The Gift of ‘Don’t Need To’

You know how some people get giddy at the sight of Christmas merchandise when it shows up in Costco in August?  While others are bemoaning the appearance of St. Nick and his requisite team of reindeer long before the pumpkins and ghosts have made their annual October appearances, these holiday-philes are counting down the days until they can put up their Christmas trees, string thousands of lights outside and hang their stockings by the chimney with care.

I have a confession for you: I’m one of them.

Much to my family’s chagrin, I play Christmas music year-round in my car. In my defense, nothing will help you get through a 118 degree August day more than listening to Bing Crosby croon his way through “White Christmas.” Most every night between Thanksgiving and New Years, I head out with my kids to see the gorgeous holiday decorations in our neighborhood, and don’t mind the ever-earlier appearance of Christmas goodies in the store.

You might think that with all of my sugar plum dreams and multiple viewings of A Charlie Brown Christmas—yes, even in the middle of summer—that maybe I’d be immune to the stresses that are so common during this time of year.

Let me assure you right now that nothing is further from the truth. Right around the time when the candy canes start showing up in the supermarket, I start to come down with my annual case of the “shoulds.”

You know how it goes. I should really bake more cookies this year. I should get everything wrapped by the middle of December so I won’t be up until midnight on Christmas Eve. I should see more of my family and friends. I should tie some cheerful swag around my banister so it looks like that gorgeous picture I saw in the magazine.

Should, should, should. It’s enough to almost take the joy out of one of the happiest times of the year. And I know I’m not alone.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to give myself and everyone else I know—including everyone taking a break from their holiday To Do lists to read this article—a very special gift this year. I’m calling it The Gift of “Don’t Need To.”

Go back a few paragraphs and replace all those “shoulds” with “don’t need to.” Did you feel your blood pressure lower? So did I.

Sure, your family loves it when you pull freshly baked cookies out of the oven, but I bet they’ll gobble them up just as fast if you make them with store-bought dough. And while it’s nice to have everything done before Christmas morning, it’s not like you can abandon all of your other responsibilities to focus on the holiday. Your friends and family are wonderful and you want to see them, but there are plenty of other opportunities to see them throughout the year. Instead of rushing through a holiday dinner at your Aunt Betty’s house because you feel you need to be there, suggest that you all get together in the first week of January and enjoy a leisurely barbecue at your place.

And all those holiday decorations that would make Martha Stewart drool? Do what you have time for and what brings you joy, and leave the rest. Your house will still be full of holiday cheer and you’ll feel more relaxed and at peace this season, and that’s plenty lovely all on its own.