Lessons for the New Year

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I stood in the front yard struggling with a giant Santa Claus inflatable. I couldn’t stake it securely to the ground as the wind whipped. I had some choice words for Santa, including a threat to kill him by popping his balloon body. My anger was epic and would have moved me from the nice to the naughty list if that Santa had been real. I finally stabilized the 10-foot decoration but during my fight I thought, “what am I doing?” 

Every year I confront this dilemma: I want some decorations on the outside of the house, but I also don’t want to spend the money to have professionals do it. And so, we do some sort of home job on the outside, and I spend the whole month distracted by the fact that I don’t like how it looks. Our house is not bright enough, so it looks dark compared to others. Our attempt is not sophisticated like some of the beautiful displays on other homes in our neighborhood. Our decorations look cheap because duh – I’m cheap and don’t want to invest the money! But I realized that all of those moments of second guessing are based on comparisons with other people. Concern that we don’t measure up and people will think we are less than. Based on our Christmas decorations? Really?  

I love to send Christmas cards. I find joy in writing a letter and picking a family picture for our card. It takes a long time to write and print the letters, stuff envelopes, put all of the address labels on. And while I might get tired of the process by the time I finish, I genuinely love doing it. I know a lot of people who don’t send cards, and I say more power to them if it stresses them out or they just don’t want to do it. So why can’t I give myself the same grace? I don’t like worrying about the outside decorations. If I just accepted that and stopped comparing to others, I could reduce my stress and anxiety that is solely self-imposed. 

And so, I’m going to try and take this lesson into the new year. Obviously, there are things we must do even if they don’t bring enjoyment – laundry comes to mind. But when it comes to choosing activities, projects, volunteer work, creative endeavors, or commitments that fall outside of work and family, we can select things that fulfill us. That make us feel happy and content. That are worthy of our investment of time and energy. And say no to the things that drain us or that we do only because we’re worried about what someone else might think of us if we don’t.

This is not new or ground breaking advice but when I was wrestling with Santa I realized I need reminders to slow down and truly consider what I want to do. The concept of intention has been popping up in my life lately, perhaps not by coincidence. In making decisions, I want to reflect on my purpose and think about my intentions. If a decision is based on comparison to others, I hope to reject those if they are also inauthentic to me. Let us give ourselves permission to seek our genuine interests as we move into the new year and beyond. 

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