15 December 2017

Feature: Word From the U.S

Letting Go Of Perfect For The Holidays

December: month of bright lights, parties, foods, family gatherings, and presents. Happy times of carols and good tidings, and even snow if you are lucky. Christmas is my favorite time of year, I love putting up the tree and cooking food, baking with the kids, and planning surprises. But this morning I found myself sending a message to family members saying “I’m so sorry there will be no gifts this year”. I would love to be able to wrap up hundreds of gifts for friends and family members but this year only the children will be on the list. Making ends meet is sometimes a struggle and I don’t want us to get to January 1st and have to stress out about questions like whether rent should be late this month or should we delay that already late bill instead? We have a warm and comfortable home, and enough to eat, that is the most important. I would rather spend money making sure Christmas is fun for everyone, and but not so much that it is a source of stress.

We are the norm here, a family that works hard and still struggles to make ends meet. We enjoy life when we can, have times when we have unexpected expenses, and other times when we are flush. But there are so many other people who have less than us, and this season may not always be one of happiness for them. Where we live right now in northern California there is a population of approximately 495,000. 3,600 of those people live on the streets. (Side note: that number is the same as the total amount of people whoare currently sleeping rough in the whole country of England). Sacramento isn’t an anomaly: homelessness is a huge issue all over the US. So while I am sitting in my warm apartment worrying about perfect Christmasses and if I can delay that bill another week, I also can’t not think about those who are much less fortunate than us.

I think a lot of the time we strive for perfection, and assume that anything less isn’t enough. As I scroll through social media looking at all of the beautiful trees and lights, the pieces of themselves that others portray to the world I feel both happiness and despair (it is definitely possible to feel both ends of the emotional spectrum together at the same time). 

On the one hand Christmas always makes me happy and warm inside, on the other I start to wonder if I’m lacking in the holiday joy department this year, and how I can make our Christmas perfect and also help others. Our tree isn’t up yet as we just haven’t had the time, I haven’t sent out one holiday card (I haven’t even mailed my thank you cards yet and my last child was born in July!). I haven’t even bought any presents, not even made a list! And I have no idea what we are going to cook yet. All I know is that we will be celebrating Christmas the way we always do, that it will be our first Christmas in this home, that it will be my son’s first Christmas on earth, and that my mother and brother will be joining us. We will miss my sister as she moved back to France earlier this year, but Christmasses away from family have never fazed me really as I have spent so many of them in different places, with friends, with family, even in countries where Christmas isn’t even celebrated. But for some reason I have always felt the need to make it perfect.

But I have to remember: perfect does not mean picture perfect. Perfect means warm and happy and friendly. Perfect means moments that we will remember with fondness and a laugh. Perfect really means imperfect, because it’s thanks to all the imperfections that I remember my Christmasses as a child with happiness. Perfect doesn’t mean the most beautiful tree or the most expensive presents. Perfect doesn’t mean a more beautiful picture or a better celebration than yours. Perfect means that we all have good memory of the day or days and that our children remember what we did and not what they got. Perfect means that we didn’t spend weeks stressing about how to create the perfect day. Perfect means that perfect doesn’t exist so we should stop thinking it does. Perfect is just being. And a perfect Christmas also includes a bit of giving to those that have a little less than us, doesn’t it?

May you all have your own perfect holiday celebration, whether you celebrate or not. Just remember: what you see online is never more than half of the story. Those images have a short lifespan, your memories and those of your children last forever. So let perfect be cutting yourself some slack and just letting some things go. Nothing wrong with a wonky tree without any layered design to it – especially if your kid had a blast putting it up with you. And I promise to let go of perfect this year too.

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