This time of year, it’s easy to feel like an underachiever. It’s not just all the ads and articles and advice about creating “perfect” Christmas gifts or Christmas wrap or Christmas cookies or Christmas dinners or Christmas decorating. It’s the people—admit it, we all know a few of them—who actually do all that stuff.
This year, as it happens, I’m doing more hands-on Christmas preparations myself than usual. Oh, we still haven’t done any decorating or put up a tree. No cookies have been or will be baked in our kitchen. Almost no shopping has been done, either.
But I am making gifts for several family members. As I often do, around the first of December I had a Great Idea for creating something handmade. Usually I consider factors like the days left till Christmas, the steps required to turn the idea into reality, and the probability that the Great Idea will result in a Not-So-Great Product, and I decide not to even try.
But this year I decided to actually carry out the Great Idea. Right now I’m in the middle of making a batch of Christmas gifts. I’m not doing it because I think I should. I’m not doing it because I think the recipients will be blown away by my creativity and overwhelmed with gratitude and keep these things forever. (Well, okay, I would like just a little bit of that. Not too much, though—it might make me think I need to do something similar next year)
I’m doing it because it’s fun. Mostly. There was that one little problem with figuring out how to make this part work, and that other little problem with getting another part to come out right. But I’m pleasantly surprised: Not only am I enjoying the process, but the reality of the almost-finished product is astonishingly close to the Great Idea as I imagined it.
And along the way, I had another Great Idea. This one deals with all the people I see as holiday overachievers. The ones who show up at a “please don’t bring anything” gathering with a little handmade gift for everyone or a batch of beautiful Christmas cookies. Or who wrap presents so beautifully that the wrapping itself is a work of art. Or who decorate every room in the house and has three color-coordinated trees in the front window.
Why should my response to any of that be a kneejerk flash of guilt, a feeling that I am a less-than-adequate human being who doesn’t quite measure up? Why should I care if someone else does a lot of elaborate holiday preparation that I don’t even care about or want to do? It has nothing to do with me, after all.
So here’s my Great Idea: Instead of feeling like an underachiever in those circumstances, I’m going to say something like, “Oh, you must have had fun creating this.”
If they did have fun, then more power to them. And the appreciation of people like me doesn’t much matter. It’s just a little bonus for them, the icing on the cookie, as it were.
If they didn’t have fun, that’s too bad, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with me, either. After all, no one forces any of us to do anything around the holidays. If stressed-out overachievers don’t like what they’re doing, they can come up with their own Great Idea and just say no.
And they shouldn’t feel guilty. Even if the rest of us miss out on some Christmas cookies.