Hope for the holiday - how simple is that?

Joyce Pemberton Columnist

And so it begins. The holidays are upon us, and you know what that means.

We’re being sucked into the black hole of Black Fridays, cyber specials, extended mall hours, early bird sales and blue light specials. We are eating eat too much, spending more than we can afford, partying with people we barely know and drinking more alcohol than we need.

We are punishing ourselves with lists of things we must do and deadlines that have to be met. Relaxing evenings have disappeared as holiday gatherings fill up calendars.

We are becoming cranky with strangers in stores, merely because they are there. We are worrying over finding the perfect tree, baking the perfect cookies, sending timely holiday cards and putting up outdoor decorations that out-do the neighbors.

And gifts. Don’t forget the gifts. This is the time of year when children become greedy and adults become needy. When it comes to giving or receiving gifts, our expectations are rarely met.

And yet...with all of this crazy over-indulgence, we can barely suppress our excitement as the holiday season approaches. Why is that?

The answer can be summed up in one small word - hope.

We hang our holiday hats on hope. We hope for the perfect holiday. We hope that our children will morph into perfect angels. We hope for kindness from strangers. We hope our family will finally get along. We hope for that perfect gift. We hope someone will kiss us under the mistletoe. We hope for peace on earth and goodwill to all.

We hope for a holiday that reflects every movie we’ve ever watched and every Christmas card we’ve ever received.

Recently when talking with a friend about the angst I always feel around this time of year, he smiled and said to very simply, “Relax. Just do what you can do.”

Wow. Just do what you can do.

Overwhelmed with all the things to do on your “to do” list? Then shorten the list. Just do what you can do.

On a smaller budget this year? That’s OK. Make your gifts about the thought, not about the cost. Just do what you can do.

Too many parties to go to? That’s fine. Pick the ones you really want to attend. Your time is valuable. Just do what you can do.

Not sure you’ll get those Christmas cards out in time? No worries, I doubt anyone is sitting at home waiting on your card. This may be the year you give yourself permission to not send cards. Just do what you can do.

In other words, instead of tripping over yourself to meet your own unrealistic expectations, take a deep breath and give yourself permission to justdo what you can do.

The true meaning of Christmas was never meant to knock us to our knees in stress, but to bring us to our knees in gratitude. If you are looking to simplify things this season, then look to the simplistic arrival of the Christ Child as an example.

This holiday season, give yourself permission to relax and justdo what you can do.

I think if we truly do this, then maybe, just maybe, we will experience every bit of the hope we hold in our hearts for this holiday season.