One of my dearest friends had a birthday on December 11th. She lives in New York and we have a tradition to send each other gifts for our birthdays. Usually a part of the gift is hand-made — we’re both the creative kind, you could say.
The past few months have had me in a whirlwind in every possible way — emotionally, logistically, physically, you name it — so the first time I remembered my friend’s birthday was on December 11th.
I felt like crap. What kind of a friend was I if I hadn’t remembered earlier and hadn’t even thought about her gift?
I sent her a Facebook message to wish her a happy birthday and to apologize for being so late with my card and gift. Here’s what she replied with:
“Thank you! Anytime things become too much we can just send love – no pressure!”
I started to think of all the times I’ve stressed about being late with gifts or running around trying to get a good gift for someone. Sure, my intentions are good when I do this but somewhere in the middle of all the busy and hectic, the intention fades and it all boils down to a to-do.
The gift might be a good one, but I have a lot less love to give with it. Instead I’m filled with stress and some strange sense of accomplishment for getting “it” done.
So here’s a thought: Can we do less and give more?
Maybe instead of putting together a fancy beautiful holiday card to mail, you can send your family and friends a warm email instead?
If the thought of trying to organize a holiday party — at home or at your company, especially if it’s a start-up where no one ever has enough time — raises your blood pressure, why not just get some take out to share together?
If life is feeling too overwhelming, how about skipping that big family vacation you were thinking about and taking some time to chill out at home together instead, maybe planning some local easy trips?
Do less (things, to-dos, stuffs). Give more (love, kindness, yourself, your beautiful inner energy).
Believe me, I am reading the advice I am writing and part of me feels like my mind has been taken over by aliens. I used to be the person who would have all the holiday gifts wrapped weeks in advance, whose parties — at work or at home — would be super awesomely creative, with tons of preparations and fun elements, who would think that only losers would choose to stay home if they could explore a new place they’ve never been.
But the thing is, all that stuff is just dressing. It’s pretty sprinkles, that yes, are fun and good and bring you and the people you share them with some joy, but only if they come on top of something a lot more important:
The joy you feel and share. The kindness and love you feel and share. The ease and light you feel and share.
A few years ago I put together this over-the-top 5 course dinner together at my house — I forget the occasion, but my parents and grandparents came over. The women in my family are amazing cooks and I’m pretty good, but there’s always that bar I’m trying to reach, you know? So I really outdid myself, including printing out menus and decorating them together with kiddo.
By the time everyone came over I wasn’t simply exhausted, I was on empty. Of course it was awesome to hear how everyone enjoyed the meal and to get the “oh, wow!” validation, but I had no joy of my own left to share. I’d put it all into the cooking and preparing and organizing!
At some point, I was in the kitchen getting dessert ready, when my mom walked in. She asked me why I looked so upset, so stressed out — was anything wrong?
“I wish you could relax with us a little,” she said.
It wasn’t a criticism — this I realized a few days after, because of course my initial reaction is the knee-jerk “How could I possibly relax when I was doing all this stuff?!!!” It was a wish that I could have traded one of the ultra-complicated dishes for a little time to give myself to rest before everyone came over.
During these holiday weeks can you have an an intention to do a little less and give more of what we actually want from one another:
Love. Kindness. Smiles. Hugs. Ease. Happiness. Gratitude. Cheer.
And bonus: You don’t even need to wrap any of it.