Tis the season to be jolly, right? Sometimes, doing our best at this time of year to be kind, and generous and thoughtful, remembering our friends, our family, our neighbors, wanting to reciprocate that random act of kindness that went unacknowledged, sometimes we just discover ourselves running out of gas, spread too thin, uber stressed.
I remember the coup de grace of this pattern, a time, way back when, when I was a single mom, a full time graduate student, and trying my best to do it all and to make the holidays wonderful for my two children, Gabriel and Ariel, then probably seven and five years old. My kind mother, a creative grandma sewed an advent calendars for each of them. the calendars each had twenty-four little pockets with each day numbered from December 1 to 24, and each pocket was to hold a small surprise to be opened every day until Christmas. So, writing papers and meeting deadlines for grad school, I also did my best to find forty-eight wonderful tiny surprises, and wrap each in tissue paper to fill their calendars. Of course in addition, there were gifts to buy for the whole family and many friends, stockings to fill, holiday cards to create, write and address, lights to hang and a tree to decorate.
Gabriel and Ariel delighted in helping glue family photos on the cards, baking cookies and decorate the tree, hanging ornaments as high as they could reach, but we had a high ceilinged living room and a very tall tree, so they could only do so much. At night, after they were tucked into their beds and sleeping, I got a tall ladder out of the garage, set it up, and began working my way up the tree with ornaments (many of course hand-made to make them more meaningful–Martha Stewart, are you hearing me?). As I reached the top of the tree and the top of the ladder, to put the star on top of the tree, I teetered, lost my balance and fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, alone, sobbing, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted.
Big life lesson! Can you relate? Anyway now, our extended family, Jewish, Buddhist and Christian, celebrates the holidays very differently. We rotate holidays, taking turns to host and decorate a tree. For gifts, except for little children, we have a drawing, each of us drawing the name of another family member. We have each submitted the name and contact information for our favorite charity (If you are feeling generous, mine, which I founded locally, is Bread for the Journey, a non-profit that raises money to bestow micro-grants to seed creative projects to serve the underserved in our county: www.bfjsantacruz.org). We give one generous donation to support the charity of the family member we’ve drawn. So conscious, so simple, so nourishing! So respectful of our intention to consume less, be lighter on the planet, and to celebrate the season with unfettered love and generosity.
So, my gift to you, this holiday season, Dear Reader Friends, is the gift of Stepping Into Freedom! Stay cool, keep it mindfully simple and be warm!