It’s A Woman Thing: Learning to Love my Actual Christmas
I have sat down to write this blog several times in the past few weeks only to abandon my efforts because I cannot stand how negative I was being! So here I am, on Christmas Eve morning, and it finally came to me! After walking my dog, I ran in to sit down and write it! I, like many of you, have been drowning in the overwhelming expectations of this season. The shopping, the wrapping, hiding of presents, putting up a tree, decorating the outside, and not to mention all of the other events and details that consume us! I know you know what I mean. This year, I have struggled particularly and I could not figure out why. I did not want to be a scrooge (That was the name of one of the aborted blogs!)! I have been on the perpetual search for simplifying Christmas!
About a week ago, I had a conversation with my counselor and friend, Kathy Madden. I was sharing with her my struggle and my guilt over not getting into the season like I know my kids would want. I really just wanted it to be over so that I could breathe! Then she helped me to see and realize that what I was searching for was the reason for the season! Eureka! That was it! I was missing the reason, the Christmas story, the Love, the celebration and everything that goes with that. It is not about the gifts, it’s not about the perfect decorations, or the perfect family Christmas card, or finding the perfect tree! As I have matured (I refuse to use the term getting old), I recognize that I really crave the simplicity of this season but that I am competing with a culture that challenges this premise.
Embrace the Season and Yourself
In my quest to get connected with the reason, I stumbled upon a book called Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season by Alexandra Kuykendall. I have devoured every page. I really needed this. It validated my search for the simplicity, celebrating the reason for the season, but also acknowledging how the demands of everyday life can make this challenging. Her message is stratified by the four messages of the Advent season: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. It has been a gentle reminder that I can find these things in the little things that happen every day. The mindfulness in your preparations, all the while keeping love at the center of all you do.
She includes prayer throughout. I liken it to stating my gratitude out loud. I realize that despite the craziness, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have my health, my children are healthy and active, my extended family is healthy and thriving. I am grateful for my career; that I get to work with amazing people every day as we seek to fulfill the mission of Beebe Healthcare. I am grateful for my amazing staff who also sacrifice much to provide safe and compassionate care every day. I am grateful that I can provide a safe and warm home for my children. That they go to bed with their bellies full, and that I can buy them the gifts on their Christmas list.
Reflect on the Moments that Give you Joy
I had an Ah-ha moment yesterday; I met a few girlfriends in the afternoon. It is a tradition that we started five or six years ago. We always meet for a quick glass of wine late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve as we prepared to go to church, finish wrapping, or whatever demand we had ahead. It was a stolen moment just for us; to toast each other, to wish each other well, but more importantly to connect amongst the crazy. So we did that, and afterwards, I reflected that there is a lot of joy in those moments and friendship really is one of the best gifts there is. For me, it is about the love I have for each of them. And, to be able to take that time out of our busy lives this time of year made my actual Christmas even sweeter.
I may not have done my best this year with decorations or a tree, but I am trying to keep the reason for the season at the fore of what I do. I was overwhelmed with the spirit of giving yesterday. I went to get my annual Christmas pedicure (Merry Christmas to me) and I noticed the lady next to me might have been feeling like me these past weeks; overwhelmed with the expectations. In that moment I wanted to give her some joy so I paid for her pedicure. What a great feeling! The joy was all mine! I wanted to keep going and take her out to lunch! The smile on her face was priceless…she said “no one has ever done anything like that for me…” I wished her a Merry Christmas and told her to take the money she would have spent on the pedicure and go buy herself a Christmas present. She said “I will! I need a new purse!” That one little gesture sustained me for the rest of the day as it extended into my afternoon happy hour with my girlfriends.
It's the Little Things
I have come to the conclusion that my actual Christmas is in the little things. I found more joy this morning as I walked my dog in the neighborhood. I wished my fellow dog walkers a Merry Christmas! I also have a neighbor on my route who is Jewish and it gave me joy to wish him Happy Hanukkah! I will continue on my journey this Christmas season and into the New Year of recognizing that my joy will come where I least expect it. As I type I am getting joy out of listening to the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah! I harken back to a previous chapter of my life and reflect on great Christmas memories and I am left with more joy! I vow to be more mindful in the Christmases to come.
In the book Loving My Actual Christmas, the author compares sending Christmas cards to sending love notes. I love this comparison! It puts it in a whole different perspective for me. I confess that I did not send any “love notes” this season. It was a task I just could not squeeze in. For this I am sorry, so I would like to extend this writing to anyone who might read it as my Christmas love note to you. I am extending my heartfelt wish that whoever you are and wherever you may be, that you find some Christmas joy in the little things and be open to wherever they might show up. #Hallelujah! #JoyTo theWorld! #It’stheMostWonderfulTimeoftheYear!