It’s that time of year when we get together with family and friends. We go to parties and eat and drink too much, stay out too late, spend too much money and flit between a state of bliss and stress. We want to drift into that place where all we feel is sweetness and light. Inevitably we are sometimes disappointed. Our plans don’t come to fruition and our dreams don’t come true. Why is it that we have such high hopes this time of year? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just enjoyed what we do have instead of expecting so much more?
The day after I returned from visiting my parents my mother had a fall and went into the hospital. She is home now and happy to be reunited with my father and in her own bed. She was lucky not to have broken anything but her nose, which will heal in time. She has some bad bruises and a cut lip. My siblings and I made sure that my father was taken care of and my mother got home. We worked together to keep our parents safe. For them, at their advanced age, the holiday season means only some additional treats and decorations. They don’t drive anymore, and don’t go shopping. Moreover, they don’t need any more stuff after a life of accumulation.
Like them, we collect things and fill up our homes until one day when we realize that the things have no meaning. They don’t make us happier or healthier and may in fact pose a danger. We don’t buy anything for each other in December. I’m a bit anti-consumerist in my bones, so this constant instruction to buy buy buy is a real turn-off for me. Do clothes fit better if we buy them in December? Does cake taste sweeter? Do we really need another necklace? Wouldn’t it be great to see an advertisement on TV to hug your mother or kiss your spouse? These random acts of kindness don’t cost anything but their value is immense.
Yet, I love this time of year. At work everything slowed down. Even in the office it felt like vacation. Meetings didn’t take place because you couldn’t get a quorum, and projects went on hold. I had more time for long lunches with colleagues and a relaxing commute with many cars already off the roads. We never traveled during the holidays, but instead stayed quiet at home reveling in the calm and catching up on projects.
In our little town the lights have been put up and wreaths decorate the street lamps. This house in town wins the prize for the funniest Santa scenes.
And this . . .
Shop fronts are equally festive.
Even the fire station is ready for the holiday season.
I like this time of year even though I don’t celebrate Christmas. We don’t put up lights or plant fake reindeer in the front yard. Well, we usually get the real deer in our front yard, but they don’t have red noses. I used to make cookies to take into the office, but this year there is no office, and anyways I’m on a diet trying to take off a few pounds. I like how the world stops on 25 December and we take a break from our everyday lives. When I was growing up we would go to the movies, and when in the D.C. area we went out for Chinese food. This year we will have to start a new tradition. Maybe we’ll do a jigsaw puzzle, or I’ll start a new knitting project, or go for a long walk with Barkley. I have a box of family photos to sort through and get organized and furniture to shift. I might make some hot cocoa and read a book. Most likely I’ll still be writing holiday cards.
What do you do this time of year? I hope you find time to think about the things that matter and try to avoid the stressful situations and people that sometimes impinge on life. I hope you are able to say no instead of yes and carve out time and space for some selfish pleasures. I hope that family members behave and that you enjoy your time with loved ones.
My hopes for the season are small. I am not expecting world peace this year or an end to gun violence. I would like to open the newspaper and find an uplifting story instead of the usual death and destruction. Maybe I’ll engage in some mindful meditation on the 25th and consider the present moment. Mindfulness enjoins us to think about where we are now, not the past or the future. I will strive to be satisfied with my life and to find contentment in the small things. I will make an effort to simplify my life rather than messing it up. Following on the advice of Marie Kondo, I will let my uncluttered house bring me joy. It that doesn’t work, I’ll have a cookie.
Happy Holidays to all, whatever you celebrate and wherever you live, I wish you health and happiness.