It's almost December
I trust none of you suffered too badly on account of my failure to deliver a message last week.
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The cause of that failure was my obsessive nature coupled with my belief that, as you can read about below, we should slow down over the winter holidays. My recent obsession was to finish a novel in progress before Thursday so after Thanksgiving I could switch to a pace for which Elon Musk would fire me.
Alas, I didn't meet my deadline because the story includes a murder, and I still don't know who done it.
Anyway, here's my take on the Holidays:
Nobody could drag my dad to church, not even his fanatical Christian Scientist mother. Yet he loved Christmas. He even raised poinsettias. I believe they were the only plants he ever successfully raised. He often drove us around to wonder at vistas of lights. He always picked out a thick and symmetrical tree and trimmed and supervised until it became art. The gifts he gave were both generous and thoughtful. Then he died, late one Christmas night, long ago.
Perhaps his dying on Christmas is the reason my emotions reach deepest during each December, and why I have become something of an expert at minimizing the stress the season commonly delivers.
In case some advice might help perfectionists and other driven and sensitive folks, I’ll note a few of the attitudes I find most helpful.
Most importantly, we ought to give up any idea of accomplishing much of anything during December. I mean we can continue working, but without expectations. Because not only will shopping and entertaining or being entertained add to our normal workload, but old friends may drop in, home for the holidays or prompted by high or low spirits. If we let go of expectations and give the season over to appreciation of the best of what it can offer, by year’s end we might feel rejuvenated rather than wrung out.
Those of us who are physically capable ought to walk a lot, especially if we live in blizzard-free regions. Not only can walking relax us and burn calories, allowing us to feast with more abandon and to consume more seasonal goodies, it can also free us from traffic jams. Ever since I got stuck for an hour trying to leave a parking lot, I conclude my gift shopping with a morning’s walk to and from a mall about a mile away. The gifts I buy that day are small and light.
Online shopping is fairly easy and stress-free but patronizing independent retailers can result in a flood of emails and ads for who knows how long. I use Amazon a lot because I've become immune to their pestering.
Christmas music can shift our perspective from our woes or struggles toward gratitude, especially if we go for the old hymn-like sort. Even if we’re not inclined toward the spiritual in general or toward Christianity in particular, the best of them are mellow and uplifting. A couple of my favorites are The Roches version of “Unto Us A Child is Born” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Oh Holy Night”.
And I’ll take the liberty of recommending my favorite Christmas poems, T.S. Elliot’s “Journey of the Magi” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti, which has also been set to music. Here is my favorite version, from Dan Fogelberg. I got it from I-Tunes and will listen every day December 1-25. It's also on Amazon and if you buy it there, Jeff Bezos will donate about three cents to Perelandra College.
If I can get an evening alone during the week before Christmas, I’ll light a fire and spend a couple hours in the living room, avoiding my computer and phone while I listen to all of Handel’s Messiah.
And, since I’m both naturally driven and forgetful, each day I remind myself not to expect to accomplish anything except to enjoy the season and embrace some good will.
Sometimes I remember Tiny Tim saying God bless us, everyone, and add an amen or two.
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