by EMILY ORTON on DECEMBER 21, 2016
In this area, I’m an overachiever. My inadequacies always shine a little brighter at Christmas, but I survived my annual holiday meltdown. I’ve written about my anxieties before here and here. I like to think I can strategize my way around it if I focus on serving others or thinking about my Savior. That helps, of course, but I pass through the fire every year. If you’re like me, then this is for you. You’re not alone. Expect it. Embrace it. Try this advice from the Mayo Clinic or this advice from Forbes or these suggestions from author Jeff Goins. Get on to the good stuff.
My first worries usually hit around Thanksgiving when I know my with-it friends have already addressed and stamped all of their Christmas cards. I tell myself we’ll be those people this year, but I know in my heart that we won’t. The second shot of anxiety comes with the annual Christmas concert. Then I stress about decorating and baking. Will it feel special enough?—will we get a tree or not?—do we have enough lights?—are we spending enough time together? I worry about baking the nostalgic treats that mean Christmas, but not eating too many. Will our kids feel cherished on our budget? My fretting fever finally spikes, as the Amazon order-in-time-for-Christmas deadline approaches and I hit meltdown.
This year I kicked it off by picking a fight with my husband. He could tell I was making stuff up [i.e. “We always do things your way.”]. He didn’t take the bait, but I cried anyway. Then I walked to the public library to be alone. I was racing against a writing deadline. I have a dedicated quiet space to write at home. But this week I needed a few blocks of cold, windy separation. I spent the first 4,000 words on why everyone I love will be disappointed this Christmas.
I made it awkward for the three other people sharing a public coffee table with me. I didn’t say anything, but every twenty minutes or so, tears would start streaming down my face and they’d raise their newspapers a little bit. I let it wash over me and out of my system. I took a deep breath and felt lighter. Maybe I wouldn't ruin Christmas after all.
Now that I had faced my fears, I got to work. The next 4,000 words got me to my project deadline for that day. I sat in that library chair from 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. When I stood up, I was ready to be in a family again. And I was ready for real Christmas. Peaceful Christmas. Christmas that is about doing our best to give love and receive love.
I sent Erik a text: “Thank you for leaving me alone today. I needed some space. I feel better now.” He had given me the perfect gift.