When Less Is More

 It always happens sometime in mid-December.  Some Saturday or Sunday.  The day probably began with an early morning run to the market for a few ingredients to make that special dessert I always bring to the holiday potluck.  Followed by a trip to the store for some last minute gifts required for a scheduled exchange, and hastily wrapping in the back of the minivan in the parking lot.  A quick run home so everybody can change into that perfect matching outfit for the family photo appointment (waiting by the dryer for somebody’s sweater to dry, because I insisted we all wear red…).  Maybe we can fix that dead string of house lights while we are home?  Quick!  Make that homemade card for teachers while I scribble a few more cards to stick in the outgoing mail with one hand and make some peanut butter sandwiches with the other.  Then as I hurry everybody along to the car, heading for pictures, then a party or two, or maybe a parade…. My extraordinarily patient husband will reach the limit I seem to push every year.  With a glance at all the filled boxes on our wall calendar – the school performances, volunteer outings, open houses, parties, work, appointments and deadlines and  he’ll shake his head ruefully  at me.  “It’s too much!” he’ll say. 

It’s such a universal experience that magazines are filled with articles this time of year addressing the topic.  How to simplify the season in order to enjoy it more.  Have a potluck instead of cooking the whole meal!  Send your cards out in the New Year when you have more time!  Bake and swap cookies with a friend!  Cook meals ahead and freeze them!   There are so many great tips and I have read them all.  And yet, it seems I have to learn the lesson anew every year.

 I know that since my kids were born, Christmas has been a special challenge for me… a time of year that I try desperately to ensure that the most cherished family memories will be forever seared in my children’s hearts and minds.  I create traditions and try to find new joyful experiences each year, all the while embracing all of the old traditions of my childhood, my husband’s childhood, our parents’ childhoods…..We work more to do more so supposedly we can enjoy more.  And the irony is that the entire hubbub makes us so frantic and exhausted that we can barely have time to breathe, let alone savor the moments we are trying to create.  I’m not even speaking about gifts really – I’m just talking about the hustle bustle round of holiday activity.  The lesson I am reminded of every holiday season –

Less is More. 

Having arthritis in our lives seems to add an exclamation point to the sentiment!  Fatigue and pain are part of the disease.  Pushing through the season like a snowplow on high speed is an invitation for disaster.  Not to mention that lack of rest can be a welcome beacon for colds, flus and viruses… so can overdoing large crowds and public events.

When it comes to my family, I have to leave some of those calendar squares blank.  We need time to simply sit in our pajamas, eat a reasonable meal that does not include gingerbread but possibly includes vegetables, get to bed at a normal time, and just be together.  The funny thing is…. I have no control over what crazy things my kids will remember.  I can try to squeeze every last ounce of holiday fun into the month, and what they may remember is that last year, somebody put baking soda in the cornbread (instead of baking powder) and it tasted terrible.  I can bring up the pictures of our trip to see Santa at the mall, and they will remember how they called one of the elves “Cracky” because his pants were too low in the back.  I can’t pick what sticks!

So, instead, I need to pare it down and learn to say “no” to some of the invitations we are blessed to receive.  We’ll still hit our annual traditions – the local parade, the trip to see Sinter Klaas at the Dutch club, taking in the lights of Naples by boat….but I won’t feel pressed to find every possible new fun family event in the area.  Doing a few choice things, finding the most important things and really savoring them will lead us to the promised land of happy memories. Hopefully, what my kids will remember is that this was a time of joy, peace and family happiness – not one of stress and frantic hurriedness.

When it comes to this time of year, I’m learning again – Less is definitely More.

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