For the first time in ten years, I am not a complete and utter mess at Christmas. This year is the first time in ten years that I am not coaching middle school cheer-leading which means no games, which were usually 4 -6 per week and no practices. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I am so glad to be able to enjoy this time of year without fighting total exhaustion and all the accompanying ailments that come with it.
This free time has yielded a funny result, in addition to more time with my kids, and more sleep (!!) I have had time to notice things. So here are some of my Christmas observations after having had my head stuck in pompoms for the past ten years…
First, I went to the mall this Christmas. I haven’t done that in a looonnnngggg time. Online shopping probably saved my life in years past but I went to the mall and saw the lights, the smells, all the people. I had such a wonderful time looking at all the people! It was awesome to see such a diverse group. Tall, short, dark, light, curly-haired, straight-haired, an awesome shade of blue haired, and from all walks of life. I am fortunate, we live in a part of the country that has a lot of different ethnicities and they were all at the mall in their multi-cultural clothing participating in the age-old tradition relevant to their faith of frantically looking for an awesome gift for someone dear. You know what else a lot of them had in common? They looked very focused, very purpose driven, not a lot of smiles but I did see a lot of serious, intent gazes. There were very few people who were strolling through the mall, except for the people walking in front of me. Those folks had no place to be at all and they were enjoying window shopping. Despite these lollygaggers, it was fun and very affirming.
Second, I am surprised by the surprise that greets my wishes for Merry Christmas. I am not sure if the rote nature of retail is so stultifying that any veering from the traditional script shocks people, but every time I wish someone Merry Christmas they seem surprised. Now I have to say that maybe I was so stressed and pressured in past years that I never noticed if people were looking for a pleasant connection in a turnstile of customers when I wished them Merry Christmas so it is possible that I am just more aware when speaking with clerks and other strangers. Whatever the case may be, I like it. I like ending the conversation with a smile. And as far as Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, my feeling has been and will be wish me whatever you want this time of year; Happy Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, whatever. I think if we can send some positive energy into the world, do it! Let’s not get stuck on the words, but instead let’s look to the meaning behind the words. A flat “Happy Holidays” is far less appealing to me than a joyful “Happy Chris-wan-kah-day”.
Third, we did some holiday baking. I love Christmas cookies, they are so pretty, and yummy! But have you every noticed that in many instances they ask you to set out the ingredients to warm to room temperature, you mix them all together, then you have to refrigerate the whole thing before you shape them into cookies? I am not a chemist and while I do vaguely understand how temperature can change a reaction, this strange dichotomy is baffling to me.
Fourth, in the same vein, wrapping Christmas presents… a show of hands, who is wrapping Christmas presents Christmas Eve only to have them ripped open less than twelve hours later? This year my goal is to have all my wrapping done at least twenty-four hours before it is all opened. I may actually make it but the clock is winding down, it’s going to be close. I am my own worst enemy in this regard, however, as I do love adding ribbons and bows and all kinds of pretty little decorations so it takes a while. And the truly funny part is, as if I don’t know there really is only three seconds of a passing thought about how pretty the package is, my husband, who I must have help me by “putting his finger on the knot” about 4,000 times reminds me every time that matching ribbon is really just a pain in the neck for the receiver not to mention the whole thing is environmentally unfriendly. I am giving myself pause even as I type this; next year may require a new thought on wrapping.
Finally, my last serious observation is about the presence more than the presents. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard, but until you can see it for yourself, it seems obvious but fleeting. “Oh, I am supposed to be present” so we focus, take a quick, deep breath, pay attention, then the next thing grabs at us. Let’s face it with all the lights and decor and food and faces and, and, and… there is a lot that pulls at us for our attention and we don’t want to miss it. But until we can really slow down, which in my case requires cutting some things out, like coaching which I loved, there isn’t enough time to be fully present. We need to clear out the spaces in our minds and our hearts so that there is no clutter, so that the promise that Christmas offers can flood our hearts and we can share that promise with those that we love and care about.
I am sending my wishes out to you fellow bloggers and readers alike, Happy Holidays – all of them whether they have meaning to you or to your neighbor, may you find joy and peace in all the tiny moments this season!