I am a big fan of traditions. They help me feel rooted, give life some continuity.

Mike and I have created a lot of traditions together over the years. Christmas lights in Sedona, luminaries at the Desert Botanical Garden, a seafood feast on Christmas Eve. When Ryan was born, we added a few new ones for his sake: an annual carriage ride with Santa and handmade salt dough ornaments.

But this year, we had to say goodbye to about half the traditions we’ve built over the years. Sedona and the botanical garden are too far away for that annual stroll. The Santa we visited for the carriage ride? Based in Phoenix, of course.

I compulsively need to feel at home, no matter where I am, how long I’ve been there or how long I’m planning to stay. When I travel, the first thing I do upon entering my hotel room is unpack. I hang up shirts, toss socks into drawers, stack toiletries on bathroom counters. All to feel instantly at home.

You can imagine how I feel when I make a big move. And then when the first big holiday approaches after that move. Must. Feel. At. Home … Must. Make. New. Traditions. That. Will. Stay. With. Us. FOREVER.

I cracked under my own pressure.

I did not create a whole bunch of awesome new traditions in our new home town. This year, I had no choice but to let myself off the hook. Because:

1. I stay home with Ryan but I do a lot of freelance writing on the side. The work is pouring in right now, and I do not take this for granted. The money is good and, frankly, it’s good for my mental well-being to have some side projects.

2. Thanksgiving was late this year. I keep repeating that sentence as explanation for anything that doesn’t get done. I know, we need dinner tonight… It’s just that Thanksgiving was so late this year! Totally throws things off. How hungry are you today, exactly?

3. I am but one person. I do the laundry, make the dinners, grit my teeth through all the tantrums. I clean the floors, wash the dishes, and I bake all the holidays treats for the preschool teachers, the neighbors and the family. I buy the presents, I wrap the presents. I take the car in for the oil change, mail the gifts at the post office, do the grocery shopping, and pick up allthethingsweneednowandforever.

Number 3 sounds like a total whine, but it isn’t. It’s a fact. It’s what I signed up for, and I truly don’t mind it. I even kind of like it. I absolutely would not trade it in to go back to work full-time right now. But these things limit my time and fray my edges a bit so that when I do have a moment to breathe, I’m less inclined to be like, “Hey, I know! Let’s venture out and find some amazing new holiday experience that we’ll be sure to repeat every year from now until Ryan is too old and too cool to care!”

Instead I’m like, “Anyone feel like frozen pizza?” Or “How about another round of Frosty the Snowman?” Or my personal finest: “Mommy doesn’t feel like going to see Santa today.

IMAG0959

Luckily, I got this shot on the “Polar Express” in Ohio, thanks to my parents. So I didn’t get the traditional smiling-or-screaming pose on Santa’s lap, but this would be hard to beat anyway.

And really, who is judging me for this except me? No one. Not a single person has asked me, “What amazing new holiday traditions are you creating for Ryan this year?!

Besides, the season is not about winding yourself up into a frenzy, trying to get to this place and that place, fighting to exceed your own impossible expectations by cramming in nonstop holiday cheer.

It’s about actually living that cheer. Cuddling on the couch under a giant blanket to watch classic Christmas movies after a long week because more than anything, life is about spending quality time with people you love. It’s about delivering homemade treats to thank the neighbors who help you out all yearlong, and it’s about picking through outgrown toys to decide what should be donated to other families who have less than we do.

Cultivating those feelings – of love and thankfulness and giving – is the most important tradition of all. If we’ve done that, then really, we’ve exceeded the highest of expectations.

6 Responses to Easing the pressures of “tradition.”

  1. Cindy says:

    It sounds to me like you’re creating the very best kinds of traditions; traditions that go with you no matter where you may be, that are a part of you, not just activities to check off the yearly list. The kinds of traditions that create who you are, not just what you do. Merry Christmas!

  2. Jaclyn says:

    One little tradition you created and didn’t mention … Ryan getting to spend the holiday with his extended family without the need for a flying machine. So, ya know, that’s a pretty cool.

    Also, that photo of Ryan and Santa is killer. That kid is totally smitten, and it rocks.

  3. Angie says:

    I love traditions. I thrive off them and live for them. But I do agree that sometimes they’re counterproductive and can cause more stress than they’re worth. Good for you for letting the important things take priority. Plus, you have plenty of time to make traditions. You don’t need to force them. Let them happen organically.

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