The Lesson in Letting Go My Christmas Tree Gave Me

Vanessa Torre

It was a long time coming and it feels good to get there. by Element5 Digital via Pexels

A little over a week ago, I was at my gym doing seated rows like I have every Thursday night for the last five years. This time something different happened.

Three weeks before, while deadlifting, I felt something in my back that I can only describe as feeling like my lower back was a rubber band and someone had pulled it and snapped it back.

I, being the most stubborn human to walk the earth, gave myself rest but clearly not enough. Those seated rows threw me into agonizing pain that left me in tears on the gym floor.

I now have a bulging disc in my lower back. I’ve rested and had two chiropractor visits that have made me feel much better. The first three days after the injury, I didn’t leave my bed. I couldn’t even sit on the couch because it was too low to the ground.

If you’re anything like me at the holidays, being bedridden or even remotely incapacitated is horrifying. There is too much to do. The house needs to be cleaned. Presents need to be bought. Cooking needs to be done. Decorations need to be put up. Sweet Jesus. The decorations.

The decorations have given me anxiety over the last couple of days. I love decorating for Christmas but staring at all the boxes was overwhelming to me.

I am freakishly anal retentive about my decorating. It’s from years and years of subscribing to Martha Stewart Living and setting completely unrealistic expectations that everything would look perfect all the time. That can suck the joy out of anything real fast.

I tasked my 16-year-old daughter and her girlfriend with getting all the boxes in, getting the tree up, and fluffing the tree so it looks full and pretty. Then, the light fiasco happened.

As is the case nearly every damn year, half the lights on every single string were out and we couldn't fix them. I was about ready to give up on Christmas. After a $50 trip to Home Depot, I came home, handed the girls the lights and sat down on the couch, and hoped for the best.

This is a huge moment for anyone who is a holiday control freak.

I am an over-lighter. My tree is about 8 feet tall and usually houses about a thousand lights. Hello, Clark Griswold! I gave the girls the instruction that we had three huge strands. Don’t skimp. There is more than enough. Light the hell out of it.

When they got the first strand up, they looked to me for approval.

“How are we doing? Good?” my daughter asked.

This was a pivotal moment. I could have picked it apart. I could have pointed out that the wires were too close to the front. I could have noted all the gaps and blank spots. This was when I had a short but serious Come to Jesus meeting with myself in my head.

“Baby, looks great! Looks… yeah…it’s… right on the money, kid. Good job. Keep it up. Two more strands. Looks great. Yep. Looks awesome.”

I was not convincing. She gave me the look. The “Mom, you’re full of crap” look. She’s was right. I doubled down.

I told her I was grateful for their help. It meant a lot to me. I told her this year was not about perfect. It was about getting this done. However they did it was good. It was more than good. It was, indeed, awesome.

I let go. No one cares. Moreover, I don’t care. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. No one is coming to the house. No parties. No brunch. No visits from family.

My boyfriend will show up on Christmas Eve. I can tell you, he does not care in the slightest that the lights on the right side of the tree look like the person wrapping it gave up their will to live. Not for one minute.

We put so much pressure on ourselves this time of year and it’s totally unnecessary. We argue. We fight. We bicker. We blame. Now is not the time for this. Letting these girls have fun (or what I have convinced myself was fun for them) is what matters.

Today, we’ll get the decorations on it and it will be fine. We’ll sit in front of that tree and watch goofy holiday movies. We’ll make cookies that will turn out nothing like the picture. Last year, the buttons on my daughter’s snowman cookies looked oddly like they all had a uterus. Might have been intentional. Still not sure on that one.

I’m all about making the holidays a little weird now. Beyond being okay with imperfection, I’m embracing it and welcoming it. Imperfect is funny. A snowman is a uterus is hilarious.

It’s the end of the year. We’ve cared about a whole boatload of things that probably didn’t deserve the level of care we gave them. Now, we get a little freedom.

We reserve the right to sit back and drink exceptionally fattening egg nog under the twinkling glow of imperfect Christmas trees. This is how we should spend the holidays. This season is about laughing because we have to. We need to.

In letting go, I gave myself a gift. That gift is going to last me for years to come. It’s one thing that doesn’t get placed back in the boxes with the decorations when the tree comes down. I’m keeping that imperfection on the coffee table all year-'round. It’s pretty and I like it. I’ve earned it.

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Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, she won’t stop taking pictures of her drinks. IG: vanessaltorre Twitter: @vanessaltorre

Phoenix, AZ

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