The Greatest Gift

I liken the final days leading to Christmas to the final days before a marathon, as I’m always in the same state of mind.  This state is a mixture of excitement with a healthy dose of anxiety mixed in, making me wonder if I’ve prepared enough for the big day- be it a 26.2 mile race, or a holiday with gifts, relatives, and glad tidings.

For each event, I must note, that I’m of course well aware of the date and what will be required of me for each far in advance- so really, being unprepared the week or day before is sort of lame. Yet, the same thing happens to me each marathon and each year at Christmas. One week out, I’ll freak out- why didn’t I plan better and prepare more so that I could at least relax a bit beforehand?

For the marathon, my routine goes something like this. The Sunday before, I will analyze the past six months and kick myself for not training enough, training too much, or eating poorly. I’ll examine my shoes, which should have been examined weeks before and think to myself that I should have bought new ones for the event. But of course, a week before a marathon is too close to game day to break in new shoes. So, I will add my shoes to the list of things that will worry me about the upcoming race. During the week, knowing that I need to get plenty of sleep, I will undoubtedly suffer from a few sleepless nights. I might even get the sniffles and feel as if I’m getting sick, and convince myself that I”ll be cursed with a cold on race day.  I will carry myself through the week, trying to do everything right and pre-pave my way to a “perfect” race day on the upcoming Sunday.

Then, somewhere around Friday or Saturday, I’ll start to relax when I realize that whatever will be will be, and there’s not much more I can do to improve or hurt my performance at the marathon.  I’ll then tell myself that I just need to get myself to the race well hydrated and nourished, with running shoes, an appropriate race outfit, and a race number. All of the other worries I had in my head about what I should’ve done or should do… must be put to rest so that I can simply run. That’s it, just run, and enjoy the day that I’ve worked so hard to get to.

Similarly, each December, I will freak out about Christmas about one week before the big day. I should’ve bought more gifts, different gifts, sent cards out, called people, cleaned my house, been more grateful when receiving gifts, and enjoy the holiday season. Instead, I will second guess each gift I’ve bought, and freak out for each remaining gift I’ve yet to buy. Next, I’ll go through my list of people who I wonder if I should get gifts for, and have frantic moments in stores as I consider whether or not to purchase those gifts. The cumulative effect of this holiday whirlwind often leaves me tired and crabby and in no state to fully enjoy the “reason for the season” in any sense of the word.

This year, as I caught myself again with a “case of the holidays” my thoughts trailed back to the many race days when everything comes together and I realize “this is it.” Once the race starts and I’m off and running, nothing else matters. I know I need to appreciate the race (as much as I can, it’s a marathon after all!) and take it all in for what it is, knowing that sooner than I know, it’ll be over.

The same goes with the holidays. They come fast and furious, with so many expectations we build up in our heads and take in from the world around us. If we get caught up in the hoopla, worrying about everything that we should’ve or could’ve done, we’ll miss the best part… the holiday itself and the time it affords us to spend with those we love. That’s what it’s all about; not the hours spent in the malls fretting over whether we’ve purchased the right gifts. Not preparing the perfect meal, getting our houses cleaned just right, or decorating our homes. When Christmas comes and we are with those who mean the most to us, it’s about that moment in time; that “race” that we’ve prepared for. And for once, this is a race where it’s better to take it slow and enjoy, rather than rush through and miss all of the best parts.

However you celebrate the holidays… know that the secret to the “perfect” holiday is never forgetting that the present moment is actually the gift you should cherish the most.

by abbey algiers

copyright 2012

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