This is the time of year during which we all have to make ourselves adhere to timeframes, goals, lists. My ADD brain doesn’t like it very much if I don’t make actual, written lists.
On the other hand, in this time of shopping and stress, it’s easy to forget what matters most. I recently proposed to a certain portion of family that we take a year off of gifting (some of that family had had a particularly bad year anyway, and it would have been a strain on them to do it) – and magically, a load of stress was lifted off. We all commented that it was more desirable to see one another, for kids to play together, that we could bring a favorite dish, or a game to play….
I wonder what would happen if we all took that and ran with it, even if it was for just a year? If everyone took a year to skip on spending money (we may or may not have) and focused instead on one another? I think that buying gifts for our loved ones can turn into a proxy for our guilt, or to mask/demonstrate how we truly feel. And the older I get, the more uncomfortable that is.
Family is hard enough to juggle the rest of the year, but the holidays are the essential act of placing a microscope lens over them and ourselves. For some of us, maybe it’s more like gathering beneath the magnifying glass with direct sunlight burning through. We ought not only think of how challenging that can be, though. We ought to be staring straight at our kids, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren…and think: how can we teach them that life and love is what really matters?
Now, I know that sounds idealistic, but think of this. What gets you through the dark times? What helps you remember that misery, grief, and anger don’t last? The sun sets, plunging us into darkness, especially at this time of year. But it always rises. Never fails. Days, weeks, months, perhaps even years, can be difficult. But then someone will smile at you. Offer a hug. Sit with you and hold your hand. Or make you laugh, in spite of the bitter pill you swallow.
In the worst of times, we usually share whatever we have with one another. That is life. And when we stumble, falter on the path, there is someone who may happen along and offer succor. That is love. It’s not imaginary, illusory, or false. We either see it and take the chance of accepting it, or we do not. If we do not, we continue on in the darkness.
That is the truth.
There are always angels (if you will) of whom we are unaware, and it can be difficult to take them for what they are. It’s very hard to let someone help you – I recently saw a quote about taking aid, that it’s humility, not weakness, and I agree with that. Another that I like is that bravery is the act of doing something in the face of fear. We might also add that it is doing that which is difficult even when we dislike the people we aid, or cannot understand the reasons for doing it, or disagree with decisions that others have made.
I won’t lie – I’m struggling with that, and I do also believe in tough love.
But I think that the “midwinter” season of lights, hope, and faith can be a very sturdy life preserver in the midst of that. Even on Sunday night, when we had lost power for some time, didn’t know when it would be back, and the wind was blowing temperatures down into single digits, all we did was light all our candles and have faith that thousands of people would be spared having to sit in frigid homes. And so it was. The outage lasted for 6 hours, but men and women worked hard, knowing that it was human lives that were in consideration.
My list for this year, I think, will be simpler than usual. Breathe. Love. Smile.
That is what I want my kids to remember. That is what I want for them to hold onto and pass down to their following generations.