Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Thanksgiving lies behind us. We replaced our traditional turkey with a spiral ham and it was well received, apart from a noticeable lack of gravy. We, and by we I mean my husband, decided on the ham and immediately simplified the meal. It became an easy and stress-free day that ended with my plan to carry this practice into December.
This year we are breaking another long-standing tradition and will be away during Christmas. I did not want to add pressure to myself by shortening the delivery cycle for all things December. By not putting heavy holiday demands on myself, I’ve been able to let a few of them go—and that has been difficult. I hold on to tradition, even when I can’t deliver on it.
No cards this year, and that’s a hard one for me. Of course, there will be baking, but no cookie marathon. Facebook keeps us up to date and family and friends will still enjoy some Christmas sugar from Suze’s Kitchen.
I want a simplified Christmas, with time to participate in and share the joys of the season. It really should be the most wonderful time of the year.
A Year of Change
We are a long way from the country we were a year ago. When I turn the television on I watch terrible things happening in our world. Countries are torn apart by violence, people are victims of extreme natural catastrophes and we are overcome with political discord and derision.
Bad news comes straight to our cell phones. When I focus only on this, I see headlines and overlook history. On one had I feel overcome with helplessness, on the other hand I am compelled to stop and count my blessings. Human well-being is still in a better place than any other time in my history.
The heaviness of a world that is hurting, along with the added pressures of purchasing gifts, sending cards, decorating and entertaining can overwhelm us. If we allow that, it robs us of the true spirit of the season. There is a difference between feeling unhappy, which will pass, and being unhappy, which distorts your perspective.
Without perspective, December can easily become a nerve-wracking end to the year. There is no better time to rebalance the emotional check book.
Share Your Joy
When I adjust my perspective, I feel a deep sense of gratitude because I live in a warm and safe place, with people I love. I am fortunate to work with a company that fulfills me by empowering me to do my best work. I belong to a caring community and enjoy good health. I have everything I need.
Joy is meant to be shared and there are all kinds of way to do it. Every year my mini holiday project is to replace the buying frenzy that commercials endorse with homemade gifts. In the time leading up to Christmas I want to make sure I spend it with people I enjoy. By participating in our church’s advent celebrations, I will be regularly reminded of the beauty and solemnness of Christmas.
These simple changes energize my body and allow me to refresh myself spiritually. By keeping television to a minimum and adding a dose of holiday music (and a Hallmark movie) I can live into the best parts of the season.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, saying no is a big part of holiday joy. By turning down requests that feel more like obligations, we make room for joy we can experience and share.
A Celebration of Plenty
What does it mean to have enough? It is not surprising to find my definition for this has evolved over the years. It’s a time-tested fact—we often want more than we have now. When I was younger, enough was elusive. It seemed to be rooted in more money, owning a house, a better car, more clothes, and success in my career. It’s the religion of the world we live in.
As I have gotten older, enough has become more quantifiable and less material. I have enough to be happy, to do what I love, and to live comfortably. It’s less about stuff and more about a personal sense of peace and wellness. I’ve tried to narrow my focus down to living in the present moment—something that has not come easily to me. Sometimes you have to pave the road while you are walking it.
Doing Too Much for Christmas
That’s me. I am compelled to create to-do lists and measure accomplishment by crossing things off. In itself, this is not a bad thing, but if left unchecked you sacrifice the things that mean the most to you.
I am always striving to find a better life balance by making meaningful commitments and saying no to things that can wait. I fail as often as I succeed but I am getting better. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is this: doing too much crowds out being.
This is true all year, not just December; though we tend to feel it more during the holidays. Their real meaning is becoming endangered, overshadowed by what you want instead of recognizing all you have to share. Taking a quick inventory is a reminder that giving is found in the heart, not the wallet.
Share the gifts of compassion, time, listening, encouragement and forgiveness. Offer a seat at your table. Practice Being. When you see with the eyes of your heart you will find easy ways to make and to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.