Sara Orellana-Paape mug 2018

Sara Orellana-Paape

This season, like many previous Christmases, I find myself lacking Christmas spirit. I want to be filled with the spirit of the season, but the many obligations and extra costs can leave me lacking in holiday cheer.

It seems I am perpetually exhausted, running on little to no energy and short in the cash department. This combination has me counting the days until Christmas has passed and we can return to normal. This realization made me very sad. When did I become that person?

I think the answer lies in adulthood. With the pressures of work and building a career, the added pressures and stresses of marriage, bills and children, life itself has lost its sparkle, its magical element. There are moments when I feel the magic of life, but these are brief and fleeting.

I find I am reflecting more and more these days on how to maintain the joy and spirit of the holiday, on ways to increase my enjoyment of the season and lessen the dread.

Last week, my family and I volunteered several evenings at a new program in Lawton. We were helping families of service members enjoy the holiday and find a little more meaning in the time, especially for the families with deployed members.

One evening, I found myself visiting with the director. Through the conversation, I shared with her my lack of joy, the increase of stress and the exhaustion. She immediately understood and was extremely empathetic. She shared some things she and her family have started to do to counter these feelings. I listened with great enthusiasm and then, with great trepidation, asked her if these plans worked. She smiled ear to ear and said yes. I felt my heart lift.

Christmas is a season to slow down, to enjoy the company of family and friends, but not to the point of exhaustion. It is a season of giving, but not necessarily financial giving.

Rather it is a season of giving of ourselves, of making sacrifices and putting others first. To skip a television show in favor of making holiday cookies with your family. A time to watch classic, corny movies creating new memories. A time to remember those who have passed. This is a season meant to be filled with enjoyment.

And so, last weekend, while celebrating my daughter’s 15th birthday I made time to sit and celebrate her. I stopped running and just spent time with her. Slowly, I felt my holiday spirit return. Slowly, I felt myself begin to appreciate these moments and not feel stressed about them anymore.

I felt the joy of life creeping back into my heart. I realized the secret to the season is slowing down and giving of myself. I do not need to be all places or be all things to all people. Rather, I need to give the people in my life quality time and a piece of me.

I tried this theory out. I was invited to a friend’s wedding shower, but opted to miss it, as it was the afternoon of my daughter’s birthday. I sent an explanation over and then sat down to create a present that is a gift of me.

Rather than worrying over finding the perfect gift on her registry, I wrote her a heartfelt note. As a writer, I felt the best, most intimate gift I could give her was a letter. Later that night, I was rewarded with a very nice thank you text. It meant the world to me.

My discovery has set me on a new path. No longer will I worry and strain my budget to find the perfect gift. Rather, I will give of myself. I will spend quality time with that person and give a gift from the heart, a heartfelt note or a picture I took just for them. I will give gifts that show their significance to me, not my wallet. And I will slow down.

I hope each of my readers can find the joy in the season, share great moments with family and friends, and find the true joy of the season.