Published in ChicagoNow, November 18, 2013
It’s mid November and my holiday panic has arrived! My personal countdown, driven by the demands and commercial trappings of the holiday season, has begun and my stress level is rising. How do I know it’s time to start worrying about gifts and menus for family gatherings?
The pumpkins have been swept from the seasonal special shelves, usurped by turkeys and feathers (and in an unusual occurrence this year, Hanukkah dreidels).
The Christmas aisles are brimming with goodies wherever I shop.
My inbox is flooded with toy ads for my darling grandkids. (My computer has a special cookie that tells them what a sucker I am!)
Catalogs flood my mail box, despite having opted out of receiving them many times, telling me that I want/need an endless supply of trinkets and treasurers.
I wake up at 2:30 wondering how to create a Thanksgiving menu for ravenous meat eaters, vegetarians, and little kids who would rather have pizza. Or whether it is crazy to serve latkes with stuffing this year. Alternatively, I make gift lists in my head for my seven grandkids, trying to come up with the perfect presents in equal number for each child. This is my version of counting sheep and will usually lull me back to sleep before I finish the lists.
At this time of year, it's often difficult for me to separate what I want from what I really need and to value what really matters. Let me share part of a poem by Stine (If you can find the poem or the author’s full name, please share!) that I often read at this time of year to help me refocus:
Serious things are PEOPLE things
And people things I care about.
Almost everything else that affects me
Things that squeeze into each day
And try to squeeze me dry...
If my day has no play
Then I watch children
And listen to their world
And try to let it flow into me...
And I must ask myself,
Is it all that serious today?
When my children were young, I let these “things” take too much time away from enjoying my kids at this time of year because of all I had to get done to create a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner or choose the best gift possible for everyone on my list. As the countdown to the end of December progressed, my anxiety rose and my patience declined.
Now that I am a grandmother, I have to remind myself to focus on what the years have taught me: the best gift I can give myself at this crazy time of year is a reality check about what really matters. I have to remind myself, “It’s the people things, stupid.”
There is an ancient legend about a man searching for a treasure. He looks all over the country in every conceivable location, but never finds it. Then, he realizes that the treasure was in his own backyard all the time. It was right there, if only he had taken the time to look for it.
Despite what Amazon.com tells me several times a day, despite the pressure of holiday dinners and gift giving, I finally understand that the real treasure has always in the most obvious place – in the blessing of family and good friends.