We have a ten-minute drive from home to the boys’ new school. It used to be a five-minute walk. Although the gates at school don’t open until 8:30 and school doesn’t start until 8:40, I have us putting on our shoes at 8:00.
Does this seem exaggerated? Seeing the words in black and white seems exaggerated. But I know something about my family of scalawag adventurers: we do not do transitions well.
Case in point: until Tuesday of this week, we were listening to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince croon about Summertime. On repeat.
Let me suggest that listening to that song, wearing a faux fur winter coat and driving gloves while the trees are gold and yellow and leaves are chasing each other across the street hits quite a bit differently than it does when you are wearing a rainbow summer dress and the air on with the pool bag next to you on the seat. You should try it. The song still holds up, though.
And then, with absolutely zero transition at all, the boys wanted to listen to Christmas music.
As a part of both choral and orchestral groups when I was in school, I understood that holiday concerts required preparation. This did not stop me from having a fit when the first Christmas music was distributed. The earliest I remember it being done was the actual, literal, day of my birthday, which is at the end of September. I believe I refused to open my mouth to sing. I just couldn’t let this happen. It was still my birthday. It was not Christmas!
My husband and I, when we were childless marrieds, never even owned a tree. We owned no decorations. We lived vicariously through others. I just wasn’t that into holiday decorating.
What did–and still does–drive me nuts, was how our transitions from holiday to holiday and season to season seem to be guided by what the stores want to sell us. Opening that seal–whether it be the first Valentine hearts showing up on January 1, or Christmas lights on October 5 (the first ones I saw in a shop window this year), is, for me, the best possible way to make me angry and feel pre-overwhelmed.
The red line
When I was growing up, my family used to pick a color for decorating the Christmas tree, and it became our theme. One year, my sister picked “peach” and all the ornaments and decorations were “peach” colored. My mother picked “purple” on year, and while purple may no be my favorite color, it looked pretty amazing on a Christmas tree.
So, while we were down with the Christmas tree tradition, we liked to do things on our own terms. It was important to us. But we never put our tree up before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving was the red line that Christmas must not pass. I still feel this way about Christmas in many ways, but in France, there is no Thanksgiving (although I am trying to change that!).
Transition on our own terms
Like I said last week, at Starbucks here in town, they were already playing Christmas music. I felt like my “not before Thanksgiving” rule was being violated, although, admittedly, I have been preparing for a Christmas concert, so it wasn’t like I was totally unaware that this could happen. It still made me angry.
I decided that being angry wasn’t worth it. Feeling stressed out by the enforced merriment of “All I want for Christmas is you” was not going to get me anywhere. So I decided to start transitioning on my own terms. Letting in little bits and pieces of the holidays in when the mood struck.
So yesterday, with the help of my littlest scalawag, I created a funny wreath with long vintage thrift store sports socks as stockings for our front door. Tuesday, we started listening to Christmas music in the car. The boys have been decorating their rooms (they love to decorate for holidays…Halloween, Valentine’s Day, you name it they are down for making paper decorations for it.)
From Zero Transition to Transitioning on our own terms
Transitions are hard. They are fraught for so many reasons that we don’t even understand. I would be hard pressed to explain why I get so viscerally angry when I hear those first jingle bells of the year. This year, though, I am going to choose.
It goes back to my point about the Ideal Life: so much of our life feels like we never gave our consent to where we are. We feel like pinballs. Giving active consent to where we are and our current circumstances and choosing to make progress when we are good and ready means that we are fully engaged in the pursuit. We are not lukewarm: we are completely warmed up and ready to go!
Do not start anything until you are ready this year. Let yourself get warmed up, and then, once you get started, do everything with love.
Joy will follow.