Holiday Sparks Skirmish Between the Two of Me

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as quick as the next to rail against commercialism.

“Hrumph!” I say to stores that open their doors at 6 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

“Too much!” I say to the megapounds of catalogs that slide from our mailbox with a “Hurry Now!” shout.

But the truth is, it’s not the shotgun start of the ads and the catalogs that sends me running down the frantic holiday track. It’s the thrill of the chase.

For the ravenous multitasker, Christmas is a feast with music and lights.

While I’d like to blame the frenzy on someone else, there’s part of me that thrills to the rush of swinging by hundreds of places on the way to someplace else to pick up some little item that’s listed on a sticky note flapping on the dash.

But events this fall have jolted me into thinking about what’s important. Somehow, a new Simplifying Self has emerged to do battle with the Frantic One and is angling for the real spirit of the season, not just the rush and the glitz. These two parts of me are easy to distinguish and increasingly at war.

The Simplifier wears one hundred percent cotton in muted colors, very little make-up and comfortable shoes. She sips decaffeinated organic apricot tea in the glow of small vanilla candles made of pure beeswax. While meditating.

The Frantic One wears anything that’s clean and makeup when she remembers, drinks lots of double espresso and loses her keys. This is while chopping tomatoes for tacos, helping with algebra and folding contour sheets with her one free hand.

It was no surprise that on a recent trip to the bookstore, a little white volume by Elaine St. James reached out, grabbed the Simplifier and coaxed her into a comfy chair in a secluded corner of the coffee bar.

After Frantic followed breathlessly and ordered a large latte, the Simplifier proceeded to absorb all 269 pages of Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays, offered by her new idol, the guru of simplifying your life.

The coffee bar exchange that followed led to the first skirmish between the two of me in this pursuit of a more spiritual holiday.

“Create a meaningful Christmas without gifts!” wrote the guru wisely.

“Human connection and no bills!” cheered the Simplifier.

“Love to shop!” cried Frantic.

“Ask family and friends not to give gifts!” the guru persisted.

“They’ll be so relieved!” said the Simplifier.

“Ha! They’ll think you’re a Scrooge!” Frantic said.

It wasn’t until we got to the DO’s instead of the DON’Ts that we reached some sort of peace.

“Be unconventional!” she wrote. “Spend your Christmas money on food for the homeless.”

“Much better,” said the Simplifier.

“How about part of it?!” asked Frantic.

“Give less. Play more,” instructed the guru, who then described hours of family fun that didn’t require buying a thing.

“Yes,” said the Simplifier.

“Buying a couple of board games couldn’t hurt! offered Frantic. “The President asked us to shop.”

“Explore other traditions.” the guru wrote, describing how it’s customary in Finland to sprinkle straw on the dinner table to remember the humble beginnings of Christmas.

“Easier than a tree!” said the Simplifier.

“Would be nice under the tree!” suggested Frantic, “or around a manger scene in the front yard. Would be nice with live animals!!!”

By the bottom of the latte, the guru and myselves had simplified Christmas completely, except for identifying a working farm with a donkey on the way to a mall.

There was also the detail of whether to buy the book, listed at $14.95. But the question seemed to bring us together.

“It would make a great gift,” the Simplifier said.

“Absolutely not!” said Frantic. “This year, we’re cutting back.”


Copyright Pat Snyder 2001

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