'Tis The Season for Busy-ness and Shoulds

Warning: If you love the whole holiday/Christmas season, you'll want to skip this one.

Somehow I've come to the point in my life where I dread December. I hate to say it, but it's the truth. Between the stuff I have to do for the kids and the stuff I have to do for work, I have little time left for the stuff I'd like to do to celebrate the holidays, much less the stuff I want and need to do to take care of myself. I used to love putting up the tree, decorating the house, shopping in real brick and mortar stores, baking cookies, going to and throwing parties, and languishing by the fireplace between Christmas and New Year. Now I have to actually put those things on my schedule or they'll be edged out by lessons and doctor appointments and work that has spilled over the long-gone 40 hours a week. In fact, it's possible that I've come to loathe all the expectations that go with that time from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Sad, huh?

Here it is December 9th and I haven't brought out so much as a Christmas CD, taken down my fall wreath or penned a single card. And, as far as I can tell, the pace of parenting and working isn't going to slow down. All the shoulds are getting in the way of my want tos. Or do I really even want to do those things? Have they simply become shoulds, too?

Last year on New Year's Day, I completely folded in on myself and my family. I threw a fit because I felt like no one would be serious about the one thing I thought would salvage my mood about it all - a ritual we started about 4 years ago where we review the last year and set hopes, dreams and wishes for the coming year. (Unfair of me, by the way, to expect my family to rescue me emotionally.) At that moment, I wished that I could somehow muster the courage (and the cash) to just go out of town for Christmas. And here I sit with the same wish. "Pretty dark, Nila," you might say.

Here's the thing. I'm not even sure I'm qualified to celebrate Christmas anymore. I put up the tree and have the big dinner and put on the Christmas show. And I feel really strange that I play along considering I don't practice anything near Christianity the other 364 days of the year, if I am even doing a good job of pretending this one day. And I'm not going to start pretending all year.

So, am I maintaining this tradition for myself or for the rest of my family, especially the older generation? Is it more important that I follow tradition or that I be honest with myself and the people in my life invested in the tradition for either religious or secular reasons? Or am I just thinking about it all too much?

Don't worry too much. In two weeks, when the lights are twinkling in my house, when I've made rounds to Heidelberg Haus and Klaus', when we've wrapped a few gifts, when I've tasted Joyce's cookies, I'll feel better than I do today.

Tell me, dear reader, where do you fall on the spectrum of holiday cheer? Are you more toward the Cheer or the Bah-Humbug? Any words of wisdom for someone who has slipped to the Grumpy end?

Editor's note: see my update.