Here I am confused again.
This state of confusion is nothing new, but maybe somewhere in my past I was just better at living in this state than I am now. For some reason, I began pondering Christmas as the time of year to survive. How can a time that we are supposed to look forward to become a time that is dreaded? I realize this is not a new idea, but it is more common than I would like it to be. Then I began speculating what if I could take a step toward changing this attitude.
The holidays can be overwhelming especially Christmas. There seems there is always so much to do, but with some preparation a mindset of humdrum can be prevented and the notion of survival avoided. I know this because I always survived the holidays. I didn’t have to work at it. Matter of fact survival was easy. If I accepted everything as it is and attempted nothing novel or innovative, it just happened. Hmmm…. If survival happens, why are there programs and presentations about something that just happens?
My wonderment didn’t stop there, but instead it was intensified when I was asked to give such a presentation. (And then I was asked 3 more times.) The request was clear. The title was somewhat less severe as “surviving the holidays”, but the information that was asked for appeared the same. The basic question to be answered was “how to cope with the holidays”.
The question permeated my mind. I hated to believe that coping with the holidays was the norm. I believe Christmas is a time for so much more. My reflections revealed a part of me pining for Christmases long ago. I found myself languished in remembering moments that would not be recommended for repetition or standards of advice, but these moments if forgotten would leave gaping holes in who I am now. In my mind’s eye, I remember the challenges of decorating our home including testing all the lights and hoping that once they were put onto the tree they would stay lit. I remember making a wish list for Santa out of Montgomery Ward’s Christmas catalog and consciously ignoring writing a letter to him. Yet every Christmas Eve, I never forgot to leave cookies and milk on the dining room table. I remember the living room overflowing with presents on Christmas morning. This overflow didn’t stop with gifts, but continued in huge meals, a variety of desserts and a double-digit assortment of Christmas cookies.
I remember the feeling of hustle and bustle throughout the season. Gifts at Christmas were always a symbol of love and appreciation. The events that took up weeks of consistent practice finally coming to fruition. I remember the shopping or making items for everyone, but everyone really turned into themes for groups of people. Themes ranged from less individualized items to more personal items based on gender or age brackets. For example, I remember buying candles one year and a different year making candles with ice cubes and milk cartons. These gifts were given to teachers as well as grandparents. I followed the same pattern with flannel shirts that were given to male family members. One year I made the shirts and for many years I bought them.
These examples do not even approach the idea of holiday survival. I pushed on. Things changed somewhat when I became a wife, then a parent. Due to working outside the home my whole life, I was not the homebody who continued holiday traditions that in some families get passed along for years whether anyone likes them or not. I enjoy celebration. I loved attending holiday programs at the schools and seeing my children up on stage with their peers. I enjoyed finding new events as a way of celebrating this time in the community. I loved making crafts as gifts as either a personal project or family affair. I enjoy giving to organizations who collect from the community for those in need. I loved participating at all that I could. I never once defined it as survival.
So, is it possible to thrive while living through the holidays? Living includes good times for some while hard times for others. Living includes the fantasy created for children which may be stressful work for others. Living includes disparity in expectations and assumptions. Living includes losses that are obvious and some that are obscure. What I discovered in my remembrance, I needed all of it. What I shared in my presentation was the invitation to thrive through the holidays. The discussion was centered on preparation. I think people assume preparation is equal to planning. It is not. We can prepare and not do anything. We can make plans and never prepare. This holiday season I invite you to….
- prepare by being flexible in your perceptions;
- prepare with openness that things may be different;
- prepare by setting aside time for solitude and gratitude and thanksgiving;
- prepare with reflection and wonderment about what you believe Christmas to be;
- prepare by participating in large or small ways with the heart that cares;
- prepare with the possibility that something new can be a tradition too.