Monday, December 24, 2018

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun

(sorry it's a little cattywampus) 
I have started a Christmas post over and over, and it keeps ringing false.

Not because I'm not of good cheer. I'm of good cheer!

But this is what I think I want to say.

Last year underlined for me what a gift one's time is.

I've felt the time squeeze since I had children, but I hadn't thought about time as a gift.

A friend asked what was something you learned about yourself in the last year? And I loved this question. It really made me think.

I turned around and asked it of others. The responses were so interesting to me.

I've kept thinking about it, and one of the things I realized was this: just because someone asks for my time doesn't mean I have to give it to them.

I can say no without guilt. Because my time is limited, and I do not have enough of it to spend with people I truly love, or doing things that bring me joy.

Nobody automatically deserves your time. I mean, unless they're paying you to do a job, or you're responsible for their health and well-being.

Your employer and your children or whoever else's well being you may be responsible for deserve your time.

Everyone else gets it as a gift.

I have come to believe this.

Sometimes, when I've been sick or when I am really, really busy, I don't have enough time for Nick.

Like leading up to the holidays, when I stayed up late to finish trimming the tree or making calendars and photo books for grandmothers.

I would get the kids fed and get them to bed, and then start working.

Genuinely, I didn't have enough hours in my day to accomplish all I wanted and needed to accomplish. Because you can get done the obligations, but that often leaves very little time for the wants.

And my husband gets out of sorts when I don't have enough time for him. Not perfunctory time--genuine quality time. It quickly becomes problematic in our relationship.

And obviously, a big part of why I married him is because I enjoy spending time with him. But when time is tight, he gets the short straw. String? Shrift?

(You know that though I love any and all language, I am exceedingly terrible at those expressions. Like kicking yourself in the foot. It's still an image I enjoy, plus I'm opposed to gun violence, although I suppose if you are going to shoot someone, fair's fair that it's your own food.)

Anyway, when time is tight, he doesn't get enough of mine. It is not that I don't love him. Of course I love him. I just don't have time to focus on him.

My boss came into my office the other day and asked if there was anything I needed. And I said, "TIME! I need more time!"

Sometimes there just aren't enough minutes for everything.

And so time is the gift I've given all of us this Christmas. I have given this to myself most of all.

I deliberately didn't invite anyone for the holidays. You know that I am an inviter, and at one point Betty told me to stop meeting people at bus stops and inviting them for Christmas dinner.

That was the year we had 40 guests, and it became a pot luck dinner, with people eating in shifts because there wasn't enough room. It was exhausting. But it was also joyful.

If someone has no place to go, my inclination is to invite. I don't want anyone to feel alone.

This year I bit my tongue. In multiple instances.

Because what we need most, what I crave most, is time together, with no guests and no obligations.

Time with people I love is my favorite gift.

Tonight we are going to get Indian take-out and have family game night. We may or may not make cookies.

Tomorrow we can stay in our pajamas all day if we want. And then in the evening we are going to the house of dear friends to exchange gifts and enjoy treats together.

I love Christmas. I love the lights and the treats and the sparkles and the joy of sharing. I love the hopefulness and surprise and delight.

So this is a Christmas post, though we say happy holidays in our card, because I like to say it that way. We have no war on Christmas, and I am a Christmas lover. (We do have a war on mice, because apparently if you have one mouse, you have more, and that makes mice, and that is something we really do not want to have. But this is a whole nother story.)

But I feel no need to Merry Christmas anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas. I feel no need for any coffee company to have Santa cups or whatever.

If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas! If you're celebrating holidays of whatever type, or not celebrating but enjoying some days off, happy holidays!

Whatever you're doing, I hope you're having a delightful time.

I wish sparkly joy and love to all of you.

Dig and be dug in return.



Friday, December 07, 2018

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun

I don't exactly know what I want to say, but some version of this: yes, holidays are a time of joy and giving and getting and sparkle and friendship and joy.

They're also a time of frenzy and exhaustion and loneliness and hard memories bubbling to the surface when you least expect it.

We're over-scheduled, because 'tis the season! We eat too much sugar and drink too much alcohol or caffeine or both. We don't sleep enough, because there's so much to do do do!

I don't know what to do about any of these things but try to schedule better, and be more deliberate. And also maybe acknowledge the frenzied overscheduliness of the season, reminding myself that it is temporary.

I just recently learned to remind myself that "nothing is forever" in yoga. Oh, and now I do yoga. I don't know what kind. People always ask if you do yoga, and then they ask what kind.

I used to say no, but now I do, and I do it at the Hilton and so I call it Hilton yoga.

Although the truth is I always had my own version of getting through temporary discomfort. For as long as I can remember I've told myself that I can do anything, no matter how hard or miserable, for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes up to a year.

I should add, however, that I now try to incorporate happiness into my life. And now that I know that joy is attainable, I'm less inclined to do something miserable for a year just for my resume or whatever.

Because you know what my dad's advice of just do it for a year for your resume taught me? To be unhappy for longer.

But I digress. I may have even digressed from my digression.

My point is this. We look beautiful in this photo, don't we? Julie and Emily at Tellchronicles make everyone beautiful. I've not seen a single photo where their subjects don't absolutely glow.

(And I am trying very hard not to pick on my flaws because I see them. Oh, I see them.)

But back to the delightful, seemingly effortless photo.

Please, don't be deceived.

Prior to the photos, to get to us to that point where we are all smiling and looking overjoyed to be together, I had to beg, and I mean beg edging into threats.

I begged and threatened my husband and my children to get in clothing. Not even clothing they dislike. Their regular clothing.

My son was wearing a grey fleece hoodie--the one he wears daily--and still, I had to cajole.

Nick, who prior to the photo shoot was not remotely interested in a photo shoot. was sitting in the dining room doing work while I was running around doing my makeup, doing my mom's makeup, trying to convince India on her outfit, begging Jordan to put on his clothes.

We were on the verge of late, and I was flustered and frankly, angry. Why was it all on me?

Why why why am I the only person in our house who cares if we have family photos with our entire family in them? Because ordinarily, we have photos of a motherless family. And they're rolling their eyes all, Mama's taking another picture.

I wanted ALL OF US to be in the picture. And I was going to have beautiful family photos THIS YEAR if I had to STAB someone I was related to in order to do it.

We were verging on late and Nick and I were bickering, and it was all stressful.

We finally met up with Emily, and she started working her magic, and suddenly, it was fun. For everyone.

And so what you don't see, when you see the happy family, the perfect tree, or the scrumptious meal on a fancy table, is the background stress and fighting and insecurity and feelings of loss.

You see the beauty, the perfection. And maybe a little piece of you wonders if you measure up.

This cannot be just me. I know it's not just me. So I am saying this to you (and me).

Of course you do measure up to whatever standard might be in your mind, because it's internal. There is no universal measuring stick that you have to stand next to.

You're wonderful. You, just as you are.

You may be tired, so very tired. You may be short-tempered. Your pants might be tight. You may not be all that well organized. Your house might be a mess.

And still.

You are a beautiful human being. You're smart, so smart, and funny. You have a different perspective from everyone else, because though all humans have similarities, nobody else sees through your eyes. And that's delightful.

You're kind, and kindness glows.

You are amazing, and you are loved.

Sugar is nobody's friend, but it sure is delicious. Sleep is critical. Alcohol is actual poison, but it certainly is fun sometimes.

The holidays are a giant dollop of wonderfulness smothered in whipped cream and topped with sprinkles and one of those long wafer straw cookie things with a marshmallow crammed on top and then lit on fire.

They are everything all at the same time, and that time is right now.

As with everything, they will not last. These moments are fleeting, for good and bad.

If the holidays are hard, that's OK. If they're too hard, and you think you could use some help, good for you for recognizing this. You are not alone in this, ever.

I see your glow, and you are incandescent.