Friday, December 18, 2009

When you just want to get your work done

Have you been that person - the one who just wants to get on with work while everyone else seems obsessed with the holidays? The one who drags him/herself to another Christmas concert or stands at a party, wine glass in hand, fervently wishing you could be doing something productive? I'm not talking about poor souls compelled by Scrooge-like bosses to work while everyone else plays. I'm talking about people who would genuinely rather be doing something other than celebrating the holiday season.

It's a good thing this is a blog. If it were a lecture, there would be an awkward moment now while everyone decided whether or not to put up their hands. Everyone would have to decide, because only a very few blessed souls feel like celebrating for the entire holiday season. Almost all of us have days when we wish the holidays were safely over and we could (genuinely) relax into our real work.

There was a time when my real work was baking cookies and doing crafts and inventing ways to wrap presents that would stand up to little boys' exploration. In those days, Christmas lasted at least six very active weeks and I loved it and even then there were days when I couldn't wait for it to all just go away and give me less on my calendar, less on my plate.

The real problem might be one of attention span: we just don't have the staying power to celebrate holidays that take more than a month. We can't handle extra lunches and drinks and evenings out and home-decorating and note-writing that lasts for more than a day or two. We can only pay attention to what makes us happy for an evening, an afternoon, a day or two at most. After that, we need to get back to having the life we have been celebrating.

The universal holiday emotion is one of being over-committed and over-tired. There is no cure. Except to label what you are feeling when you are impatient with lights and food and socializing. Label it. Consider your reasons for participating and then get on with it. Not liking the whole of the holidays does not mean you are incapable of appreciating the warmer things in life. It might just mean that the holidays demand more of us than we can cheerfully give.

That's it. I don't have advice on how to make it all go away or make it all better. It's the holidays. You are too busy doing too much for reasons that are not always evident. Take a deep breath. Decide what you want from this particular day. And be kind to yourself and all the human beings challenged by events that last longer than our attention spans.

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