Making moments count in December can be hard, yes?
You know you want to savor this special time with people you care about. You might also have traditions and beliefs you celebrate, like participating in Christmas church activities or charity volunteering.
But the real December is often a whirlwind of gift-shopping-secret-santas-Christmas-baking-crazy-traffic-parties-potlucks-more-parties-and-family-visits. The weeks go by so quick; sometimes, you look back and what you remember clearly is being stressed and exhausted.
I've been guilty of this too. Two years ago, I fell asleep at a family do after a very-last-minute Christmas shopping marathon. I only remember snatches of that get-together now, and it's all a blur.
BUT! I've learned to do better since then, and I want to share exactly how with you, friends.
Here are four mantras that help me make moments meaningful during the holidays.
1. Less haste, more speed.
This old saying has become my mantra and it surprisingly helps me focus on what's important in each moment.
When I say it to myself, I get a quick reminder that when I'm in "Quick, quick, QUICK!" mode, it actually takes longer to get things done.
Last week, I hurried out the door in the morning and came back in twice to pick up gifts I'd forgotten to drop off... Less speed, more haste, I said to myself, then I took a deep breath and really thought about what I needed for the day before I headed out again.
The other day, a coworker was giving me instructions for a project right when I needed to run to the next meeting... Less speed, more haste, I said to myself, then I took a deep breath and really listened to what she was saying so I didn't make mistakes on the project.
Two weekends ago, I scrolled through the results of a holiday shoot, editing photos at the speed of light because there were still a gazillion shots and only 30 MINUTES before I had to give them to the social media in-charge and look, I have to delete that wonky shot and... Less speed, more haste, I said to myself, then I took a slow deep breath and really looked at the photos so I would stop backtracking through my camera roll.
When we're in a hurry and thinking about how urgently we need to be on the next thing, we often drop the ball on what we're doing at that moment and have to clean up after ourselves later.
But when we slow our minds down enough to be present --- not to be slow in motion per se but conscious in our thinking --- we shave a lot of catch-up time from our days. We make the moments when we are getting tasks done count by not having to redo our work.
(On a random note, I didn't realize until I researched that people argue over whether it's said this way or the other way around as "more haste, less speed". But since Google says speed means rapidity of movement while haste means hurry and excessive speed, this style makes more sense to me. And yes, I'm a grammar nazi!)
Write Less haste, more speed on a post-it and stick it in your wallet or, if you use one, in your planner. You can also make it a reminder in your phone that goes off at certain times of the day.
Don't beat yourself up if you forget sometimes; just let this mindset gradually become automatic through the holidays. Even just thinking of it some of the time already helps you make every moment count.
2. Enough is enough.
OK, there are two kinds of things you have to do: the kind you are over-the-moon excited to do and the kind you have to but secretly, don't really want to. They could range from bringing homemade dessert to a potluck party to meeting a work deadline before heading out for the holidays.
Now I'm not saying to slack at these things, but having super-high expectations about how we get tasks done often leads to spending too much time, mind space, and effort we need elsewhere.
We end up thinking about these things in the time that we should be spending enjoying the season.
Like when I was writing this post. I wanted to do it from a specific angle, and I killed myself last week with rough drafts that weren't working out. I had my phone out at a party with friends, staring at the blank note that was supposed to be my post instead of chatting with people I was glad to meet again. It was like I was writing the next Pulitzer prize, you know? I couldn't seem to focus enough to enjoy being with friends because the anxiety of an unfinished post dominated everything else.
Then I gave myself a tough talk.
After that, the post practically wrote itself. *victory dance*
In your case, you don't have to review that report for work ten times before submitting it. Maybe just once after you finished it then once more after a little break will be enough.
You don't have to go all Martha Stewart at your holiday potluck. If your thing is dessert decorating but not the actual baking, it's enough to start from some store-bought alternatives like a good pie crust to save time, or even, gasp, buy some sugar cookies from your favorite hole-in-the-wall bakery and do the icing yourself.
When we don't know what enough is, we frustrate ourselves meeting perfectionist standards when a little less would already have been meaningful enough.
Cut down on the running To Do list in your head with the idea of enough, and save that extra for being all-in in the moments that count to you this Christmas.
And by the way, that to you in the last sentence was intentional. I might think cutting out baking from scratch is worth it, but you're going "Daisy, that's the highlight of my season!" Enough is a super-personal decision to make, so do it your way!
Go through your holiday To Do list and evaluate. What is enough to get each task done?
Can you gift that picky relative with a bag of his favorite coffee and be done with it? Do you really need to wrap presents with all the little details, or would a simpler way of wrapping them do?
I wrote a post on enjoying a simple Christmas, by the way! It might help as you evaluate what enough is for you this season.
And for the tasks on your list that don't seem that important?
3. Less but better.
Some of you might have heard this before, but that's because it works.
You can do less but better by deciding to cut out the tasks you've realized didn't add to the enjoyment of the season anyway. Maybe you decide to:
- Give cards to only the people who appreciate them, BUT write heart-felt truths in them.
- Shorten your gift-giving list BUT observe what the people you plan to give to actually need and like before prepping their presents.
- Volunteer at just one charity BUT pick one with a cause you truly believe in.
I'm applying this to my holidays in:
My Christmas Decorations
Instead of going crazy with decking the halls (and then having to spend so much effort cleaning up in January, which I hate), I decided to keep the decorating to the room I spend the most time in: my bedroom.
I put up one --- just one! ---- really lovely string of warm LED light bulbs above my bed. I love turning off everything before bed and looking up at the lights as I go to sleep.
And on my nightstand, I set up a cute and artsy nativity scene I'd picked up on one of my trips. Looking at it when I have my Bible-reading time in the morning has become a meaningful part of my day.
I also changed up the wallpapers on my work computer, tablet, and iPhone into pretty Christmas-y ones. That way, I get to keep the season in mind throughout the month.
And the best part is it'll only take a few minutes to pack up all this for next Christmas when January rolls around!
Part of what makes the holiday season so crazy is squeezing in all the parties because we don't want to miss anything. I've attended 2, even 3 parties a night in Christmases past, maybe spending less than an hour in each and not getting to really eat or talk with anyone in any of them. Then there's the holiday traffic to wrestle through between parties... It's just not something I want to say yes to anymore.
This season, I'm only attending events that aren't at the same time. If I was invited to multiple ones on the same night, I pick just one, stay until the end, and really enjoy being at that gathering.
It's already happened a few times this month, and though I'm sad to miss other activities, I find being present in just one really helps me enjoy the season more. I actually remember details like how hilarious so-and-so's joke was or how I just had to have a third helping of that chocolate cake.
The only exception I've made is for activities on the same night that technically don't overlap. Like I went to church last Saturday at 7 pm then attended a party that started closer to 9. I still enjoyed both, especially as I didn't have to cut either one short to hurry to the other.
And the thing is, friends, you were always going to miss something anyway. Even if you attend everything like I used to do, you won't really be present in mind and you'll still miss enjoying them to the fullest. (Though hopefully, you don't get to the extreme of falling asleep at the dinner table like I did!)
Making every moment count is about deciding what is worth being all-in for and what you'll miss out on in exchange.
What makes the season meaningful for you and your loved ones? What can you cut out so you do those things better? Feel free to make use of some of the suggestions I made on gifting and volunteering at the beginning of this step to start!
4. What's going on. Right. Now?
The holidays feel like a rush because there's often too much going on for us to take in all at once.
So press pause on your running thoughts and words. Step back just for a minute. Use your senses: look, listen, feel, smell, and even taste.
What is happening. Right. Now?
I add those periods on purpose to this mantra, as the phrase "right now" can lose its meaning when we say it real fast.
Really take everything in for a while. You don't have to be hyper-aware all the time --- just at this moment.
Then get back in the game, and enjoy it.
I find doing this at random times of the day during the season --- heck, even on other times of the year --- help me memorize how the moment is like when I look back on it.
I see how the moment is adding to this season, and that makes it more meaningful.
And by the way, pausing doesn't mean you actually have to stop what you're doing. You can pause in your mind and continue doing what you're doing mindfully.
I did this in a party last Sunday.
We were playing a game --- you know the one where you stick popsicle sticks into cups in a row, then take them out and pass the sticks on to the next person? --- and when it was my turn, I decided to pause. (Not literally, of course, my uber-competitive teammates would have lynched me!)
But as my teammate gave me the sticks and I sprinted to the first cup, my thought process ran like this:
Then I gave my sticks to the next person. I decided to sit with those crazy mates I just thought about and cheer on the rest of the team in the same uber-competitive manner.
I enjoyed this time with my friends, and even now, I remember how it was both fun and meaningful. And all I really did differently was pay attention for a while.
Pause at different moments this month. What's going on. Right. Now? How are you feeling? What are your senses taking in? Savor that present moment, and then go back to your regular schedule. Keep doing it until it becomes a habit.
These mantras are simple, but they help me be more present. Repeating them helps me cut out the noise so I can cherish how lovely the moment I'm in is as it's passing by.
Because that's what moments do whether we pay attention or not, friends: they pass by.
And they never come back in exactly the same way.
But we can make them count, even when we're busy during the holidays. I hope these 4 mantras help you be more present this month as you enjoy what the season brings!
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Have a joyous holiday season, friends!