In less than twenty hours the calendar will flip to a month that brings more dread, and stress, and fear, and chaos, and hurt feelings, and bad memories, and financial strain, and heartbreak to some people than the other eleven months of the year combined.
Christmas didn’t start that way and it doesn’t have to be that way for you and yours. But it will sweep you away if you let it.
By now everyone has likely received at least a dozen advertisements stressing the urgency of the holiday season, right? Time is running out! Hurry in! You might miss out on something incredible! What are you waiting for? Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Christmas is right around the corner, people! Where are you? HURRY! You’re going to miss it!
If you’re anything like me, by the time you get done reading an ad like the one above, your heart’s racing and you feel a building anxiety over the fact you might just miss something if you don’t indeed hurry. Even if all was well in your world before you even knew that ad existed. Even if you had things well in hand this holiday season, the ad most likely did its job. Have you ever noticed how marketers play on emotions that sit way too close to the surface for many of us? They unsettle you (Am I ready?). They place doubt (Did I get the best deal?). They might even play on fear (Is what I’ve done good enough?).
I’m the first to admit I can easily get caught up in this hurry frenzy. As the baby of five kids, I never wanted to miss out on anything growing up and I can proudly say in my forty-six years, nothing’s changed. I still hate missing out. I’m the first one up on Black Friday and I’ve been known to follow a certain big brown truck to a nearby game store on release day for a kiddo I happen to adore. I can hear you laughing but don’t judge me. My guess is you’ve probably done this same type of thing, especially if you have children. Whether it happens to you during the holidays or at some other time of year, like a birthday or special occasion, it doesn’t matter. Even though my kiddo is older now, I can still hear his pleas from past holidays ringing in my ears. But mom, you have to hurry! They open at 4am on Saturday but you only have an hour. If you aren’t one of the first three in line, they’ll sell out and I’ll be the only kid without a copy of the game! It’s a boatload of pressure, I’ll tell you. Yet there I went, running around town in a panic, wondering if I was going fast enough, afraid I’d miss out.
The morning I shared the details of the delivery man stalking incident to a good friend over coffee was right about the time I had the good sense to hit the pause button and insert a little sanity check into my life. I heard the words coming out of my mouth, my confession if you will, but honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was saying. I did what? Why? And then it hit me.
There’s a truth out there advertisers don’t want us to know. Save for one or two new electronic items you might not even want or need, there’s nothing new this season that you’re going to miss is if don’t hurry. While it’s true you might save a few dollars here and there, research indicates that stores only deeply discount a small handful of items banking on the hope you’ll fill your cart with other regularly priced merchandise while waiting in line to grab one of only five Hero Princess figurines being sold in the next ten minutes for fifty cents. They’re counting on your trip to snag Hero Princess for under a buck costing you closer to a hundred dollars before you leave their fine establishment.
Whether you’ll be spending a quiet evening curled up with a good book this Christmas or circulating a room filled with family and friends, my guess is what you most need to hear you won’t find in any advertisement set to hit your inbox in the coming days. Friends, you don’t need to hurry. In fact, if you can find a few hours, let yourself rest and try hard not to feel guilty about it. Remind yourself that most likely, you’re ready. And if you’re not, force yourself to make a sane to do list you actually have a shot at accomplishing rather than a manifesto that will leave you feeling inadequate when you fall short. Trust that you got the best deal. If you learn that Hero Princess is going to be on sale for a quarter for five minutes on Christmas Eve, say a prayer for the sucker that’s going to be standing in line rather than diving for your wallet and coat.
Is what you’ve done good enough? I bet it is. If you share your heart with someone this Christmas. If you reach out and make vulnerable a bit of yourself you otherwise keep guarded, you’ll ace Christmas 2016. And if you don’t find yourself chasing a delivery truck? That’s some serious extra credit.