How to Embrace Wonder & Avoid Overwhelm
Typically, this is the time of year that I most dread. As soon as the leaves exchange glorious green for the warmth of red, yellow, orange and brown, I reluctantly peek around fall’s corner to see Christmas barreling towards me. My inner serial monologue begins with a long dread-filled exhale:
Here come those shorter days and longer nights, and the inevitable Christmas time. Actually, I welcome the solar shift as it is the ideal time for hibernating, resting, and reflecting on the past year and contemplating goals for the impending year. But the contemporary and commercial demands of Christmas (which each year seem to increasingly devour more and more days) steal away the shorter days for preparing, shopping, decorating, mailing, and running all the errands. Simultaneously, the longer nights get over scheduled with holiday gatherings and parties.
I complain, Why is everyone throwing holiday parties at the same time? Can’t these gatherings and celebrations be sprinkled throughout the year? I would love a party in June. Winter’s cold weather asks us to don layers, thick sweaters, boots, coats, and hats, not dainty evening gowns and uncomfortably fierce heels.
My sentiments continue to spiral.
I spend all year trying to maintain a clean, clutter-free, relaxing, “cozy-minimalist” home, and then Christmas assaults my simple, monotone-themed, serene spaces with screaming, bright red, contrasted with hunter green, sparkly tinsel, giant socks dangling, a giant tree erected inside my house, adorned with so many lights, placed front and center commanding all the attention! How much time do I lose daily adjusting the stuff on the tree? How much money do we lose stuffing things under the tree?
My Scrooge-ery persists.
I am overwhelmed as I contemplate the expectations of the “holiday Marthas” — Stewart or Lazarus’ and Mary’s sister, or anyone who lovingly and painstakingly prepares an elaborate table but is ultimately disappointed when the guests and the gathering don’t present like a Hallmark commercial. Each year, Martha’s displeasure pollutes the atmosphere and chokes out the joy.
As you can imagine, anticipating all the challenges of the long holiday season in the span of a few minutes is exhausting. The exhaustion ushers in anxiety and dread. The encroaching darkness of my emotions and of the season compel me to escape. Honestly, I would love to go on an international weeks-long vacation to avoid the holiday madness, but for practical purposes (i.e. not in the budget), escape is not an option.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:19 (NIV)
But in my darkness, I pursue light. Among the anxiety-inducing demands of the holidays, I go in search of the holy. The Hebrew word for holy is qadosh, which means something that is “other” or has been “set apart for a special purpose.” And though the word holiday is formed from the words “holy” and “day,” often times I have struggled to experience a sense of sanctity and consecration during the stressful, common demands of this season.
I have learned the art and beauty of a more sacred practice — a practice where I seek that which is uncommon and special during this time of the year: I am replenished by acknowledging the HOLY in the midst of the holidays.
I marvel at the expression of generosity. I watch family members with little GIVE much so that those with nothing can receive gifts. I giggle in disbelief thinking about how the adults in my family will lavish gifts on our children, not because our children lack anything, but just because the adults love sowing into children.
I get excited about the winter break, where the normal hustle and bustle of carpooling, commuting, and schedule-keeping is suspended. The break in the daily grind makes room to RESET, to consider doing life a different way, to make amendments and revisions, to dream a bigger dream.
I contemplate the family-gathering shenanigans. I have the privilege of belonging to a family that has for generations, consistently gathered for holidays and Sunday-after-church meals. We pack a multitude of folks into love-filled homes, around feast-filled tables overflowing with so much food that there is no room for place settings. We balance our plates along with our children and their plates on our laps. We highlight and share everything in our lives to laugh about. Due to COVID-19 safety measures, this practice has been limited. But we still have the memories, and the inter-webs make it possible to GATHER and share.
I look forward to our official festivities that help the holiday season feel SINCERE. I love watching our children adorn our Christmas tree with the ornaments that they’ve created since they were toddlers. It’s nerve-wrecking to watch them fight over what they consider prime real estate on the tree (eye-roll), but I love listening to them share stories about each of their creations. And for me, it’s not the Christmas season until I hear “Silent Night” by The Temptations.
I am filled with wonder knowing that during this season, the ending of the shortest and darkest day of the year marks the beginning of longer, brighter days in the making. I am grateful that this solar shift from darkness to light is marked as a time to celebrate the dawning of A NEW DAY.
This holiday season, may the wonder outweigh the overwhelm!
Lucretia earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and MA in English from Iowa State University, and her BA from South Carolina State University. Follow her on Instagram and Brownicity on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.