I love the connection opportunities that Christmas can bring with friends and family. However, what I appreciate the most are the experiences during Christmas, not the presents. 

For me, going into Christmas is chaos, a time of conflict with deadlines to raise money and steep benchmarks for year-end goals. 

Any thought of Christmas becomes more distant with every self-imposed thing to do.  

I don’t believe this is an unusual phenomenon. Many of us fall prey to wishing to do our “life” successfully—whatever that means—while, at the same time, increasing pressure for unrealistic and unmet expectations for Christmas.  

With the pressure on to meet deadlines, I tend to be higher-energy, intense, sharper, and less patient chasing work goals, while at the same time, keeping the embers of hope burning for that perfect moment—a perfect Christmas. 

Ridiculous? Absolutely. 

Here’s the reality, I am painfully aware of countless people that will not be spending the holidays with people they love. I understand that while I am weighted down with a self-imposed to-do list this Christmas, people will experience real pain and real loss. What I know is that we must be gentler with the world—gentler with ourselves and gentler with others. 

As we rush around juggling jobs, projects, and deadlines, people we encounter are doing all they can just to get through each day. I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to slow down and go out of our way to honor and be kind to others. I say this not from a soapbox but rather as a reminder to myself, as someone who has experienced loss of many varieties around the holidays and throughout the year.

Now is the time we must remind ourselves of the gifts we receive all year instead of letting self-inflicted pressure ratchet to a new level that we will later regret.  

There’s a quote by JD Salinger in which he says, “I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”

Maybe that’s precisely what we all need to focus on—not our need to feed our ego with what we call ‘responsibilities’ but rather the many who will be suffering over the holidays.

Let’s reflect on the many blessings over the last year. While our circumstances we’ve encountered and the gifts we have received are unique, many of us have much to be grateful. 

This Christmas, I will be celebrating the gifts I have received over the year and will be mindful of paying it forward with kindness, gratitude, and humility.