Every year the holiday season brings different expectations and different realities. One major factor seems to be the J:S ratio (the Joy-to-Stress ratio). While it is a seemingly objective measure, in truth, relative quantities such as "a lot" also plug into it very nicely.
This year, for me, the J:S ratio was running on the low side for most of the time leading up to Yuletide. My parents aren’t exactly spring chickens anymore, and they asked me to take up most of the slack of what they can no longer do with confidence or safety (my brother taking up the rest). So, I’m now chauffeur, money manager, shopper, and a myriad other things. It’s what families do, and since I’m the elder child, it logically falls on me to take on that responsibility. Needless to say, these new duties in my life have skewed the stress measure to more than it has been in years past.
But, on the complementary side of the ratio, I have my other family. Like the vast majority of people, I was born into a family–who we were wasn’t exactly something either of us got to choose. On the other hand, most of us also get a family (sometimes more than one) that we choose to be a part of. I’ve been lucky enough to join, and be made a part of, a large and vibrant family of adults, near-adults, young’uns, and critters over the past…well, how long actually gets a little complicated…let’s just say that it’s been a while. My new family more than compensates, with joyous times, the stress I get from the old guard.
This isn’t to say that things don’t get a little complicated with trying to balance out all the various responsibilities. My old-family and I traditionally do a LOT of cooking leading up to, and including, the holidays. Cookies, cakes, main courses, hors d’oeuvres, breads, and on and on (e.g. the twenty dozen of one kind of cookie are much loved…I might still have to make another ten dozen to feed all the requests for more). All the dishes are home-made. It’s a lot of work, and very tiring (but not tiresome…never tiresome).
Well, if that’s something we do every year, what’s so complicated? I’m getting to that…
I got up this past Christmas Eve morning, already tired from the aforementioned holiday lead-up, and spent the day making cards, wrapping presents, helping with cooking and shopping, and all those wonderful things you do at the last minute in this hap-happiest time of the year. In the evening, I went and spent Christmas Eve with my new family, and had a blast sharing it with them. There are many traditions with them I’m still learning about.
OK. Now it started getting a little complicated.
My new family expected/invited (tomayto/tomahto) me to join them on Christmas morning–early Christmas morning–to open presents. I figured it wasn’t going to be a problem. Yes, it’d be early, but I figured that if I did the prep-cooking of the stuff for Christmas dinner as soon as I got back, I’d still get a fair amount of sleep before the flood of Christmas-day activities. You see, my old family agreed that, with my brother and me having other commitments, we’d push off some of our own Christmas Eve traditions to later Christmas morning. BUT, when I got home, expecting to cook, my brother announced a change of his plans, so we changed ours back to the traditions (is this getting confusing, yet?) and made merry.
Blah, blah, blah…I finished cooking and cleaning somewhere around 2:30-3:00am. Time enough to take a nap before heading out? I thought…not so much. I’d just wake up tired and then be tired all morning long (I don’t drink coffee, so its use as a fortifier isn’t an option). So, I stayed up. 7:00am came and found me with my chosen family as the little ones stumbled in to see what Santa brought. I was pushing 24-hours awake at this point, with a long day behind me, and I felt a wee bit exhausted. I did little more than sit on the floor, smiled my goofy grin, and petted the cat and a puppy for extended periods. What a genuinely joyful time I had. The smiles. The surprises. The you-got-me-too-much-es. It was everything you think of Christmas morning being.
Later that day, after I had four-hours sleep under my eyelids, I spied my mom watching While You Were Sleeping. I realized that I now soooo relate to Sandra Bullock’s character. It’s a joyful thing when you get to share the love within you with people so eager to accept it and love you back in kind. Talk about tipping the J:S ratio to higher numbers.
Of course, the holiday season isn’t over. At this point though, with S at "some" and J at "great googly-moogly", I think holiday season 2005 is poised to give the stockholders a fantastic return on their investment. I hope each and every one of you can say something similar.
(Important note: I also really enjoy the time I spend with my old family, too…it just didn’t fit in with the editorial flow of this entry. Literary license.)