I just noticed that it’s November. My stomach immediately tightens as I start to imagine my calendar for the next few months. Who’s turn is it for Thanksgiving? When will I vote? What are my travel plans? How can I make this holiday healthier for me and the family? What on earth can I get the kids for Christmas? What does the budget look like? Should I make cookies for the neighbors this year? What about all those holiday traditions? How can I make this year more meaningful, less stressful, more joyful? Work parties? Play parties? Family? Friends? Self?
All of that amongst all the normal things I do every day like feed the cat, do the laundry, go to work and sign the kids up for basketball. Yet with all the opportunity for external stimulus and obligation, when I truly listen, there is that part of me that senses the change in the season and instinct to “hibernate,” which to me means ground in, spend time alone and at home, contemplate, look within. Throw in some roasted root vegetable and homemade soup cravings and you have a not so simple snapshot of this time of year for me.
I tend to be one who has, year after year, “done it all,” filled the schedule with as many holiday happenings as possible. Partially because everything seems fun to some degree and/or everything seems important. I can’t miss Christmas this year because Aunt Flo will be there (she’s 90 after all). I don’t want to miss the Nutcracker again as I promised myself last year we’d go, and I already bought tickets. My family would be disappointed if we didn’t do the stockings this year, it’s tradition. I can’t miss the work cookie exchange, I don’t want to be the scrooge. The stories continue…so much so, that it seems like I can’t even stop enough to even be aware of the stories. Until I do decide to stop, and listen.
This time of year can be stressful and full of obligations, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve decided this year is going to be different. I’m going to take that urge to hibernate and introspect and put it to use. What is truly important to me? That question doesn’t mean what do I feel most obligated to do by my family, my self or my work. It makes me wonder what fosters connection and meaning and love. Who are the people that I want to spend my time with and what activities do I want to be doing with them? How do I feel when I jump from house to house every year on Christmas? Does that serve me or those I visit? What about the kids? What makes them thrive? How can I simplify so that I can be present to receive the gifts this time of year can bring instead of being so over worked and over scheduled that I can’t help but think of what’s next? It seems like clarification of these questions will only allow for a deeper and more enjoyable experience in the end.
For a person like me, everything seems worthwhile and fun and meaningful to some degree, at least on the surface. So the question naturally arises, “How do I choose?” Here’s my process of elimination. First, I can shed those things I do out of pure obligation, no one says that I have to participate in everything I am invited to do. Secondly, I can reflect and discern what are the moments that have brought me the most joy, connection, presence (not presents, although that would be my kiddos’ priority for sure). I also find it useful to discern the magnitude of goodness when deciding how to spend my time. What are those things that REALLY immerse me in the meaning that this time of year holds. What really makes me feel it? I think I’ll put those things in first and then create space around those important, pinnacle items so that I can really experience them. Let the rest go, even if I’ve already said yes, even if I’ve already bought tickets. Life is too short to settle for quantity over quality.
So here’s a start for my prioritization from today moving forward through the holidays (and, why not, maybe well in to 2015). Relationships with those that are really important to me and those that make my soul sing come first. Time will be carved out for them. Giving back to the community will make the cut, and maybe I can create opportunity to serve with some of those same people I like to be around, a double whammy. Time to breath and experience those aforementioned things will involve a buffer around those events. And I’m not going to sacrifice self care or the wellness of my family, that’s for sure. Throw in a little spirit and some aesthetics and the holidays seem perfectly balanced. Will yours change this year?