December is always a particularly meaningful and contemplative time for me. There’s Christmas — about which, I confess, I’m absolutely obsessed, am always immersed in by November 1, and find its trappings immensely joyful — and the whole end-of-a-year thing; but also, I was born in December. Now that I am planted smack dab at middle aged, December is more than ever a time for me to reflect on what’s really important to me. What are my goals? What do I want to try differently next year? What has our family experienced that’s worked, and what should we work together to adjust? What’s the most important stuff, and what’s extraneous? And it’s that last one that’s really a biggie for me this year.
Because this year, a couple things happened that infused even more meaning into December for me:
- My family came to visit from the East Coast. I’m a transplant to the Reno area, and though I have some cousins in the area whom I see once or twice a year, I don’t have family close by. But this Thanksgiving, for the first time since I moved here, my brother and his family, as well as my mom, came to spend Thanksgiving at our house. It was a precious time that brought into sharp focus for me what’s really important. Don’t EVER take your nearby family for granted, guys. You have no idea how hard it is to not have that.
- The week after my family left, I got sick. Like, really sick. I haven’t been sick like that — well, maybe ever. It started as a bad sore throat and a cough. It wound up as strep and bronchitis, which on their own are manageable. But when you are allergic to the antibiotics you’re given, and your airway closes up, and your kid watches you struggling to breathe at Urgent Care, being given epinephrine, put on an ambulance, and admitted to the hospital? It makes you realize how vulnerable you are. How things could have been different in a really bad way if you hadn’t been in the right place at the right time. How lucky you are to have insurance, and family and friends who care about you and will step in, in any way possible, to help you out. Look, I’m not telling you I was at death’s door or anything. Lots of people have had it way worse. But as a usually healthy person without any really dramatic medical issues, I got a small dose of it and realized that I need to count my blessings that I and my family are, on the whole, really healthy.
This December, I can honestly say that I plan to honor and celebrate the many blessings I have in my life — a loving, healthy, happy family (immediate and extended, near and far); wonderful friends; a business where I get to do the work I love and am best at, from home even; a warm, cozy house; a neighborhood and school we love; food on the table; and lots of fun and laughter.
But I also have a resolution as I go into the New Year: Let stuff go.
I spent a lot of time this year sweating a lot of small stuff. A lot of bullshit. I think a lot of us do. But this December, I resolve to focus on the good and let all that bullshit go. Starting with the following:
Mom guilt. Stop it. Stop it right now. Stop beating yourself up because you didn’t spend enough time or money on your kids, or because they’re watching too much TV, or because you packed (GASP!) Lunchables and old Halloween candy in their lunchboxes yesterday, or because you went out with girlfriends two nights in a row and left them home with Daddy or a friend or a sitter. Stop worrying that you shouldn’t be working, or that you should be working. Jeez, I swear, the hate crimes we moms commit against ourselves and each other are insane. What do you think is going to happen? Look, we are all doing our best here. None of us is an expert. I had a busy fall, and I spent a lot of time working in the evenings. I missed some things. And then I went away for five days on my annual writing retreat. But if I felt any guilt, it was quickly eradicated when my daughter told me she was thrilled she got to have “Daddy-daughter time” with her daddy all to herself, and (bonus!) she got to sleep on my side of the bed while I was gone. Dude, she was fine, and I’m a better mom for having had to time to recharge. I came home rested and ready to give her my undivided attention. Because I needed it, and when I need it, she can feel it, and that doesn’t do anyone any good. I do PLENTY of great things for and with my daughter. I’m a good mom. YOU’RE A GOOD MOM. YOUR KID WILL BE FINE. Let that shit go.
Social media envy. I fell prey to this a lot this year, and I really, really plan to stop it. And by “it,” here’s what I mean: The jealousy over someone else’s accomplishments/vacations/giant new homes/awards/notoriety/new car/INSERT THING-YOU-WANT-THAT-SOMEONE-ELSE-HAS-HERE. The high-schoolish envy that rears its ugly head when your friend posts a picture of herself out with other friends and didn’t invite you, or because someone else looks better than you do in a picture. For God’s sake, I am a grown-ass woman. If I want to hang out with a friend, maybe I should take the bull by the horns and invite her to do something. If I want to take a vacation, maybe I should plan one. What the hell am I waiting for?
I need to remember that it’s not like there’s this finite pool of good stuff. Someone else getting things doesn’t take away my ability to get things too. I resolve to stop assuming that the stuff I see on Facebook is the entirety of someone’s life, and remember that, instead, it’s a carefully curated portfolio of only the best things people want to showcase.
And by the way, I also resolve to stop feeling behind the curve about social media. I can’t keep it up, and I no longer want to try. I am absolutely baffled by Twitter and how to use it. Instagram makes no sense to me. Pinterest just leaves me feeling intimidated and unimaginative. I can’t take the time to read all your posts about all the news or politics or causes to be involved in… I mean, guys, that’s a full-time job, and I am barely keeping my head above water. I want to let some social media time go in exchange for real, face-to-face social time with the people and places I love.
And while I’m at it, here’s another thing social media has done to me that I’m letting go…
Save-the-Worlditis. The guilt that I’m not doing all the things. I want to save the world, but all the causes and disasters and bad news and things people I think I should be doing about them are overwhelming, and I’m paralyzed by the idea of determining where to start … I’m letting that shit go too. I will do the small things I can do that feel right for my heart, and I will stop beating myself up for not doing more, because I’m doing my best.
Toxic relationships. When I was younger, friends seemed like something you were supposed to accumulate. The more you had, the better. The thought of losing one — even one who was, let’s be honest, never really a friend — was heartbreaking because it put you behind in your count. But that’s one of the best things about aging: realizing that you get to choose, too. You can let go the people in your life who don’t fill you up. The ones who exhaust or drain you, who take without giving, who always seem to say the things that hurt, who make you feel like less than you are, or who just don’t get you at all. Life is short, guys. Spend that time surrounded only by the people who love and care about you, who want the best for you, who make you want to be your very best, who push and challenge and expect the best from you, because they know it’s something you’re capable of. I resolve to stop throwing myself into relationships that just don’t make me feel very good.
The need to say “yes” all the time. When I was starting my business, I said yes to everything. In fact, about 95 percent of the time, I still say yes to work. I love my work. I love opportunities. I love job security. But I am now realizing how important and valuable my time is, too. Because if middle age teaches you anything, it’s that time is flying, so you need to make it count. I can’t do it all — at least, I can’t do it all well. And I really want to do the things I do well. That means I must let go the idea that I need to say yes to everything. Rather, I need to turn down a few jobs so I can have some fun with my daughter at the park. I need to turn down a few weekend plans so I can stay home and have a lazy, restful Saturday in my jammies. I gotta let the “I really should say yes” thing go.
The holiday cards. Like I said, the holidays are my jam. December is a glorious, magical time for me. I have been listening to Christmas music at my desk since November 1st. My TV hasn’t moved from the Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas. The decorations, the shopping, the pine-and-apple-scented errrrythang…. MMMmmm. Love. It. But the cards? This was a losing battle from the get-go.
As a writer, I’m pretty crap at writing Christmas cards to people. And I have always felt guilty about it, but I need to let that one thing fall off my to-do list. I just do. My plate is full. I am truly in awe of you folks from whom, every year like clockwork, we receive Christmas cards featuring family photos that I know had to have been shot months prior and then uploaded to a photo website so you and your spouse could sit together one weeknight and creatively design a card, then order it so it could arrive in November so you would have time to fill them out and mail them so that they could arrive by, every year like clockwork, December 1st, for crying out loud. I worship you folks who can write a newsletter. We have three families in our lives who can annually be counted on to write thoughtful, comprehensive letters detailing their year. Every year I feel a twinge of guilt when I open one, thinking only this to myself: “Man. We should really do one of these. I just feel bad that they always send us a card and I don’t ever send any. Next year, I’m totally doing that.”
But no, here another December is halfway over and I haven’t done one. It’s not going to happen. I am making my peace with that. Just know this, all you folks who send them to us: We love getting them. They are important to us. They mean a lot. We proudly display them for weeks. We think of you often, and wish you only good things. We just can’t get it together to do a card. But we want to see you soon. I’m not just saying that, I really mean it.
So with that, I wish you all a holiday season full of joy, love, peace, family, friends, good health, and not an ounce of guilt.