It's Christmas Eve Eve and I am hearing a slow quiet rumble amid the roar of happy shoppers and people on break and everyone so happy for the season.
And the rumble says, "I am tired."
The rumble says, "I don't even have the tree up..."
The rumble whispers, so softly, "I have no Christmas spirit this year."
Some years, the Christmas spirit comes hard and fast and there is nothing but joy in the tree and the cookies and the gifts. Some years, the list of to-do is the same but the heart is hurting or exhausted or just empty - and the list feels utterly insurmountable.
This year, for us, we are facing our first Christmas with the Big G away at school. She has shoveled her front walk, finished her final exams, and is cozied up with some great books and hot cocoa and friends.
This year, we wait for my G to take a very long plane ride to a very long "away" and try to hang on by our fingernails to what joy we can, without thinking ahead to the pain. But of course we can't quite do that as there are plans to make and our own lists to complete before he goes. But we try.
So this is how we do Christmas during the stressful years, and this is what I would tell anyone whose heart is tired, whose list is too long, and who just isn't feeling it this year -
Do what you can.
Christmas trees and cookies and cards and festivals are wonderful, wondrous things. But if they are sucking you dry in a season that should be delightful, then they don't have to be done. Here's a novel thought - skip the tree. Skip the cookies. Skip whatever it is that you'd "like" to do but that you dread or just can't do right now. If something else seems simpler and more "real" or even just more true to this moment right now - do that.
Go see the comedy that you've all been eyeing.
Order the deli tray and bakery cookies for Christmas Eve.
Ask your family if they really have to have the tree in order to feel the spirit - and if the answer is "yes" then tell them to get in the living room and get to work because the holiday is not about one person pulling the rest of the family together.
This is how we do Christmas... We boil the holiday down to its most basic and most humble and simplest, joy-giving parts. We do those. The rest, we do next year or even the next after that when we have more energy and more time and more spirit. We make our own way and our own holiday and we teach our girls to do the same.
Won't you join us?