Holiday stress. Sounds like an oxymoron to me—you know, a rhetorical expression containing contradictory terms. Holiday suggests rest and relaxation, a change from the norm, a time to regroup and enjoy. Stress, on the other hand, denotes pressure, strain, and anxiety—the stuff we’re seeing and feeling too much of this time of year. So put the two words together—and yup! I’d say it’s contradictory alright!
Yet we are all saying it—must be the holiday stress: to ourselves when we question feeling so out-of-sorts, hassled and harried, and to each other in hopes of bringing a little comfort: “Hang in there, friend, it’s just holiday stress. We’ll be fine after it’s over.”
It’s a puzzle though, why we all recognize it, but it goes on year after year. Gift lists and must do’s. Office parties and family reunions. Obligatory gifts and invites. Not to mention the baking and cleaning, shopping and wrapping, list-making and checking-it-twice… oh and did I mention wrapping? This, in addition to all the other must-do’s in our day-to-day, for sure it’s enough to make your hair frizz and your nerves frazzle!
A drive to the grocery store is an event in itself—road-rage is yet another by-product of holiday stress. Getting through the store aisles, dodging careening carriages and angry shoppers—well it’s a shaker-upper for sure, and a downer as well!
Happy holidays! We hear the hopeful phrase over and over, but I wonder… is anyone happy? Sure doesn’t seem that way.
And if all that isn’t stressful enough, just knowing the merchants are loving every hair-raising second of this buying madness is enough to—well, you can finish that sentence, I’m sure.
Maybe that’s why I love watching the creatures at Hare Hollow so much, although time spent on BackPorch, being three-season only, is limited this time of year. Still I bundle up and step out for a brief respite, wrapping gloved hands around my mug of tea, and simply observe. It clears my mind, calms and restores a sense of normalcy.
There’s no chaos here. Even the woodland creatures that tend to be contrary in the summer months, feed side-by-side in peaceful harmony in the cold and inclement weather. The Sammies (squirrels) scamper about under the feeders, playing tag up and down the tree trunks, before dashing off to their cozy burrows in the woods. Chippies dart in and out of their front and back doors, side doors too, mouths full of sunflower seeds, mischief sparkling in their eyes.
We have what we call a Cardinal Tree—really a burning bush in summer. Located just below the feeders, it has become a favorite hangout of many winged-wonders, but several red cardinals perched in it make it look wondrously festive this time of year. Even more so when the bush is coated in snow.
I inhale the brisk December air, exhale the stress and dismay, smiling at the sassy chickadee not more than a foot away, perched on the thistle feeder, just the other side of the screen. Indignant at being startled, he fluffs his feathers, stares me down a moment with those beady black eyes before flitting off to perch atop the clothesline where he scolds loudly before flitting off again to more enticing things.
Sir Fivel is trudging along with a satchel over his back, leaning a bit more heavily on his cane today. I watch quietly as he approaches Downspout Timber stairway.
“Good afternoon, Sir Fivel…” I speak quietly.
His eyes dart nervously before recognizing me, then he squints in his usual humor.
“Good day to you, Ma’am…” he touches his cap in greeting.
“You’ve quite a load there… can I help you?”
“No, no, Ma’am. Not to worry. Just a bag of knobs and drawer pulls I need to finish. Something I can do by the wood-fire tomorrow during the storm. Always good to be busy, Ma’am… you know how it goes.”
By then he’s pulled himself up the stairs, satchel in tow. Fivelina is at the door waiting. “Let me help you, dear…” she rushes out to take the satchel from him.
“Happy Holidays, Ma’am…” they call in unison. I return the greeting.
Yes, dear creatures. Happy days to you all as well. You cheer me, inspire me and convict me as well. Simple lives, lived in simple faith, knowing the One who made them will continue to provide for them. No doubt. No anxiety. Just simple trust.
Holiday stress? None.
I am humbled.