It happens every November. My life is just getting back to normal after a busy October planning my twins’ birthday extravaganza and Halloween. I’ve resumed my everyday routine of work, training and kid activities and I’m happy and content.

Then someone makes the inevitable, seemingly innocuous, triggering comment and I realize that we are mere weeks away from the grandest holiday of the year and full-blown holiday panic sets in.
This year it was an email from my friend Wendy on November 13. Her note was nice and pleasant enough. A few remarks about her kids and their hectic school schedule. Information pertaining to our plan of meeting up in December. I didn’t get to the zinger until the second paragraph. “I have been working on my Christmas cards.”

My eyeballs stopped at the period and my heart froze. WHAT??? Wendy’s been working on her Christmas cards??? And to add insult to injury, she’s been putting her Christmas cards together with pictures that I took of her kids at the beach last summer. Because of me, she’s already almost finished with her Christmas cards. AND I HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS CARDS YET!

Oh my God. Christmas cards, holiday decorations, shopping! Gifts for the kids, gifts for the relatives, gifts for the teachers, gifts for the pets. Wait, no! I don’t need gifts for the pets! Do I? Oh no! I don’t even know who I need to get gifts for! Oh my God. I have to plan my Christmas dinner menu. I haven’t even planned my Thanksgiving menu! What about the holiday party? I don’t really need to have a holiday party. Do I? Oh no! I don’t even know what events I need to host. I need to start baking! And what about the kids’ winter boots? I don’t even know if they still fit! What if they need new boots and they’re all sold out and we have a blizzard that dumps six feet of snow on Chapel Hill and my kids can’t leave the house for a week because they don’t have winter boots that fit?!

Yes, like I said, full blown panic mode. I’m sure I even mentioned to everyone who would listen how much I dread the holidays. I always utter those words. Every year.

There’s just so much pressure. So many tasks to complete. The whole thing is completely overwhelming.
I wallowed in my panic for a few days. Okay, maybe more than a few days. I fretted over the enormity of it all and I whined about the lack of enough hours in the day and I ranted over all the commercialism and how far we’ve drifted from the true meaning of Christmas.

Then the organizer in me began to get down to business. First things first. Thanksgiving menu. Check. We had a wonderful dinner and day of thanks. Next item – Black Friday.

No frenzied, early morning shopping mayhem for me! No pepper spraying, no pushing, no shoving, no yelling bad words. I started the day with 90 minutes of hot yoga with my friend, Christy. There’s nothing like spending an hour and a half in a small room heated to 105 degrees with 90% humidity with a yoga guru named Burley to put things into perspective.

Things were calm at the house when I returned home. The kids were all occupied with friends and I had a few moments to myself. I lit the first candle I came across, which by chance happened to be a nice cinnamon apple spice candle. I grabbed the first CD on the stack and put it in the player. As it happened, the CD was a new holiday one I had ordered from Amazon on impulse a week or so ago. I sat down at the table to work on my never-ending to-do list.

And then it happened. Like magic. Just like it always does every year. In my uncharacteristically quiet kitchen, as the scent of cinnamon and apple filled the air and as the opening strains of the first beautiful Christmas melody of the season reached my ears, the pre-holiday panic evaporated. I felt calm, peaceful and happy. The Christmas spirit had arrived.

I put my pen down, closed my eyes, and for a few minutes reveled in the beauty and wonder of the holiday season.

There are still a million things to do before the big day. Christmas cards do not create and mail themselves. Gifts do not just show up, wrapped, under the tree. But armed with the Christmas spirit, all those millions of things are no longer just tasks to cross off my to-do list. They are Christmas. The whole thing is Christmas. Not just that single most anticipated date of the year at the end of December, but the entire process of creating the magic.

I don’t dread the holidays. It’s just that I can’t do it without the Christmas spirit to help me along. Luckily for me, it arrived early this year.