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Facing the shadow

Are you panicking yet? Do you ever feel like the world of consumerism thrives on us panicking from time to time? They know it’ll happen. It’s inevitable. Panic lurks in the shadows knowing that if you put something off again or try to rationalize that now is not the time, eventually you’ll be up against a deadline and all things possible that could go wrong, do. Why wouldn’t they? This is Murphy’s Law. I have learned to laugh at myself when I fall victim to overwhelm and the walls of time start closing in on me. Fortunately, having survived many years now and having experienced panic many times over the years, I remind myself, I can handle it. I will survive- I always have – and this time is no different.


I could be talking about the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, any gathering on the calendar, or even a work deadline. I’ve felt panic in all of these situations. I’ve also felt panic when I find myself someplace and I know I need to be someplace else in order to beat the clock striking midnight and falling to pieces as I run home with one glass slipper. So, maybe it’s progress that I can laugh now and take a step back and take control of this race against panic, but I still wonder why haven’t I figured out how to avoid it altogether?


Are you friends with procrastination? Do you invite it over for dinner and linger over drawn out stories about very mundane things – just to avoid doing something that really needs to be done? The best way I can describe my relationship to procrastination is that I play chicken with it. I bulldoze full throttle toward procrastination, unblinkingly facing it down – until at the last minute I swerve. I get close enough to feel the heat and the breath of the collision and my heart races with the adrenaline of a near miss. As my heart rate settles and I dust myself off, I curse at myself for letting it get to this again. That’s the time when I panic. I get back on the road and start running fast in the other direction and realize that daylight is peaking over the horizon and I’ve got too much ground to cover before daybreak.


This is how I feel about the holidays. No matter, every year is the same. I may do things wisely and start getting prepared well in advance – like October. I’m sorry, but it seems downright inconsiderate of fall and my long drawn out goodbyes to summer, to prepare for December in September. Yet at this time, right now – 9 days into December, I feel the heat. I still feel enough of a buffer between myself and panic and I’m doing what I can to cushion myself from the fallout of shipping speed misgivings and lost or damaged items. This is when I find myself comparing and judging myself. Other people seem to be so put together! They are making ridiculous amounts of diverse treats and giving them away to others. They are finding the best bargains and wrapping gifts of impeccable beauty. They are jolly and spreading merriment wherever they go. They look good in red and green. I look down and feel my skin flaking away from the dry, cold air. I look terrible in red, can pull off green – but can never find the energy, patience, or concentration to bake all those cookies and other sweet confections.

I send out a holiday card and feel lame for not sending a message with it.  I should say something – shouldn’t I?  Hi?!  Be well?  How are you?  Those holiday greetings are very one-sided.  They feel odd to send, yet socially expected.  So maybe that’s what this is all about.  I desire to enjoy the magic of the season. I want to revel in the lights that shine off the white snow.  I want to throw out the ubiquitous holiday card and send a text, an email, or heaven forbid – make a phone call, instead.  I want to throw caution to the wind and snuggle up next to the fire watching Christmas movies, eating popcorn and drinking hot cocoa instead of wrapping the perfect gift and counting them all 500 times to make sure I was fair and equal to all.  I make myself dizzy trying to reach a made up expectation that every year leaves me looking for the nearest exit for fresh air and a stoop to rest on. 

Take a moment for yourself

When left alone I count my blessings freely and acknowledge that whatever I am and whatever I’ve done to show those I love that I continue to love and care for them, is enough. A date on the calendar is not judgment day and I do not need to panic. I tell myself this, sitting alone, writing alone. I feel emboldened to go forth with a clear conscience and resolve to be present and spread this internal joy with everyone I meet. That is a gift that doesn’t take standing in line at a store or scrolling through sites on my computer. This brings me ease and I show up as a better person.

I genuinely appreciate that some people involve themselves in things that I don’t particularly enjoy (like baking and juggling recipes) and that this is what brings them joy. Like any other area of life where my weakness is someone else’s strength – so too are the ways we experience the holidays and the ways we prefer to share with others. May you find peace in what is true for you and do that. Be that.

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