Savoring the Perfection of Imperfection: Holiday Edition
I’ve mentioned before how much I love Christmas and all the traditions that come with it. Well, a few nights ago, my husband and I decided to sit down for a few minutes to just enjoy our tree (pictured above). We turned off the living room lights and spent some time talking under its calm, twinkling glow. It really was lovely to just pause and breathe in this busy season of searching for the perfect gifts and stocking stuffers.
I decided to snap a quick photo of our tree to mark the quiet moment – especially because this tree happens to be our prettiest yet. It’s tall, around nine feet. It fills our window with sparkle and our living room with the sweet, sprucey smell of the holidays. And -very unlike our tree last year- it appears to be holding on to its needles for the duration of the season.
Looking later in the evening at the photo I had taken, I noticed the star on top of the tree was slightly crooked. And that there were several dark spots throughout the tree that had been skipped over by the lights (we let the kids string the lights this year). My first instinct was to jump into the branches and even out the lights, and to have Craig climb back on the ladder to adjust the star.
But then I thought, wait a minute. This is a beautiful tree as it is and I should just savor the season.
I don’t know if it’s the Type A in me, or too many holiday movies filled with the perfect happy ending, but I always feel the need for everything to be “just so” during the holiday season.
The perfect tree with a balanced number of meticulously wrapped presents under it, a festive front door and magazine-worthy decorations. That’s the reality I seek.
But the reality I live in looks more like a mix of some of that perfection (I actually do a nice job with my decorations – all 29 boxes of them) mixed in with lots of imperfections like a few empty bins of tree decorations in our front hall that haven’t been put up yet, or fallen holiday deer in the front yard (yes, that happened this year and it took us days to finally get out in the yard and better secure them upright).
And the meticulously wrapped presents? I wish! But isn’t there just as much beauty in life’s imperfections? And isn’t this the season to be counting blessings instead of picking apart the minor flaws?
My friend Jennifer put this photo on facebook recently of the Christmas tree her family had purchased through a fundraiser benefitting her daughter’s school. Lovely, right? The ‘beauty’ of the fundraiser is that all of the trees are tied up and supporters don’t know exactly what theirs will look like (or how it will hold up) until the tree is home and set up.
A few days later I noticed a new photo from her of the tree face down on her living room floor, having tipped over during the night. Ornaments (and some pride, I’m sure) broken and scattered. Ouch.
Had that been my tree, I’m sure there would have been few expletives left unsaid (sorry, mom, you sure did raise me better), and I might have even shed some tears.
But Jennifer didn’t let it ruin her family’s holiday, or even spend time complaining about it. Instead she laughed it off on facebook, cleaned up the ornaments and took her kids to pick out a new tree.
And then they transformed the last remaining sturdy part of the old tree into a lovely new decoration for their home. Talk about making lemons out of lemonade!
What a great lesson she taught her kids about picking up and getting some perspective instead of wallowing when things don’t go the way you think they should.
The holidays are also a time when many people feel lonely and helpless in a major way.
Songs, Hallmark Channel movies and television commercials constantly reinforce that the holidays are a time for family and loved ones to be together. Which can be painful reminders for those who are celebrating alone or are dealing with serious loss, illness or depression. For them, holiday anxiety is about more than just imperfect decorations. It’s a harsh reality that can feel acute around this time of year.
Especially the first holiday after the death of a loved one. Most of us have experienced the loss that occurs when someone we love passes away, and each holiday season can be a painful reminder of their absence. It can take a long time before those memories bring you warmth instead of a pit in your stomach.
One of my friends who lost his beloved partner suddenly several years ago says that Joe Biden’s words on grief have helped him.
In an absolutely beautiful and moving 2015 speech on grief (I highly recommend you take a minute to check out the whole speech), Biden said,
“There will come a day, I promise . . . when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner or later.. But the only thing I have more experience than you in is this: I’m telling you it will come.”
My friend mentioned this quote in a recent social media update to say that he finally smiled this year. My heart grew a couple of sizes, and I smiled to myself as I read his words.
While I mourned my friend’s loss several years ago and have followed his journey since, I think the times I reached out probably weren’t enough. I think I could have done more to help ease his pain. And I am reminded that so many others also are experiencing grief or loneliness instead of joy this holiday season.
Okay, I didn’t necessarily mean for this post to turn into such a serious discussion, but here we are. These are real issues for people, especially during the holidays.
So how can we get perspective on all those minor imperfections that crop up when others are dealing with literal life and death issues? I don’t know about you, but it sure can feel like the most major thing in the world when you’re in the middle of finding your turkey burnt to a crisp, discovering a tipped-over tree, or fighting with your family.
Sometimes we need to just take a pause. Take a step back and focus on what the season means to you. Take a minute out of a chaotic day to sit under the lights of your Christmas tree and just breathe. Maybe even force yourself to try to laugh it off a little. Also:
Find ways to help others, perhaps through volunteering with your family.
Try to notice and help those who may normally be ignored, like those sleeping on the streets or those who may be in trouble.
Reach out and include someone you know may be alone or lonely in your holiday traditions.
And for crying out loud, tell people how much you appreciate them. I think daily of my friends who have lost loved ones, and pray for their healing, but I know I don’t tell them enough that I’m thinking of them. If that sentiment sounds familiar, maybe we should all reach out to those people and tell them once in a while.
Shouldn’t we use the holiday season as an opportunity to express our gratitude for who and what we have?
My stepson came home yesterday with an ornament he made at school. When we went to hang it on our tree, he remarked that the star wasn’t straight. I just smiled and said, “I know.”
At the end of the day, a crooked star, misplaced lights, or even a fallen Christmas tree, are pretty minimal holiday traumas. Let’s embrace those kind of flaws -and each other- as we celebrate the perfectly imperfect.
Please feel free to comment below. And here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!
Love this. It is all about perspective. Happy Holidays!
So true – and sometimes gaining that perspective can be tough. Glad you liked the post!
Really wonderful things to think about. I too lose perspective in all of the shopping and decorating and such and need to just take time to breathe and enjoy my family.
Thank you so much!! Hope you have a wonderful holiday enjoying family!
It’s hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, but what we always remember the most are the crazy, silly, unexpected events that happen. Have a wonderful holiday with your family!!
That is so true. Thank you – you, too!
Love this! Christmas…and every time of the year should be about perspective. There is definitely beauty in the imperfection.
Yes, there absolutely is – we just have to pause long enough to appreciate it! Happy holidays!
Great post.whst very good information.
I have never laughed so hard at something like I did at your OOPS photo!
Ha – thank you!!
I love this inspiring post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Merry Christmas!
Minimalism has made my life so much easier! I used to be the same about holiday decorations and now I just have a few of my favorite things 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Robin, that’s a great take. I think my husband would love for me to pare the decorations down!!
Yes! Keeping things in perspective is so important! So, that means I won’t fret that I need more lights on the mantle instead of my one tiny string!😳 Sometimes we get so caught up in making homey, wonderful times for the children in our lives that the focus of preparing for waiting for Christ’s birth gets lost. It is woven in so well when we see the needs of others and meet them. To the sick and the lonely, a small gesture can let them see Christ through you!
Wonderful reminders, and great humor! Oops! Love your re-purposing! I can tell you have a beautiful, fun, loving home!💗
Thanks, Pam 🙂 totally agree about the small gestures, they can make a big difference.
Thanks for the reminder to keep my perspective in check. Your tree is just beautiful – Merry Christmas!
Thanks, Lauri! We love it, too – even with its crooked star 😉
I hope you have a great holiday!
Great insight, and handmade ornaments are the best. (I don’ t know if we have ever had a straight star!) Merry Christmas!
Yes – love handmade ornaments!!
Hi Cameron, great post. I am a perfectionist and I think I scared my daughter for life growing up because everything on the tree had to be ‘so’ perfectly in place, she’s never put up her own tree since being on her own. Now, that’s sad! I’m glad I’ve learned to embrace letting go…
Thanks, Susan – it’s hard to let go, isn’t it? But worth it once we can. Happy holidays!
I’m somebody who has holiday grief, and I used to be a perfectionist. I’ve slowly become more comfortable with being broken and having imperfections. The holiday imperfections are something that I’m learning to embrace. Thanks for verifying it just has to be memorable, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Well said, Katie. Such a hard lesson to learn – but memorable is far preferable to perfect. Hope you have a nice holiday season.
You just have to remember what’s important! Thank you for the lovely post!
I love Christmas traditions. I also let my kids decorate the tree. This was such a sweet post. Thank you!
Thank you, Shelly!
What a beautiful tree! Love the use of ribbon! Thanks for the ideas!
I totally understand your thoughts on this. I decorated the tree at our church, and every Sunday I sit and critique a space where a bow is missing. Everyone else loves it, has given loads of positive comments, but I get stuck looking at the imperfect! This is a great reminder to me to stop looking for that, and look and do the positive.
Yes! It is such a temptation to focus on the missing bow or lights instead of enjoying it. Glad this was helpful!!
I love that quote. This will be the first Christmas without my mom so it really resonated with me!
I’m so glad that the quote resonated, I think it is such a good one for difficult times. Happy holidays and prayers for you and your family on your first Christmas without your mom.
Beautiful post! I let my kids decorate my tree. It has never been perfect, and now that we have a toddler, all the decorations are on the upper part! But we love it as it is. I visit my friends’ houses and see their beautiful trees, and even if I’d love to have mine as perfect as those, I truly enjoy the stage of life I’m living, with all its imperfections!
It sounds like a beautiful tree – and a great outlook!! Merry Christmas!
Beautiful words! And I love your tree!!
Thank you so much!!
Great perspective! It’s not about perfection, but more about the experience and what you take out of it.
I love this post. I’ve been spending a lot of nights just dimming the lights with only the glow of the Christmas tree and try to appreciate everything around me and not focus on all the chaos.
Perspective is essential in all things. When searching for our tree we looked for one with flaws, and then decorated it as a family with lots of homemade ornaments. Our tree has never looked like the picture perfect ones seen in the movies or in magazines. But it represents our family and years of memories. Thanks for sharing!
That is such a great outlook, Rosanna – thank you!
What a great piece – it is truly all about perspective. I am like you and probably would have cried and thrown out a few unattractive expletives, as well (much to my own chagrin), but I like things “just so,” as well. However, I’m working on the perspective aspect and love this piece for being that reminder. As for volunteering ~ my family LOVES to volunteer together and we have a special place here near our home where we take the time to serve. It’s so good for sooo many reasons.
Thanks so much! Yes – volunteering together is so fulfilling – a wonderful thing to do during the holidays – and year round!
Perfectly (yes I know) said. And it does hit the mark as it so easy to be drawn into impossible expectations seen in slices of life either thru random postings or commercials. While never thinking about the backstory.
Such a great lesson to slow down and enjoy the quietness. I so much love the idea of sitting down under the Christmas tree and talking with wach other. I’m looking forward to doing this with hubby this year. Thanks
Thanks, Bola – yes, it is lovely to find a way to slow down and enjoy things. It is hard to do, but I’m hoping we can all try for that throughout the year and not just at Christmas!
I’m new to your blog/site and so happy I am. I connect with this on so many levels — but as I’m writing this on July 17, I’m connecting today because of the six boxes of 4th of July decorations yet to put away and the nine buntings and flags to fold up and store, all taking up room in my basement. On Monday they were moved from the dining room table after gathering dust there for a couple days.
Like you, decorating for the holidays makes be very happy. Each and every seasonally labelled bin holds treasures that make my heart sing when I unpack them. But also like you, I’m happy I’ve arrived at a place where I’m ok if everything is not perfectly displayed, or displayed at all. The time with family and friends that the holidays bring is what matters the most. Thanks for the reminder to always keep that at the front of the holiday window. xo
Thanks, MaryJane!! I’m so glad to hear that you also feel the same joy with decorating – and are able to let the imperfections slide. It’s taken me years – and sometimes I’m still not there!! (my 4th decorations are slowly coming down, ha!) Thank you!!
Girl, it gives me comfort to know we are all kind of in the same boat this year. It’s a little tough for us type A ladies.