Last Updated on December 16, 2014 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
It’s been a plethora of informational posts and product reviews around here, so I’m feeling the need for a little (written) verbal release. I just spent no short of the past hour agonizing over Christmas shopping; staring at page after page online of what essentially boils down as unnecessary materialistic goods that my friends and family certainly don’t need, and might not even want, bought with money I really don’t have to spend. I felt my blood pressure and anxiety starting to rise, when I snapped back into reality and realized “this is not what Christmas is about” and closed the browsing window.
I want to assure you that with what I’m about to post, I’m not trying to be a Grinch. I was brought up in a house full of love and holiday cheer that quite honestly rivals the North Pole itself; if anything ever happened to Mrs. Claus, my mother could fill her shoes in a heartbeat. I love Christmas, I love the spirit of the holidays, the family, the giving, the lights, the songs, the amazing food…but lately I’m finding myself fed up with the “stuff”.
This past weekend I spent a lovely 48 hours with my boyfriends mother and sister in Portland, Maine. We found ourselves at the local mall where we were packed in tight, like sardines in a can, with thousands of other shoppers. The store fronts bombarded our senses with “must have gifts for your loved ones” and “hottest toys of 2014”. The ridiculously long lines people waited in to purchase these items were conveniently shuttled through aisles of even more “last minute stocking stuffers” and “don’t forget items”. Stuff, things, junk, everywhere. Items that likely will be tossed aside before the snow even melts in another few months. But people were reaching for them in hoards, because buying things is simply what you do this time of year. Buy, buy, buy. Stress, stress, stress. You could feel the tension and panic in the air. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? That in a season promoting peace and generosity, we become an utterly stressed out society fueling materialistic greed.
I stood in front of one particular store front that had a massive, pink, decorative bow hanging in the window. It had to be at least 4 feet in diameter and made of plastic. I stared at the bow and wondered, how much did this bow cost to make? How much did it cost to ship it to the store? How much manpower was used simply to hang it up? And what happens after the holidays? Likely, that bow will hit the dumpster, adding to another landfill. What if all of that money, material, and manpower was used towards something necessary, like a clean water jug (and clean water to fill it) for someone who doesn’t have such luxuries? That would truly be the embodiment of the holiday season. But instead, we have a huge tacky window decoration that 90% of the people who walk past it probably won’t even notice. And even if they do notice, what good does it do? For the first time in 32 years, the whole elaborate song and dance behind Christmas made me really sad. I suddenly didn’t want to buy anything.
Side note: I’m supposed to be writing a sponsored “Holiday Gift Guide” post today (as if you haven’t seen enough this season out in blog land). Clearly this isn’t going very well.
Changing direction: I also know A LOT of good is also done this time of year. Another perk of social media is the ability to see and hear of people doing amazing things. Raising thousands upon thousands of dollars to give those who might not otherwise have a Christmas much needed food, clothing, toys for the little ones, and the peace of mind knowing that they have not been forgotten. And I’m certainly not anti-presents, the Christmas season is about giving as well. It’s a wonderful feeling when you are able to surprise a loved one with a gift that puts a smile on their face and lights up their eyes. I also realize that the holiday season can make or break the year for small businesses, and therefore help give people much needed jobs and a source of income, so commercialism can’t be completely frowned upon either.
I guess my point is this: I’m reading post after post on various blogs and Facebook status updates about how “stressed out” everyone gets this time of year. And my question to you is…why? I suppose more so, my challenge to you is to ask yourself why. Why, during a season of love and forgiveness, are we so hard on ourselves, both emotionally and physically? Why, during a season of hope and giving, are we so wasteful, materially and financially?
Let’s all take a step back and remind ourselves why we celebrate, whatever our beliefs may be. Exude love. Practice forgiveness (and this includes forgiving yourself). Take the time to laugh and truly LIVE in the moment. The holidays are what YOU make of them; they shouldn’t have to be such a source of stress. In short, this is my long, not so eloquent way of saying that whatever your “reason for the season” is, please don’t forget it.
Lots of love sent to all of you, from me, this holiday season!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.