The way she does every year. This year I was determined to beat her. To do what I wanted with my hard earned money, spend it on my dogs instead of extended family members that I only see maybe once a year.
It's not that I'm a miser, it's just that family social situations exhaust me mentally and emotionally to the point where there's nothing left for my husband, only son and animals. I like having a small family. I need to care for myself and have a lot of alone time to be able to accomplish what I accomplish during the year. If I have a modicum of time resembling a break, I usually need to dedicate it to rest.
The problem is, that both my husband and I have large families, and to boot, we're a step- family so we already have to cut our Christmases and Holidays into sections of time together and apart.
It's been absolutely maddening for years until a few years ago when I cut off holiday time with extended family entirely. I needed to set boundaries or I was going under. The exhaustion of trying to please dozens of people from 5 separate families and buy gifts for them all?! The stress and spending through entire years of budgeting (fiscal accounts and emotional) was literally taking years off my life.
This year I was all set for a quiet holiday, mass at The Cathedral and sleep-in-sex with my husband. I had managed expectations with my 13 year old that we would do a few hand picked gifts for the inner family and spend quality time doing activities just the three of us and our pets.
Then, Kaleb got his first solo part in the Christmas Choir Concert. I invited the extended family and that's where the madness ensued.
My husband had been texting with his side of the family like mad a few weeks before that, when I asked who he was texting all the time, he said his family. I wish it would have been a mistress. It would have been much simpler. Then he told me his parents wanted us to come to Christmas this year. I reiterated that I didn't think it was a good idea. We had worked so hard for the balance we had attained. He agreed and we moved on.
After the concert however, they had access to me directly.
Let me explain something here. When I'm in social situations I will be very kind and over accommodating. I can't think about what's good for me, I just give everyone what I think they want from me. Major defect in the Jessie system. Until I have let you get to know me.Then I'll be blunt, up front and more myself. So, I agreed to more dates of interaction that night than I should have.
Before I knew it, we were going to Christmas at my husband's parents, having our cute little nephews over for gingerbread houses, receiving gifts from in-laws, planning trips to see lights etc, etc. It got so excessive, so fast.
Now listen, let me tell you a secret about me and gift giving.
If you give me a gift I HAVE to give you one. I cannot receive a gift and not have something to give. If I forget someone, it devastates me. I hate for anyone to feel left out. On the occasion that I have forgotten a sister or brother-in-law, I feel horrible. Alai, everything has to have meaning because that's just who I am. The amount of pressure and precision I put on myself is tremendous.
So now all of a sudden (and without proper budgeting for the thing) were caught in the web of Capitalist Christmas.
The good news about me, is that I'm thrifty. All my business experience of working from a shoe-string budget has prepared me well. I was able to get gifts for everyone. It took 2 days of flying around in my sleigh, but I did it. The emotional toll, however, was much heavier than a financial burden.
By the time I got home, and still had to wrap all the presents. I was distraught. Seeing full well, the writing on the wall, the flaws with everything, how I was selling myself and my ideals out. I was so frustrated that I called my dad for advice. I NEVER ASK MY DAD for advice. I was raised a proud kitten. Still, I'm really glad I did, and I'm resolved now to do so more often.
He told me that all the madness was way too high of expectations and that I needed to tell everyone that it was too much. I agreed with him.
Then I had to take a real, deep honest look at myself and what I wanted. I knew that I wanted to have healthy and fulfilling relationships with as many people as possible. I knew that I needed to care for the inner Jessie and not compromise her needs and I knew that I needed to love my husband and allow his happiness to be fulfilled in our lives as well.
I love hosting parties at my house, so I streamlined everything into 1 event that took place a few days before Christmas. The family arrived, we decorated cookies and gingerbread houses from old Nordic recipes handed down to me, gave and received gifts, hugs and laughter and wrapped up the night around 10pm.
Then, my husband and I did Christmas our way. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Cathedral of the Madeline at 8pm to get seats for midnight mass. Before the program started we had the opportunity to pray and meditate in the Cathedral, surrounded by the incredible art and symbols of sacred man. I spent the time, seeking my source, submitting myself to a higher power and forgiving myself for wrong doings. I fell into a transcendental state and received guiding counsel from source and strength to take the actions that I will be responsible for in the days to come.
The program was soul stirring. If you haven't been, I HIGHLY recommend it. We ended up spending 6 hours in the cathedral and I learned again that LOVE comes in many forms. For some love is expressed through gift giving, for others it's time, for others it's a sermon or a song.
I'm thankful for all the modes that love speaks to me through. I hope in the years to come I can be more authentic with the vessels that existence communicates with me through. I know only that love is all there truly is.
The dragon of Capitalist Christmas has still not been slain. It's going to take a cultural shift that has already begun. The seeds of conservation have been planted and the truth is we have no choice BUT to change. Change is the only constant of God. The oriboris eating its tail again. Nature is the true cathedral of God and we as humans are only stewards.
Next year, let's plant trees instead of cutting them down. Let's give gifts of blessings and time and wrap them with wishes instead of paper. Let's look for ways to love our planet and be proper caretakers of the space we have been given.
I challenge you all to join in setting healthy boundaries and growing healthy communities. Study more and mediate more. Give to your mother planet.
I promise that if you take care of her, she will take care of you.