My reality was far from my dream.
The Christmas tree was dragged up from the basement early in December, and there it sat. The poor tree is a pre-lit tree, but most of the lights no longer work. I needed my husband's help to get strings of lights wrapped around it. But day after day went by without us able to get the time to do any decorating. Finally, on December 20, we were down to the wire, either we take it down that night, or we decorate it, because there was no way I was going to have a birthday party just before Christmas with an undecorated tree in the middle of the room. So, instead of the beautiful fully decorated house, we got a tree decorated in about 30 minutes. It certainly is not perfect, but the kids enjoyed it. (We also still had a couple of pumpkins sitting in our living room from our Canadian Thanksgiving decorations.)
At the end of November, when I should have been finalizing my Advent plans, we had a little surprise. Or rather a big surprise. We learned that I was pregnant with baby #4! Thankfully, I have never been one to get really sick, but I still get quite tired. And I also needed to quickly start making plans and appointments and a multitude of other things. I didn't have the energy to decorate. I didn't have the energy to get an elaborate Advent calendar set up. And as I looked at the time until Christmas, I realized that I would not be able to follow through with it either. So, before it even started, I said "no" to that activity. Instead, each night in December, we talked about the Christmas story and what it means to us today, and learned a new Christmas carol. And lo and behold, the boys loved it. And I was glad to do something no-fuss.
The biggest curveball that life threw at me in December was a nasty virus that knocked me down for a whole week! And that virus pretty much knocked off the rest of the wonderful plans for Christmas. I still managed to read a couple of books to the boys about Christmas in other countries, but that was about it.
Was I miserable in December, though? Actually, no. See, I had read a book (I was privileged to receive an advance copy and to be part of the launch team for this book) in November and taken part in a 7-day challenge that changed my perspective on things. I realized that I could be happy, without having to do it all. That's not to say that I didn't experience stress last month. You can be sure that the day before my daughter's birthday party I was extremely stressed over the undecorated tree and the all the other unfinished things. But, even in the stressful situations, I still remembered to cut out the non-essentials and to focus on the best. And I tried really hard to not beat myself up over not having it together yet again. And in the end, we had a fabulous birthday party. And we even had a Christmas that was not completely over-run by expectations. But that will have to come in a different post!
In Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, the very first thing that Crystal Paine of moneysavingmom.com encourages readers to do is to stop trying to do it all. She says, "Time doesn't just expand limitlessly. When I say yes to one thing, I must say no to something else." This really helped me to keep my life in perspective during the hectic weeks leading up to birthdays and Christmas in my house. The book is full of practical advice and tools on how to stop the constant struggle to keep up. She tackles priorities, goals, time-management, discipline, finances, self-care and so much more. And she coats it with grace, reminding us in the final pages to treat ourselves with kindness.
I seriously loved reading the book. As soon as I finished it, I was anxious to re-read it and start implementing even more of the tools described. But, here I stopped myself before I got carried away. I knew that I would be setting myself up for more stress and probable failure if I tried to tackle everything at once, especially with the Christmas season coming up. I gave myself permission to put it on the back burner until Christmas was over, before I even looked at it again. So, here I am now. In the past week, I have taken time to think about my priorities and goals. I have been evaluating my situation, but I know that there is more tweaking for me to do before I am ready to reveal it to the world. The best thing that I realized as I prepared for this new year was that there is nothing magical about the date of January 1. I do not have to have my lists haphazardly made up by 12am on January 1 to make change happen. Instead, it is best for me to carefully, and prayerfully consider my life and make small incremental changes as I go along. I am excited by the possibility and potential for change. And now, more than ever, I need to take these steps!