The holidays, in many cultures, bring mixed rewards. We are inspired and comforted by messages of love and family and togetherness, peace among men, women and children, and bombarded with conflicting messages directing us to splurge, over indulge and take stock of our inadequacies. Over the years I have come to rely on a few tricks in order to survive one of the most trying and comforting times of the year.
The first thing I try to do to combat the hurriedness of the season, is to plan, plan, plan. Lists our our friends. I have lists posted everywhere, in my PDA, on my desktop, and stuffed into every crevice of my purse. I continue to create and revise the lists until they reflect my intentions and then off into the crazy holiday world I go!
Another helpful aid during this time is to accomplish as much as I can early, being that I love to create hand made gifts, I can often have the bulk of the presents ready to go early on in the season. Again, by relying on list making, I have things organized and ready to go when the season creeps up on me.
That brings me to another time-saving and money-saving tip. Make your own gifts. I have found that loved ones and friends often appreciate the effort and love that goes into every stitch of a warm pair of flannel PJs that I've created on my own. They love the fact that painstaking efforts were taken in creating a cuddly pillow or a warm sweater that was borne of my own creativity. These are often the most loved and cherished gifts that I receive numerous compliments on.
Hand made gifts do not come from only a pair of knitting needles or the sewing machine. One of the best factories for cherished gifts exists right in your own home...the kitchen. Baking is never turned down and is always greeted with a smile and smack of the lips. Most of us prepare numerous confections for the season to keep on hand. In our house, we tend to double the batches and give away boxes of goodies. This works great for those last minute hostess gifts, gifts for the mailman, paperboy or that favourite mechanic.
Now for the most important survival tip of the day. How to combat the feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and depression that are often hand in hand with this season. I don't think I know one person that has not experineced a good cry at this time of year. This year is a bit harder than most in our household as an important member of our family is no longer with us. She has chosen to isolate herself from our traditions and celebrations, opting for a different version of what she feels to be her journey. Our hearts and minds are never far from thoughts of her and we miss her more than can be said with mere words. I have a hard time "getting the spirit" so to speak but continue to try. I find myself remembering past holidays and occasions where she brought a bright and shiny smile, the excitement of youth and a warm embrace. Often, I find my heart breaks at the loss of these happy moments. However, like most everyone who grapples with loss over the holidays, I continue to trudge through the gaity and try to show the happy and brave face in spite of it all. In order to combat the feelings of loss, inadequacy and pain that this situation brings to us this holiday season, I only have to remember that some day she will return to our happy family. I only have to look across the table into the faces of the two most important people in my life and embrace the new fork we have taken on our journey. I keep the hope that one day our path and her path will again cross.
Finally, following your own holiday traditions somehow seem to keep the world from crashing around you. Stringing popcorn for the tree, baking cookies, reading the Christmas story, spending time with loved ones and friends, etc. can all become the glue that keeps everything together. In trying times we can concentrate on what aided us in the past.
Even though the holidays often bring to us sadness and feelings of inadequately meeting the expectations of heigtened exuberance and joy, it is okay for us to sometimes want to remove ourselves from the hurried and frenzied preparations to reflect and remember our lost loved ones. It is okay for us to not live up to those levels of happiness and frivolity. It is okay for us to cry a tear or two. We are only human, after all, and sometimes embracing the hurt admidst the joy is part of having a human heart. We shall persevere through it all and by trusting that the fates do not offer us more than we can survive, we shall emerge on the other side as stronger, happier and better human beings capable of the love and the joy that the best of the world has yet to offer.
Have a wonderful and fulfilling holiday season from us to you.