In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and full disclosure, I must disclose that I had every intention of writing a lovely blog post about Christmas and all the magical things that Christmas involves… before Christmas. Post Christmas, in the light of the fact that I not only didn’t get my blog post written, but also didn’t get my tree until 4 days before Christmas, didn’t get my Christmas packages out until the day before Christmas Eve (ensuring that the complicated and delicate cookies and truffles I made would be in transit for the longest possible period of time, ugg) and didn’t even send out the handful of “top priority” Christmas cards that were on my “non-negotiable” list (I sell Christmas cards! I have stacks of Christmas cards sitting on my desk and I didn’t write one!) I’ve decided instead to write about what I will and will not be giving up for New Years. And, while my pre-Christmas madness certainly highlights some of the things I’d like to give up in the New Year – namely an inability to be reasonable about what one person (namely myself) can accomplish in one day – I don’t plan on letting go of all the stress and chaos completely and I’ll explain why.
As our lives have become busier and busier and by extension more stressful, rightly or wrongly, stress has become societies enemy number one. So it’s not surprising that you can’t turn around without being admonished to eliminate your stress and replace it with it’s supposed antidote, a state of perfect and perpetual balance (allegedly achievable through all sorts of products, services, and self-help guidance.) Now don’t get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly in balance – just ask my husband to whom I’m always advising a more balanced lifestyle (although let’s be honest for a moment and acknowledge that men aren’t born with any sense of balance at all so their only hope of even a minimal level of balance comes through us, their wives… but of course that’s another topic altogether!) I believe balance is indeed essential in nearly every area of life. Cooking a brilliant meal requires the perfect balance of flavor profiles and textures. Working at a computer all day should be balanced out with a brisk walk outside. And, I think it’s absolutely vital to carefully balance the merits of both sides of any argument. In most cases our health and happiness as human beings lies in finding the balance between two extremes, so it isn’t surprising that so many people are promoting and pursuing it.
However, I do take issue with the seemingly growing push to have us all strive for a perfect state of balance all day every day. Everytime we turn around there is someone who would have us believe that if we are not floating, mindfully (while deep breathing) from one task to the next, (NEVER, EVER multi-tasking!) feeling a deep and balanced sense of accomplishment all the while, then we are doing something wrong. And let’s not forget that there supposedly exists a balanced state in which we spend all the fulfilling, quality time we could ever want with our children and spouse, while also keeping a perfectly clean and organized house, and at the same time accomplishing great things in our work life with zero stress – it’s just a matter of better time-management, mindfulness, prioritization, and organization! There always seems to be someone out there with an impeccable Instagram feed telling you that perfect and perpetual balance can and should be achieved, leaving the rest of us feeling guilty about not having the time or energy to figure out how to do less while somehow magically accomplishing more! The result is that lots of us are left feeling stressed about feeling stressed!
Not only do I think trying to maintain perfect balance, control, and emotional zen at all times is a recipe for failure and self loathing, I would argue that it is actually undesirable period. Organizing, streamlining and otherwise gaining efficiencies in everyday life is great (and something I strive for daily) but that covers only the maintenance responsibilities of life – what about growth? I don’t know about you but I don’t want to spend my whole life fine tuning the efficiency of mundane maintenance tasks as an end unto itself! I want to accomplish big things and accomplishing big things is inevitably messy, schedule disrupting, and stressful by its very nature. If this is not true for you, God bless you, but I think for most of us there will be times when we have to drop everything and throw ourselves full bore into a given project in order to complete it and feeling guilty about not being calm, cool, collected and perfectly organized in the process is counterproductive at best and psychological torture at worst. I love order and feeling in control as much as the next person but nothing big and important is accomplished without some chaos and stress along the way and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or has never done anything big or important!
I believe there is wisdom in allowing ourselves to have a more macro view of balance. Not to get too anthropological but humans and animals alike have always lived within cycles of heavy exertion followed by periods of rest, often mirroring the cyclical seasons of nature. I would argue that requiring a perfectly balanced mindset of ourselves, all day everyday is not our natural state and thus putting that expectation on ourselves is really kind of stressful! Taking a more long range or cyclical view of balance gives us the freedom to do the things we need to do to accomplish great and satisfying things. I for one will take that!
So, in retrospect, could I have done a few things differently during Christmas prep to lower my stress and save a bit of my sanity? Without a doubt! And those things will be on my New Year’s resolution list! However, now that the dust has settled and I’ve had a few days to reflect I’m not sorry that I embraced the craziness to make some things happen that I didn’t really have time for – I got beautiful Christmas packages out to deserving relatives, I bought thoughtful gifts for loved ones, we did manage to get our tree before Christmas and spend an evening decorating it while listening to classic Christmas Carols and drinking hot chocolate, and I successfully put on a great Christmas Eve dinner for my in-laws! While the Tri-colored Italian Hazelnut cookies were probably over the top and not entirely necessary, they turned out delicious and were enjoyed by all and ultimately I can’t say I regret a minute of the Christmas madness. Although I must admit, it did take me a few days of sleeping in to come to that conclusion! 🙂
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well. Here’s to a Happy New Year of accomplishing great things… while also knowing when to balance it all out with some rest and relaxation!