I never knew what FOMO actually stood for until I moved to Chattanooga. Fear of Missing Out is a real thing here — there’s a LOT to do in this town.
It’s nearly impossible to get EVERYONE you know together at once because there’s always something else competing for someone’s time. People are busy. There’s school stuff, church activities, vacations, mom events, gym classes and of course a whole host of holiday things to do in this town — a list longer than your child’s Christmas wishes.
I have very few regrets in life.
One involved me passing up the chance to go to Timbuktu (true story). Another time I was too chicken to bungee jump out of a hot air balloon with my brother. And the third thing? Years ago while living in England, I passed up the chance to ring in the New Year, listening to London’s Big Ben chime at midnight. My housemate and I decided it was simply too cold to go out. I don’t even remember what we did instead — my guess is that we got into comfy pjs and watched a sappy movie.
Three things in 40 plus years of life though isn’t really a big deal when I think about all of the things that I have done, however. I usually don’t think I’m missing out on life — until the holidays roll around and then I start to question whether I’m doing enough. I think we can all relate, in a way.
This time of year, it can seem like you’re missing the chance of a lifetime at least three times a DAY. If you aimlessly scroll through social media (as weary moms are wont to do when gifted a few spare seconds), it would appear that everyone else is happily caroling through the holidays with friends, families, all while wearing matching pajamas and smiles.
Here’s the thing though…social media is a liar. If you’re anything like me, you’re not always documenting all of the bad stuff: the car accident, the broken ankle, the six-hour trip in the ER with your child, or your husband’s job stress.
Do you know how I can tell when I’ve had a bad week? I usually don’t post a thing on my Instagram account. It’s not because I’ve been busy…it’s because I don’t want to show the bad and literally broken side of my life (also, nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to see that nasty bruised broken ankle up close.)
Exhibit A: I was super grouchy right before Thanksgiving. Grouchiness and I have an understanding, along with Patience and Perseverance. I’m in my mid-40s with a preschooler. There’s not much more to say, except it’s a tough combo.
The Sailor had recently returned to sea, and while we were invited elsewhere to celebrate with friends, the Peanut was still recovering from an illness, and I didn’t want to risk him throwing up in the car or at someone else’s house. We don’t have a large family, and Thanksgivings at home growing up were always somewhat underwhelming when I compared the holiday to other peoples’. Thankfully though, it wasn’t in my face back then. Nowadays, I sometimes want to gouge my eyeballs out with a turkey baster if I see one more Instagram feed full of #blessed.
Our Thanksgiving never really looked like that. For starters, we have a very small family. The times we’ve gotten together with extended family have been far and few between over the years. As a teenager, I sometimes chose to waitress on Thanksgiving Day because it was mad money for a then 16-year-old, and frankly the food tasted better at the restaurant.
Our house this year? The Peanut was on medication that made him gag every time he took it. My husband was thousands of miles away. And I realized that the only tradition we really had in my family was that my mom never fails to gripe about the Macy’s Day Parade not having enough floats or balloons (even though every time I caught sight of the TV, I saw a balloon AND a float.)
I didn’t even want to cook, but I reluctantly picked up the ingredients to cobble together a Thanksgiving meal. (I cheated with a pre-seasoned turkey breast and immediately regretted it.) I was definitely the Thanksgiving Grinch, if there was one.
The night before though, when I told my son that the next day was Thanksgiving, he shrieked in delight. I was baffled by his reaction, and reminded him that there were no gifts to open, like at Christmas, but there would be pumpkin pie. You would have thought I was about to give my child the moon.
Thanksgiving morning, we made a simple tree with twigs we collected in the yard and I barely kept my composure as my child rattled off the things he was thankful for: helicopters, rockets, drones, satellites, hot air balloons. If I’m being honest, his enthusiasm for simple things was a welcome distraction because I found myself struggling to come up with my own list of meaningful things to be thankful for in my grumpy state.
The next night (as I scrolled aimlessly through social media), I realized I’d missed the annual Chattanooga boat parade. I first mentally kicked myself and then I stopped. Did we really miss out? Even though we went to the boat parade several years ago and he remembers it, he didn’t actually know we’d missed it this year. He’s not scrolling through social media, after all.
Actually, he’s clueless that other families run 8,000 miles a minute through the holidays. He doesn’t realize (yet) that other families are much bigger than ours, give tons of gifts, Santa comes down a chimney and an Elf moves on a shelf. He doesn’t know that other people pile even more gifts into a Christmas stocking. He is simply excited to have a small Christmas tree near the table, and to have pumpkin pie for a snack with extra whipped cream the day after Thanksgiving. And I’m ok with that.
He’s made me realize that I don’t have to keep up with all of the events in town this season, or with what anyone else is doing. I don’t have to do it all. I don’t have to be all. I just have to be there for him, even when he’s gagging on medication — especially when he’s gagging on medication.
Let me repeat that over the sounding joy: I don’t have to do it all.
Neither do you, dear reader. Why do we even try? Holidays are tough, no matter what’s going on in your life. There’s a lot of lights, family time, TV, crowds, sugar and over stimulation. Skip the social media scrolling during this time if you have to. You’re not really missing anything. Set a timer, so you’re not online constantly, or come up with a way to replace it, especially in the evening, when not a creature is stirring.
Nowadays, every night, after the Peanut is tucked in and asleep (usually IN my bed, but I digress), I make myself a drink: a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a hot toddy. I get in comfy non-family-matching PJs and loungewear that I ordered for myself online (because moms deserve new clothes too) and I crack open a book while I curl up in my favorite chair listening to my little guy snore.
It’s sounds so unglamourous. But over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered that I sleep better, I’m less stressed about the day before and the upcoming one, and I decidedly look forward to the hour before I fall asleep more than I did when I made my phone my bedfellow.