He steps back a dozen or so feet from his masterpiece, reflecting, plotting his next brushstroke.
His head tilts to one side like a confused puppy, he tugs on his shirt corner impatiently with one hand, while spinning a red and gold orb with the other. He steps forward and then back, like he’s dancing to music only he hears. Finally, he hands the ornament to his mom and points at a spot much higher than he can reach, saying, “there.” She smiles and takes the round Christmas globe from her little man, and places it delicately on the tree, and at once, everything is right in the world of a 7-year-old.
Do you remember that age? I do. I remember bugging the hell out of my dad on Thanksgiving day: The prospect of a new tree only a day away, the lights on the roof, the stockings — the anticipation was real. Christmas couldn’t come fast enough.
I still decorate real trees and love Holiday snow, scarves, and sweaters. And I still jump at the chance to throw a buck in The Salvation Army tin, and get excited when Rudolph, Scrooged and Die Hard come on TV. But something is different. I hurry more now and Christmas goes too fast. Sometimes I feel like I’m cleaning up pine needles and wrapping paper a few days after I tossed the pumpkins.
When I’m at my worst and I can feel the spirit of the season dissolving like Frosty on a warm afternoon, I look around and watch others doing the same. Seeing them go from store to store, checklist in one hand, credit card in the other, makes me slow down and remember the kid I used to be, not the kid I’ve grown up to be. And when that doesn’t work, I try this …
1. Stop trying to “get through” the holidays
The first and most important step in getting through the holidays is to stop “getting through the holidays.” How about enjoying them instead?
They’re not a long drive we dread or a test we study for, or something we survive, they’re a celebration. A wonderful time of year when we can be that kid again decorating the tree with pride.
But we’ve made it a hassle. Gotta grab all the presents, go to all the parties, see all the family. We choose holiday obligations over everyday habits and we’re sorry for it in January. That’s why New Year’s resolutions are a thing.
Maybe there is more on your plate than usual and maybe you don’t want to miss any of it. Fine, but don’t just give up on this year’s bright spots and hate yourself in a few weeks. Instead, dive into those good habits now more than ever. Eat better, workout more, stretch. Work the routine no matter what. The routine saves. The process heals. Live every day like you have time, and magically, you will. But live every day like time is running out, and magically, it will.
2. Watch The Grinch
Seriously, what Christmas is complete without The Dr. Suess classic?
Or maybe it’s Dickens for you, or Luke’s telling of the story of Christ. Whatever it is, experience it now. Then do it again tomorrow. Make time for the things that remind you of the simple kid you were. Otherwise, not only will you miss all the little things you once loved, you’ll be too busy to notice the new things you might love even more.
3. Do Something Meaningless because everything is meaningless
Think about how silly it is to cut down or buy a tree, purchase decorations, put lights on it, and gifts under it, only to throw it away an hour after New Years. Then there’s wrapping presents and reindeers and Santa. Christmas is insane. And so $%#&ing what. So are politics and careers and mortgages and overtime and everything else we do and stress about. It’s all meaningless, everything.
So screw it. Don’t spend time with people you hate, keep meaningless traditions alive, or cram everything into an already crowded schedule. Make a damn snow angel, build a snowman, fashion a snow fort. Like a monk creating his masterpiece with sand only to watch it disappear, get up close and personal with impermanence, because if anything is meaningless, then everything is meaningless, so we might as well spark the fireplace, watch Rudolph for the millionth time, and sing “all is calm. All is bright.”
Bunch's work can also be found at joshbunch.com and other rousing websites that focus on fitness, human overengineering and general awesomeness. If you want him to write something just as stunning for your crowd, email him at email@example.com