Comfort and Joy are Acquired Skills
By Deborah Blackwell
It’s that merry and magical time of the year when life’s greatest and worst moments all roll up in one last week of splendor. Wheeee!
On the heels of an enchanting winter solstice, when I paused for thought to decide what to ditch and what to dream, I remembered there’s one more hurdle: the holidays. I actually enjoy the holidays. Growing up, it was the only time of year my nuclear family seemed to find comfort and joy, and it stuck with me.
My verve for the season was a bit of an adjustment for my husband, who didn’t know I’d turn on Christmas music before Thanksgiving or put the tree up shortly thereafter. But he embraced it, and enjoys our festive little home near the sea. Our small, fresh-cut fir tree bestrewn with tiny white lights and heirloom ornaments stands perfectly positioned in front of the glass patio doors. Antique-esque, electric candles in country-tin holders shine in each window. The pretty embroidered stockings are hung around the fireplace, but not close enough to catch fire. A touch of holiday decor adorns each room, just a touch. We downsized a few years ago and I prefer a simpler style.
But “simple” the holidays are not. No matter our reason for the season, a mélange of feelings rises to the surface for everyone. There’s a sweet and sour, stirred up ambiance in the air, especially when we’re around other people.
If there’s one big thing we learned this year, it’s that our well-being matters. Being discerning about thoughts, situations, and people can make or break us.
Do we allow other people’s dysfunction into our heads, hearts, and home-space? Whether naughty or nice, people are people, period. Family, friends, or foe, these characters are just going to be who they are, in all their human glory. As well, the external environment is what it is. If we can’t control it, the situation stands. But we can try to control our own inner landscape. Feel peaceful in there? The choice is to decide what we are going to do when life is opposing our zen, because holiday decor won’t cut it.
To disengage from drain and strain, I try to remember that we don’t really owe anyone anything except courtesy and respect, but we owe ourselves everything. It’s not selfish. It’s serious.
Quick self-care in the moment can make all the difference. I close my eyes and reach for a happier place in my heart, or a happier thought in my head. I think about something that makes me feel good and smile. I give myself permission to remove myself—even for a minute—from whatever or whomever. I get out of the way of chaos, because nobody is going to do it for me.
For instance, on Christmas last year, my middle and youngest, over a beautiful lobster feast, decided to get in a brotherly dinner-table brawl about Microsoft verses Apple. My husband closed his eyes and floated in his kayak on a mirrored sea. I yelled in a motherly way, then left the room and laid down on my yoga mat. Or, on a recent Thanksgiving, my youngest announced mid-meal to a table of 12 that he not only didn’t like the dinner, but he also doesn’t like holidays. I took several deep breaths, excused myself to the kitchen, and pet the cat, who was imperviously sitting on the counter. My husband, I think, was back in his kayak.
It takes practice and it doesn’t always feel easy, but this on-the-spot self-care can be done anywhere, anytime, and it helps.
I only recently learned that when we embrace a bit of peace and calm, even just a smidgen, we not only feel better, but it also grows. Then somehow—and I’m not quite sure how—it spreads. And that’s not a bad thing to share.
Peace isn’t a destination as they say; it’s the realization we can have it. Cheers to comfort and joy…any time of year.
Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine.
Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary.
That’s just living, heart-breaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.
And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.