“artificial busyness”

The countdown to Christmas Day has started popping up in email signatures, on trendy chalkboards and in shop windows across the world. The usual comments of, “How did we get to the end of November so fast?” and “Blimey, where has this year gone?” are now the opening points of conversation, instead of the weather. To-do lists are getting longer, as are the list of functions requiring attendance, groups to wrap up for the year, presents to buy, and things to organise.

The storm before the calm.

Except, I had a wise man say something to me last week that I’ve been thinking about. When I exclaimed about the time of year and number of things I need to do in a short space of time, he said something revolutionary.

“You know, Jemma, we refuse to buy into the artificial busyness of Christmas.”

There, just like that.

Like it was a choice.

Because it turns out, it is.

We get to decide how much we cram into the next four weeks, and it turns out there are people who cruise into Christmas, having savoured December. The month isn’t something to get through, but a time to enjoy.

I don’t know about you, but I really liked the sound of that, so I’ve been trying to think about how I can make this December one that really is full of the peace and joy it’s supposed to herald. Here’s where I landed.

We may well find that we don’t have a huge amount of choice about the things on our to-do list. What we do get to choose is our attitude. I heard Pete Holmes riffing on this quote by Martha Beck recently and it’s stuck in my brain: “The way we do anything is the way we do everything” . The normal things like hanging up sheets and supermarket runs and walking dogs still need to happen; it’s more bearable when we don’t become too dramatic about it.

To aid this, we can choose not to fill up our evenings and weekends. Just because we can fit it in doesn’t mean we have to. The backhanded guilt doesn’t get to hang around either. People probably won’t miss us as much as we think they will. In the kindest way, our absence will be accepted, just like everyone else who couldn’t make it. The party will continue, whether we are there or not.

Sometimes, this time of year is draining, and not just because of what we feel we have to do. We may be missing loved ones, pining a wintry Christmas, lamenting the horrid lack of tradition where we are, or wishing to just close the book on a disastrous 2019. We can notice this and be kind to ourselves in the process.

The days are still getting longer, and the weather is still getting warmer. Is there something else we’d rather be doing with our loved ones than fighting for a car park and rushing around town? Remember, we do have a choice.

And sometimes, the anticipation of Christmas often ends up being the most wonderful part – we’ve all been part of a Christmas Day that did not live up to its expectations. How can we notice the wonder today?

Time isn’t moving any faster than it used to. The game isn’t rigged. December can be enjoyed. Cheers to that.

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