Its been a long time since I've panicked - but I did this morning. Over Christmas. There are a lot of real and imagined expectations. Expectations from family. Church expectations. Neighborly expectations. My in-law family expectations have been waaaay over the top this year. I only have one expectation for myself: to stay within the stinking budget. But with no Christmas bonus or profit share this year, I have only the usual monthly budget to work with. That gives me about $40 for all of Christmas. $30 goes to obligatory cousin gifts. The last $10 is going towards a Christmas bower (no tree).
Thankfully I've got Christmas covered for my daughters through my Disney Rewards money from my Visa. I saved all year and I haven't spent a cent on that. Disney makes it oh-so easy to acquire their merchandise without spending money if you're clever. So that means the rest of my Christmas obligations need to be homemade. Which takes time. Which I don't have.
My true self wants to withdraw from the whole thing. Instead of driving hours in the car on Christmas Eve to make sure no family member feels neglected, I'd like to stay home with my girls and husband and bake cookies. Instead of running ragged trying to do all my church and neighborly obligations, I want to watch 'Its a Wonderful Life' and cuddle with my puppy. Because those are the things I don't do because I'm so busy trying to do everything else.
But Christmas is the season of giving. To think of others, even if it doesn't make one 'a penny richer' in the Dickensian sense. The past five Christmases have seen me try to do this - to fulfill all expectations, whatever the cost. And every New Years Day has found me sick, tired, and so damn glad its over, and muttering about how much better the Fourth of July is as a holiday.
So I'm trying to figure out what it means to have the Christmas Spirit. Does it mean to ignore your pocketbook in honor of endeavoring to make others happy? Spend time (which you don't have) and money (that's not there) freely, and deal with the consequences come January?
That's one option, and since we've been married we've always gone down that road. This year I've thought of another, very tempting option - to skip Christmas. To excuse ourselves from the exhausting, difficult parts of the holiday, and do the things we always want to do but never find time. This option sounds wonderful, but it is sure to offend. Are we ready to deal with guilt trips?
I'm not sure what we'll choose. But I sure can't wait for the Fourth.