Are you ready for Christmas? Got the presents bought? Wrapped? Food ordered? Paid the deposit for the Christmas party? Got an outfit? Can you make the kids' nativity show? Have you paid for their disco? Did you text Auntie Margaret back about the Boxing Day buffet? Have your children got clean socks for tomorrow? What are you having for tea? Oh and you really should look into switching the gas & electric, the last bill was ridiculous...
It can all feel so overwhelming, can't it? Your head's in a spin, fighting 100 different priorities that all want centre stage. The kids, your job, Christmas, day to day life... it's all so much.
And it all has to be perfect, apparently... is your Christmas tree worthy of Instagram? Can you announce on Facebook you've got everything beautifully wrapped with a lovely picture to prove it (in October)? Are all your gift recipients going to be blown away by how thoughtful and appropriate your (ethical, sustainable, plastic free) gifts are?
The answer to one or maybe all of those is NO.
Nothing is perfect. So stop trying to make it all perfect.
I was at a church meeting last night when it hit me: I've been running around organising everything to a T. My notebook is packed full of lists that I am systematically working my way through - more so than usual, because this year, we have a family wedding on the 21st December, and I'm hosting 6 extra adults for Christmas (making 11 of us), so I need to be completely on top of things.
Or so I've been thinking.
And honestly, the lists are great, and I do feel like I'm kinda on top of things... for the moment. But last night I realised... actually what matters most? Is anyone going to care if the bread sauce is homemade (sshhhh, Dad)? Are the kids going to mind how their presents look wrapped up before they tear them open? Are any of my Christmas guests going to be at all bothered about whether my dining table looks Pinterest perfect before we sit down at it?
The answer is again no. The answer is not to look inwards at myself and my achievements and my ability to make everything perfect. It's to look outwards at the people I love and focus on them. It's about being present for my children - cuddling up under a pile of blankets to watch a film together even if the house looks like a tip - not leaving them to ensure my mince pies are homemade at the expense of family time.
It's to be generous and open-hearted towards the many, many families who will struggle to cobble together a present each for the kids and a semblance of a Christmas dinner - by putting gifts in the Foodbank box instead of even more into our stockings.
It's to sit and take a moment to appreciate the fact that I'm alive, I have people I love in my life and that while life is fragile and anything can happen, there is so much to be thankful for.
Just take a minute to sit. Gaze out of the window at the sky, sip a cup of tea. STOP SCROLLING. STOP COMPARING. Remember loved ones you miss, grieve if you need, be joyful that others are still with you. Know that YOU have value, because you are a human being with a soul, not because you got all your Christmas cards written in November this year.
None of us will remember the ribbon we used in 20 years' time. We'll remember the hugs, the smiles, the sense of being together, being grateful and joyful, even being sad together and mourning the inevitable problems and sadnesses of this life that mean nothing can ever quite be perfect, but it can be good.
It is not a competition. It is not a measurement of your worth.
Stop. And just be... for a few precious minutes.
May you all have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.