tight smile.
When I disagreed, she rallied the other mothers and won.
When all the songs had been sung and children shuffled out the door to play, the beautiful plates sat stacked in an enormous gray garbage can, smeared with holiday treats barely touched. The mothers cleaned up in silence.
Volunteering in this capacity was not who I was then or now. My continued attempts suggested just how lost in a stormy sea of my own not-enoughness I had been.
The version of me who tries to be someone I am not for the benefit of others is more self-aware these days but the insidious feeling lingers on. To get ahead of NOT ENOUGH, this is what I am telling myself:
- Your worth is not measured by how much you do for others. You were born worthy of love.
- You are doing the best you can. We all are.
- You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.
- Beware the Energy Leakage,** i.e. putting forth more energy than you get back. If what you are doing leaves you feeling resentful or trapped, that is a sign to ask this critical question, “what can WE create together?” Maybe have a family meeting.
- Think for a second about how your body will feel doing your usual holiday prep. If it is energized and excited, mazel tov! If it is daunted and snoozy, it’s time to scale it back until you get a Whole Body Yes. https://conscious.is/concepts/leading-and-living-from-your-whole-body-yes
- If you carry negative energy into your celebrations, you might assume no one notices. Guess what. Negative energy is MATTER. It is a real thing and everyone can feel it. Any action we take in negativity transmits straight into our loved ones. That goes for food prep as well. It’s the exact opposite of what we want. So let’s not.
Okay team, we can do this.
As for our family, we have chosen to do holidays differently this year. My Mother-in-Law is a fabulous cook and always willing to host us at her home in North Carolina. The generosity it takes to welcome five people with varying dietary restrictions for four days? Worth the price of holiday airfare for five. She makes the best oyster stuffing around. And this year she has promised to do it gluten-free.
Hang in there, friends. When you take a moment to acknowledge how your efforts feel and to spread the work around, you leave room for REAL joy instead of the store-bought Joy™.
WRITING PROMPT: What can you re-negotiate this year? How can you get a Full Body Yes from your holidays? Who are you asking the question, “what can we create TOGETHER?”
*Let’s not kid ourselves by calling this position Room Parent. Find me a Dad who will throw parties for other people’s children. How about for HIS OWN children? Oh, wait. My friend Annie’s husband Dave is one. There may be more of this endangered species of Dad, I don’t know. Please advise. In any event, this special unicorn dad is lauded like he cured cancer. The moms? Standard practice, no thanks required. This tiresome programming needs to change.
** Melissa Urban’s brilliant book makes a great gift for all the exhausted merry-makers in your life.
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