The story is sad, but true – an all-too-familiar tale for many of you, I’m sure. Lately, whenever I think of the holidays, all I can think of is stress, traveling, stress, unmet goals, stress, failed expectations and stress. Who’s with me here? I’ll be the first to tell you I’m the biggest “closet” Martha Stewart wannabe ever. I look at magazines and websites, Pinterest and blogs, and can’t get over how beautiful everything is! How a perfectly placed votive sets the tone for the whole table-setting. You’d never guess this about me, though, because I’m also a huge perfectionist, and sometimes get so overwhelmed with the pressure that I never start..
Let’s bring this back to every-day life, though. How many of you feel guilty that your house isn’t spotless the moment your husband walks in the door? Or that sometimes you have cereal for dinner? Or that you may or may not have missed your shower today (and maybe yesterday, too)? And please tell me I’m not the only one who wears clothes out of the laundry hamper because I haven’t taken a moment to put them away yet. There are so many facets of our lives that make us who we are – that really round out our life stories and give interest and vibrance to the world. But all of these many facets are also little gateways – opportunities for failure. At least that’s what I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking these days. That there’s just too much. I’m too worried about my kids getting haircuts on time and my business being just so and losing that baby weight (and failing miserably at all of them) that I’ve lost sight of what’s really important.
I read a beautiful blog post a while back that really got me thinking about this. Of course this really struck a chord with me because I have a wonderful, intelligent, curious, thoughtful, energetic and creative four-year-old who, unfortunately, inherited every ounce of his mother’s stubborn dramatics and then some (my own mother is laughing at me, I’m sure, thinking I’ve finally got what I deserved). Two lines really sum it up for me:
Relax your face, mama
You look prettier when you smile.
What will my own children remember about me when I’m gone? What will stand out in the memories of their childhoods? I’m pretty sure it won’t be that we had the most beautifully and artfully decorated Christmas tree, or that they always had designer clothes (which they don’t – just to be clear). It probably won’t even be that I make the best cheesecake this side of New York City (which I do – also just to be clear). All I can hope for is that those memories will be wrapped in love. That they’ll remember the way they giggled when my husband tickled them, or that my hair smelled like cookies when I hugged them (his words, not mine).
That same stubborn four-year-old and I were looking through some scrapbook pages a while back, and when we came across this one, he said, “Mommy, why don’t you smile like that anymore? Are you sad?”
The answer was, “Of course I’m not sad!” But sadly, that’s what he thought. What a reality check for me! I work 40-50 hours a week outside the home, then another 40-50 between designing and administering here at ScrapMatters. This is the life I’ve chosen, and to some extent I don’t have a lot of control over it. I have goals, hopes and dreams to work less, but right now, that’s not an option for our family. That doesn’t mean I need to let the stress and the deadlines and the responsibility overshadow the bright spots in my life. They shouldn’t define who I am. They are not the end product.
But it’s not about the end product. It’s about the journey. At the risk of burdening you with my own personal beliefs, when all is said and done, the only things we’ll take with us are the relationships, the memories, the light and the knowledge. When all is said and done, who cares what colors I use in my next kit, or how many Facebook fans I have? Who cares that the four-year-old picked out his own clothes and looked like a derailed circus train the first day of pre-school? I should be relishing in his independence and his creativity – encouraging, loving and supporting his efforts. Remembering this special time, because sooner or later, he, too, may become wrapped up in what’s the “right” thing to wear, say or do.
As we approach this holiday season, I encourage you to take a break, step back, and relax. At this – one of the busiest times of year – get into the habit of not getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. If Christmas cards don’t go out until New Years – or even Valentine’s (or not at all) – it’s not the end of the world. If gifts are wrapped with store-bought bows instead of hand-crafted ribbon creations, life will go on. Cherish these moments. They are fleeting. These are the memories that will define you and your family for generations to come — no pressure. But really, take the pressure off. Just focus on living, loving and sharing time together. Living in the now and not always preparing for something down the road. And the best part of all, is that when you’re not consumed with having everything just so, and you just let it happen – flaws and all – those are the memories you’ll treasure most. It’s not about the finished product – it’s how we got there that matters most.