A few days ago I was imagining that I might spend Christmas ill in bed having been struck down by another bout of seasonal sickness. In what seemed like an unfairly swift follow up strike from my last bout in late November I was listless, nauseous and completely bereft of all energy. But there was still so much to do. Presents to wrap, food to prepare, final bits of shopping. I wanted everything to be perfect. But that’s where it always goes wrong.
Earlier in the week I was talking to a client about perfectionism, and why it’s such a destructive thing. Aside from it almost never being required, it sets the bar so high that we are never able to reach it. If you are prone to be self critical, as most perfectionists are, you can almost guarantee that trying to be perfect will give you the opportunity to remind yourself of how useless you are every time you fail to meet your own unnecessary but unrelenting standards.
Much of the pressure and stress of Christmas comes from refusing to allow ourselves any room for error. So much focus is put on this one day that it becomes almost impossible to enjoy it unless nobody puts a foot wrong and every little thing goes entirely to plan. But life isn’t perfect, and our ability to accept it is crucial to our emotional wellbeing.
I know you don’t have time to read a long post from me today so I’ll make it quick. The less you demand joy and peace from your Christmas break, the more of it you will experience. The greatest gifts are in the tiny things in your days that you might easily overlook. I can’t tell you what those things are, but you’ll see them if you look. This morning for me it’s a heartfelt thanks that my illness seems to have largely passed and that I can spend a few minutes of calm this morning with a cup of coffee before beginning the tasks of the day. Peeling parsnips while listening to the carols on the radio; Relief that my five month old puppy has shown no interest in hauling over the Christmas tree. I could go on, but you get the idea. You’ll have a list too if you think about it, but it won’t be anything to do with perfection.
As I stand at the front window and look back at the lights sparkling on the Christmas tree I notice that it’s a tiny bit wonky. There was a time in my life that this would have mattered, but not anymore. I am reminded of something Billy Bragg said he used as a maxim for living. “If you can’t be pretty, be relevant”. It’s so true and, once you embrace it, you suddenly realise that relevance is the prettiest thing of all.
Wishing you the most beautiful imperfect Christmas and a peaceful, joyous New Year.