Did I used to like Christmas when I was a kid? I seem to recall dimly that I did — that I spent the entire month of December looking forward to getting a break from school and unwrapping presents.
Even as a young adult, December was great. No matter how busy a job I had, the week between Christmas and New Year’s was always reliably dead, and it could be used either for vacation or for a week of sitting at my desk while catching up on filing and knocking off early to have a drink with friends.
But as a small-business person, forget it. Christmas is the big marketing drive of the year. As a result, there is no joy, there are no carols — just an endless sea of note-writing and gift-wrapping, accompanied by occasional panics that the wrong note has gotten attached to the wrong gift. To prevent this I have lists that I check and cross-check as though I were planning the invasion of Normandy. But no matter how well I plan, I start to run behind. Did this happen to them with Normandy? Was D-Day supposed to be May 15th (and not June 6)?
We’re still at that point in the season when the people in the post office are pretty nice. I mentioned this to one of them, on my third trip to the post office this week, as she shook her head at me that I was mailing eight packages (I didn’t dare tell her that I have 40 left to go). I said to her, "I just don’t know how you do it, to get through this week, since the line of customers never ends, and everybody’s cranky."
"Oh," she said, smiling, "this is the week that the Postal Service puts a chip in our head."
Well, I wish they’d put a chip in mine. I have more to wrap and more to do, and it’s not like day-to-day work has been considerate enough to hit a lull so that I have time to do it. I haven’t even bought hubby all his Hanukah presents yet (since Hanukah, unlike Christmas, is a multi-day holiday, a procrastinator can just start out with a present or two and then shop during the holiday, like that Wallace and Gromit cartoon where Gromit is laying track in front of the choo-choo as he’s driving the train. My better half and I had also talked this year about being Santas to a poor kid, which is not that much work as you basically pick up a letter at the post office and then buy what’s requested in the letter, but I think you disappoint the kid if the gifts show up in February.
Now the constant refrain of "It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" I hear everywhere is replaced in my head with the less tuneful, "How’m I going to get it all done, how’m I going to get it all done?" It’s getting harder to avoid coming off as a bit of a Scrooge to friends and loved ones, especially those who have the nerve to want to spend time with me between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And if the point of Christmas communications is to be warm and friendly to my network, isn’t it working at cross purposes to get two weeks behind on e-mail? (Apologies if I owe any of you a reply).
Maybe the solution is to just slog through and get the most important gifts out the door now, answer the most critical e-mails at the same time, and catch up on the remainder after Christmas, when things get quiet. Thoughtful gestures are still appreciated even if they’re a little late, and I can always resolve to do better next year.
I can start working on my New Year’s resolutions in April, right?
Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."
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