This first appeared before the arrival of Covid-19 so I guess that most of our family members were a bit more prepared for these scaled back holidays. And, with the exception of limited opportunities to exercise volition, I’m feeling a lot of the same things.
Opt Out of a Whole Bunch of Frantic?
From giant Thanksgiving meals to champagne at midnight on the last day of the year and a whole bunch of frantic in between… ’tis the season. Fa-la-la.
And if it’s true that time moves faster as we age, it really speeds up in November and December, doesn’t it? From the Christmas displays that arrive in stores before Halloween to the year-end reviews that now start before Christmas, time can feel like the pushing and shoving that comes about as a result of Black Friday door buster sales or holiday airline travel. I don’t know about you, but sometimes (in any of those circumstances) I want to yell, “Everybody lighten up… we’re all going to get there at the same time!”
Somewhere along the line members of our family started to talk about things we love about the season — and things we love a little bit less. As parents of adults, neither of us like to see them overspend. Especially on use. We also have spent quite a long time down-sizing and simplifying and so have a hard time welcoming more tangible stuff. The youngest members of this extended clan like to wake up in their own beds, experiencing far less anxiety over Santa finding them than when they travel. And their parents? When we started asking, each couple had a different set of needs.
About That Retail-Driven Calendar
So, we took a look at that societal, retail-driven calendar. And a remarkable thing has happened to many of my family members and friends: we’ve chosen to opt out.
But wait — before you picture us sitting in cold rooms with the lights off in some sort of depressed silence? That’s not what’s going on at all. We opt out of the “official” calendar and celebrate volition: we make conscious choices. (And usually honor grown-up birthdays that end in “0” or “5.”)
That’s right… we make choices. Well in advance of the holidays, we put our heads together and talk about things like schedules, budgets, energy, and preferences. And then we make choices. We spend some money… and lots of time.
It turns out that we were able to celebrate one of those big birthdays several weeks in advance — by getting almost all of the family together for Thanksgiving. And missing one (that German kid) made the rest of us look forward to his arrival in a few more days.
Let’s Meet at the Zoo (Not Zoom)
So, if we’re not running around shopping until we drop and running the Amazon guy ragged, what is it that we do? We spend a lot of time cruising neighborhoods to look at amazing light display — and appreciate the love and effort that goes into creating such great displays. We meet up at the zoo. Or the movies. Or the beach. We play board games and write love letters. We take turns cooking, share leftovers, and swap talents to move each others’ projects forward. We tell stories, ride bikes, and take walks.
Mostly we laugh a lot and enjoy our time together. Changes in expectations have gone a long way toward eliminating that “OMG, I know it’s not a competition but I want to get them the perfect gift” stress.
It’s some of the best of what happens when we all opt out together.