Well, the time is upon us. It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and despite all efforts to slow the season, it has found a way to come bounding forward, whether we are ready or not. Trying to be more mindful about erasing obligatory holiday traditions such as scrambling for presents and wrapping up a frenzy and gathering ingredients for parties, I suddenly notice the flurry of a whirlwind that surrounds me. Walking in slow motion through my own life story, I can’t avoid hearing the fluttered words of frantic holiday shoppers, seeing the stricken faces of panicked mothers, and feeling the fiery furrowed brows of shopping mall drivers. And as it gets closer, I find that we trade our inner well-being for the craze of this joyous season.
As days get shorter and our to-do lists get longer, we feel a pressure to jump into holiday-mode and work twice as hard to accomplish more in less amount of time. We get so wired up and stray from our center, that come New Year’s Eve, it is no wonder that we crave some resolutions of our own. We NEED resolutions to bring our compass back to facing due north, or anywhere close. We let go of our wellness in the beginning of these wintery days, when the temperature just begins to fall, right when we are supposed to be slowing down most.
When I think of a cold, crisp evenings, the vision of jumping out of bed and running outside isn’t what pops into my mind. I think of hot coffee held by mittened hands. Of heavy layers of blankets and warm hugs. I think of wooly socks and fireplaces, of thick rugs, and cabin walls. I think of vinyls playing and cozy couches. I think of retreating, indoors, maybe towards candlelight.
I believe Mother Nature shows us best how it’s supposed to be done. With the dropping of temperatures, the flowers fall back, as the roots take time to heal and the plant prepares for spring. During this dormancy, the plant is undergoing some serious housekeeping, nourishing it with the few nutrients available and preparing it to be its best self when it is ready to spring back to life. Animals begin their hibernation process, using this time to sleep, to recharge, to refresh. Their body temperatures and heart rate slow down, to save on energy. Everything is in preparation for the next chapter of life.
We can learn from other living things that maybe what we need, to prepare for the holidays, is to give our minds and bodies the healing and reset that it needs to be our very best. As Christmas Day draws near, I had my father-in-law call us today to let us know that he is better from the flu that prevented us from having dinner together this past Wednesday. Unfortunately, now Grandpa and Grandma have the flu, and our Christmas Eve breakfast tomorrow must be cancelled, so that they could get better. He was driving medicine to them, because his sister (our Aunt) was busy delivering medicine to our cousins, who were also sick. The stress of all the sickly members has got our Aunt’s hands full, per my father-in-law. And I think to myself, why? Why do we do this to ourselves at this time?
So today, when Mike got an invitation from his high school friends to meet up at a brewery to catch up for the holidays, something inside told me that maybe it was best to stay home. Mike went to join his comrades in the usual comedic banter over a cold glass of brewed beer, but I chose to be here, at home. I poured myself a cup of tea, and smelled it before each sip. I lit a candle and cozied up in blankets, wearing pajamas and wooly socks, on our couch. I turned on a relaxing Spotify playlist to unwind to, and decided to write these thoughts. Because even I, with all the mindfulness I could muster, was surprised by Christmas this year. Even I couldn’t slow down time enough, couldn’t appreciate December for all it had to offer. Even I couldn’t avoid the stress, despite the dwindling of gifts to a handful bunch, despite ridding us of excess decorations, despite loosening my grip of what was expected of me this Christmas season. I still felt the pressures of society expecting me to succumb to traditions, such as attending the holiday office party. I crumbled at people’s probing questions as to why I would not attend. I caved to my struggling emotions when the time came that I was supposed to be in attendance. I felt all the guilt of not making it, like a burden. And I became sick because of it. I woke up this morning unwell. I might as well have attended and suffered a hang-over from jovial libations and typical end-of-the-year festivities instead of suffering in solidarity about a perceived responsibility. Still, I think to myself, why? Why is it so hard to escape the flurry, and why do we continue to say yes to speeding up and forget all about the slowing down? Why do we allow this time of year to stress us so?
In the following week, in lieu of writing a set of resolutions for the New Year, I need first to write a regimen, a mantra, for my future well-being. I invite others to do the same.
How do you make yourself well, whole, centered, and content? What activities do you keep returning to?
Do you feel balanced, relaxed, energized, nourished, focused, and rested?
In the past year, when did you feel most tired, most lost, most guilty, most burdened?
What do you need in order to maintain sanity, happiness, and contentment?
Who do you need to surround yourself with, and how often?
I choose to be like the trees, to be my very best self tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. I understand that in order to achieve this, I need to retreat today from the noise, from the flurry, from the wintry nights. Inside my cocoon, I consider all the things that make me well. I’m determined to enter the New Year refreshed and ready for what it brings, and I am ready to leave 2017 behind, along with my shortcomings and my newly shedded skin. I wish you all well. Happy Holidays!