Earlier this week I wrote my version of “The Letter.”
Maybe you’ve been working on one, too. You know, the letter we send to our relatives explaining, pleading, guiding, reassuring, demanding, that they please just give one present, or a present that doesn’t make noise, or something homemade, or at least not made by a small Bangladeshi girl. We all have our particular conundrums to sort out, and are determined that once and for all we will do it. We will be brave and say our piece and save Christmas from turning into the atrocity we know is coming if we don’t act quickly.
If only everybody would listen to us!
I even sent my letter as far as my husband (it was destined for his family, after all) and he rolled his eyes. He said that maybe it needed a few revisions. We talked about it for a little while. I got sort of excited, threw the word “Crap” around a bit too freely. And then, just like that, it was out of my system. I didn’t want to send my letter anymore.
Here’s what I want to do instead: Control the things I can.
I want to make our advent season as blessed and rich a time as I can. I want to light candles each night and watch Mary make her way on the starry path. I want to celebrate the small, magical feast days of St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia with friends and songs and small treasures. I want to visit the mountains and make wreaths from pine and fir branches. I want creating small, useful gifts to be part of our daily routine, something that brings us joy in both the making and giving.
I realized, with the help of a few friends, that the mood we create in our home is what is most important, not the kinds of gifts our loved ones give us. If I want Christmas to be a time filled with reverence and simplicity, then the way we live, the things we do, the essence of our days will convey it. No amount of gifts under the tree that I might want to use the C-word on can undo all that. (In fact, maybe, just maybe, that balance is actually exactly what we need.)
I don’t want Christmas to be about this tight knot in my belly worrying about how horrible things will be if I don’t take matters into my own hands. I want to let go of my need to control what isn’t my business. And you might argue that it is my business, and probably you’re right and I’ll regret this. I’m prepared for that and have made my peace. In the end, these are our relatives, our family. They know us and love us and are well aware of our feelings about plastic and clutter and consumerism and all the rest. I don’t need to tell them again. Let them find their own way to give.
And let me find my way to graciousness and gratitude.
Since writing this post, I have been filled with doubts: I should do something. Say something. I’ll regret this letting go business. I’m so going to regret this. It’s going to be terrible. I’ll definitely have to send a letter next year. Why don’t they just ask what we want? Why?
And then I find my way back to peace: Give them a chance, they will totally come through. Relax and let go. Every kid deserves a few toys their mother doesn’t approve of. That’s a good thing. How bad could it be? Seriously, is that really so bad? Really?
This is going to be okay.
I can always send the letter next year.