LETS TALK about Christmas
Saanich News December 2003
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual, Couple, and Family Counsellor
Xmas is coming and I'm in a flap already! It's supposed to be a peaceful happy family time and I feel tense and anxious. Do you have suggestions to help me control this growing anxiety ? Help !
Okay, Joan, the holidays are upon us and you're feeling stressed already. Well, you're not alone. Through Christmas, millions of people suffer, usually quietly, from overwhelming tension and stress. We can get a little "crazy" during Christmas. What has us so wound up?
The first thing I have to say is: relax. I get that you're feeling anxious. Yet Christmas is like sex: its best not to get over-invested, over-concerned about it. It will happen naturally. Christmas has its own magic.
You wonder what has us so "crazy" at Christmas time? We're bombarded. Christmas stimulates highly loaded memories in all of us. Our mind contains a mine-field of childhood recollections and meanings - hopes, dreams, disappointments, losses, fears. So often our feelings are trying to recapture or solve something, escape, or simply encounter these young and hidden energies.
If you are feeling "crazy", I invite you to quiet yourself enough to experience what's there from the past. Meet it. Acknowledge it. Perhaps share with a friend your recollections, longings, and disappointments of Christmases past. In the counselling profession we call these, simply, "Christmas feelings". Once acknowledged and communicated, the past has less of a hold on us. We can then be more present to this Christmas.
How else do we become a little "crazy" at Christmas? We become fear driven about…. good grief… all the things we have to do!
Christmas has become one huge "to do" list ! The lights, tree, presents, stockings, cards, relatives, house, cranberry sauce (We must have Auntie Ruth's cranberry sauce) and - the pleasing everyone, Over the years, we have accumulated so many expectations, responsibilities, traditions. Like it just wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't do these things.
Yet how often do we come to the end of Christmas sighing "My God. What happened? We didn't have Christmas. We survived Christmas." Actually some of us weren't even present to Christmas!
It reminds me of a post card sent me by my friend David: "Dear Paul. Vacationing in Mexico. Having a fabulous holiday. Wish I was here!"
What about letting Christmas come to us? What about "receiving" Christmas; gently letting Christmas take us, instead of "surviving" it?
"Being present" to Christmas requires giving some things up, surrendering the "have to's", the rules, the inflated expectations. The having to do it all.
I got news. First, you don't have to do it all. Christmas will be just fine if you don't get all the Christmas cards sent. Or if you don't get the lights up. And, yes, even if you don't have Aunt Ruth's cranberry sauce.
Secondly, YOU don't have to do it all. You - all by yourself. Delegate. Let someone else mash the potatoes or get the tree up, or pick up your sister, and then get out of the way. Detach from how it all turns out.
Then there is something else. We are not only driven to do all these things but we are driven - to do them all right ! (read perfectly) It all has to work out a certain way. Well, I have more news for you. At Christmas?.... Things will go wrong.
Uncle Fred will be late. ("Paul. It's Fred ! I missed the ferry !") You won't find that perfect gift for your father. ("Thanks son - a tie. Did I tell you I gave all my ties to your uncle?") You will misplace that present ! Perhaps even the car. Yes, things will go wrong. Make peace with it now.
The point is what is the use of celebrating together if we totally lose ourselves and our joy in doing so?
There is a magical spirit at Christmas time wanting to touch us all. This spirit has nothing to do with doing things. It is found neither in "doing" nor in "things". It is found in listening for, or tuning into, a small and quiet place within.
So, Joan, want to try something? Once again, quiet your self and have a look. At your deepest quietest place. Ask: what does Christmas mean to you? Peace? Family? Love? Joy? Celebration? Giving? Quietly listen.
What was your answer? Write it on a piece of paper. Tape it on your mirror.
Now, I have a challenge for you. Don't count on the externals to deliver this to you. You bring it TO Christmas. Bring it to all you do. Just for the fun of it.
Bring it to the shopping line up. Bring it to the parking ticket you just got. Bring it to the Christmas tree. Bring it to your husband, children, your family.
Christmas, like so much of our life, is an internal game. And if we can look after that in our selves we have a hold of the real Christmas present!
Take care Joan. I wish you and your family a super holiday.
Paul Beckow is a trained individual, marriage, and family therapist with over 20 years experience. If you have a relationship and/or family concern, write to him c/o Victoria Family Institute, 4046 Century Rd., Victoria B.C., V8X 2E4, e-mail him at pbeckowLETSTALK@shaw.ca., or call 250 721 2477.
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.