I had barely begun to emerge from my turkey, stuffing and pie stupor on Thanksgiving when I made a bewildering, and a little distressing, discovery. I am way behind on my Christmas preparations.
Yes, I know, Santa was making the rounds before Halloween and Hobby Lobby had the Christmas decorations out around Independence Day.
Still, I wake up every Thanksgiving afternoon, in the glorious haze that only three servings of stuffing and half a pumpkin pie can induce, with the eerie feeling that Christmas has somehow snuck up on me.
One day it’s 80 degrees outside. The next day I eat way too much turkey, take a short nap, and suddenly the Christmas lights are on.
This sudden transformation, the utter surprise, could be considered strange, except for the fact it happens to me every year.
In spite of the fact Christmas trees are sold next to the inflatable jack-o’-lanterns, I still seem to be constantly surprised by the arrival of the holiday season.
I could blame this phenomenon on the over-commercialization of Christmas, on the Russians, or on the annual travesty of people saying “Happy Holidays,” but I know deep down it’s really just a result of my natural tendency to procrastinate.
Take, for example, the fact I’ve had a week to write this column, yet I’m writing it at the last possible moment, inspired by the sweet motivation of not wanting to lose my job. I’ve always operated close to the time limit, partly out of the flawlessly rational belief that if I accomplish tasks early I may end up having to redo them before the deadline.
Yes, I know, there are countless sayings from founding fathers, Greek philosophers, motivational speakers and Chinese fortune cookies that tell us all we should work ahead of schedule, budget our time, etc. etc. And, that’s something I plan on addressing – first thing tomorrow.
But I’ve never really decoded the secret to getting ready for Christmas early. If it were left to me I’d purchase our tree on Christmas Eve, which does not do much for the selection at the tree lot. If you’ve seen the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special you know about what kind of tree I’d bring home. Christmas cards, if left to me, would arrive just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.
If you have ever found yourself looking at your outdoor Christmas lights sometime around Labor Day asking “should I take them down, or just go ahead and leave them up for this year,” you know what level of holiday un-coordination I bring to the table.
Thankfully, my wife is reliably merciful enough to save me from myself, and she loves Christmas way too much to leave any detail up to me. It’s really for the best.
But, there is an (admittedly convenient) upside to all of this procrastination. While leaving important tasks to the last minute is generally considered epically bad advice, I think a little well-placed procrastination can be an attractive alternative to the stress and competitiveness that have overtaken Christmas.
The holidays have long been a stressful time, with anxiety, depression and anger characterizing the season for some of us. But, the increase in recent years of psychiatric studies into the “stress effects” of Christmas might lead you to believe Prozac is replacing Hershey’s Kisses as our nation’s favorite Christmas treat. Add in our toxic political climate, and it’s amazing any of us can make it past dessert without a nuclear family meltdown.
No, I don’t think it’s really that bad, but I do think we all run the risk of losing out on the fun, and the deeper meaning, of Christmas if we get too wrapped up in appearances and competition.
So, if you feel yourself getting a little stressed over the holiday, feel free to kick back and say “I’ll take care of it tomorrow … maybe.”
I warn you, what I just said is probably not a good strategy for running a business, a household, or any other venture of consequence.
But, once in a while it’s just a good idea to let go a little bit, especially at Christmas. Call it your gift to you.
So, enjoy the season, and get ready at a manageable pace. In the meantime, I’ll be finishing off the Halloween candy.