This is a repost, because it’s that time again. The phrase I’m keeping with me through this season: PRESENT OVER PERFECT.
Here we are, Christmastime. T-15 days until the big day, and if your week is anything like mine, it’s full of family parties and gatherings with friends, preschool Christmas programs and coffee dates with out of town friends just here for the holidays. And if your week is anything like mine, your gifts are mostly purchased but mostly not wrapped, and your laundry situation, after a busy weekend, is dire.
When I officiate a wedding, I usually meet with the bride & groom about a week out, and there are a few pieces of advice I always give. The first is that from this point on, nothing can get added to the wedding to-do list. Things can only be taken off the list, either completed or abandoned. But nothing gets added–no last minute project, no stroke of genius DIY thing you see on Pinterest. If it’s not already on the list, no matter how charming, adding it will only make you crazy.
And then I tell them that while they can add nothing to the list, I can, in fact, add two very important things to their list. First: a no-wedding-talk date. Second: rest, whatever that means–sleep, an unscheduled hour, a walk, a bath.
They always look at me like I’m nuts. I can see them thinking, we’re up to our ears in seating charts and programs to assemble and family drama to mitigate, and you want us to go on a date and then take a nap?
Because what will make their wedding day perfect is not the flowers or the favors, but a bride & groom who are happy, connected, present, patient.
And the same is true at Christmas. You can show up with your perfectly wrapped grab bag gift & your perfectly baked cookies…and your perfectly resentful and frazzled self, ready to snap at the first family member you see.
Or you can choose to rest your body & nourish your spirit, knowing that bringing a grounded, present self to each holiday gathering is more important than the gifts you bring.
So this is my advice to you this week: add nothing to the to-do list. Abandon well-intentioned but time-consuming projects. And make rest & space priorities, so that what you offer to your loved ones is more than a brittle mask over a wound-up and depleted soul.
My intention for the season is PRESENT OVER PERFECT.
I feel like every day this past week I was given an opportunity to live this out: a new friend invited me to a cookie exchange…on the only night Aaron would be home until Christmas. We didn’t have plans, per se, but I had a sense that we needed to be home together. And so I said no, which was hard for me, and our little family did approximately nothing–which was just what we needed.
I co-hosted a party the next night, and one of the things I brought was….frozen meatballs. You know I love to cook, and I was planning, of course, to make them from scratch. But it was too much–time and energy I don’t have in this season.
And, of course, no one cared. That’s the lesson in this for people like me who sometimes get wound up about doing things perfectly…90% of the people in your life won’t know the difference between, say, fresh and frozen, or handmade and storebought, and the 10% who do notice are just as stressed out as you are, and your willingness to choose simplicity just might set them free to do the same.
My friends from high school always get together this time of year, and in the last several years we’ve started a tradition of building gingerbread houses with all our kids. This year, two of us have sick kids. One is working full time in a new position. One is about 8 & 3/4 months pregnant. As the emails swirled around about a date for this year, finally one person said, “I love you all so much–enough to let tradition slide this year in order to keep things simpler this season.” Ah, yes. Yes. Yes.
Present over perfect.
Quality over quantity.
Relationship over rushing.
People over pressure.
Meaning over mania.
Those are my guiding thoughts for this season, and the ones that I keep at the forefront of my mind as I look over my plans for this week. Nothing else to be added, except blessed little stretches of rest and space.
What does this mean for your week? What might need to be crossed off your list, or simplified, or postponed until after the holidays?
What might you need to say no to, in order to bring a whole, healthy self to the things you’ve said yes to?
The irony, of course, must not be lost on us: a season that is, at its heart, a love story, a story about faith and fragility, angels, a baby, a star–that sweet, simply beautiful story gets lost so easily in a jarring, toxic tangle of sugar and shopping bags and rushing and parking lots and expectations.
In our lowest, most fragmented moments, we feel out of control, controlled, in fact, by expectations and to-do lists and commitments and traditions. This is that season, we shrug, when things get a little crazy. No avoiding it.
But that’s not true. And that’s shifting the blame. You’ve been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes. You are spending them according to your values, whether you admit it or not.
Let’s be courageous in these days.
Let’s choose love and rest and grace.
Let’s use our minutes and hours to create memories with the people we love, instead of dragging them on one more errand or shushing them while we accomplish one more seemingly necessary thing.
Let’s honor the story–the silent night, the angels, the miracle child, the simple birth, with each choice that we make.