Doing Christmas

If you are an observant person, you might notice that just about everyone around you is miserable right about now. Scowls on faces. Pissed off drivers, customers yelling at salespeople. Parents yelling at kids. Kids crying. Couples fighting. People hopped up on adrenaline and caffeine with very little sleep. Whoever said this is the most joyous time of year is full of crap.

Is it just me or does time seem to speed up around December each year? Be here. Do this. Buy this. Wrap this. Send this. Cook this. Donate this. Decorate this. And the people. Do we multiply around the holidays or something? It’s like some of you are little ants that come out of your holes as soon as the shopping malls bring out their first Christmas decorations to hypnotize us to spend! spend! spend! Hordes of people. Everywhere. There is no escape. And the extra help they hire for the holidays? The ones that just got trained and take forever to find the right buttons on their keyboards, creating a line a mile long winding behind them? Why do they always seem to be on duty at the same time? It takes FOREVER to check out of ANYWHERE. A fast line does not exist during December. It’s feels like time is literally pressing down on us, like we’re having to rush to the store to buy supplies before the big storm hits.

Having a 4 year old is bringing back lots of Christmas childhood memories for me. As a kid, Christmas was awesome. Days off from school, dad home from work, PRESENTS! I loved the Christmas lights on houses. Driving around at night became such an adventure and I would BEG my dad each year to put lights outside. The best we got was a string of colored lights around the front door, but man I thought that was pretty awesome. I remember driving to my grandparents’ house, listening to Christmas music on my dad’s country and western station and hearing my mom harmonize to every song that came on the radio. Christmas really was a magical time as a kid.

So what happened? What ruined Christmas for me? Did I ruin it for myself when I asked my mom about Santa Claus when I was in kindergarten? Pretty sure that wasn’t it. I still loved Christmas many years after that. I still loved Christmas in college. It meant coming home. It meant a few weeks without classes. It meant catching up with old high school friends. It was still pretty magical.

No. I’m convinced that Christmas stopped being a joyous time when I became an adult and felt like I had to “do” Christmas. Christmas became just one more thing that I felt society expected of me.

No photo miracle for us this year. Happy holidays, anyway!

No photo miracle for us this year. Happy holidays, anyway!

Have you seen the Christmas cards over the past few years? The professional looking ones showcasing a perfect family photo with color coded outfits in front of a beautiful setting? We did these for a few years and holy crap! Getting good family Christmas shots is no easy feat. It is a small Christmas miracle if you are all looking at the camera with your eyes opened and smiling. And the Christmas trees? Have you seen the pictures on Facebook of the beautiful trees with the actual ribbon and bows, with hundreds of matching glass balls? My tree looks nothing like that. We have a cheap Christmas angel that my daughter picked out at Garden Ridge Pottery proudly resting on top of our artificial (go ahead and judge) pre-lit Christmas tree. Nothing on my tree matches. There are no ribbons- just some cheap gold beads that I thought were pretty about 15 years ago and all of Kirby’s and my childhood ornaments. However, I love my tree and all of its tacky ornaments and all of the memories that come along with them and really don’t want to make it all professional looking. To me, it’s the most beautiful tree in the world because it represents my entire life. But man, some of your trees are gorgeous. I have to fight the urge to let my Christmas tree and my Christmas cards (not doing one this year and it feels pretty amazing!) become one more thing for me to “do.” Cards and trees should be happy memories, not stressful times like they sometimes seem to be.

Being an adult means that I’m also now in charge of buying presents for everyone on my “gift buying” list. If your family’s like mine, that’s a lot of names. It’s a lot of buying. It’s a lot of spending. It’s a lot of agonizing and worrying to think of a gift for someone. It’s a lot of driving and crowd fighting. I usually love buying presents for those that I love. Why then, does it feel like such a chore this time of year?

I want to take Christmas back. For my family. For myself. I think that most people, regardless of religious preference, can agree that Christmas should be a time of love and peace. Yet, it appears to be one of the most unloving times of the year. Feelings of impatience, anger, jealousy (hello Christmas cards!) and worry are not characteristics of love. When I find myself getting mad at strangers in a line because they are slowing me down and yelling at cars in traffic, I am learning to take a step back and breathe instead of letting the agitation grow. I am learning to slow down Christmas. I am striving to ignore the consumerism that is thrown in my face. Instead, I’m taking a moment to go for drives at night just to look at the lights. I’m slowing down long enough to appreciate all of those magical moments that come with this season. The magic of Christmas never stopped. I just got too busy and stopped looking for it. I no longer want to “do” Christmas. I want to live it.

~ala

The Purge

I HATE cleaning out my closet and drawers. With a passion. Every once in awhile, though, I become inspired and start cleaning. I am always amazed at what I find once I take everything out and begin the sorting process. “When did I buy these pants? This shirt still has the tag on it!” This last time, I even found a pair of my old biker shorts. That I wore playing volleyball. In 9th grade. I have a tendency to keep things that I haven’t worn in quite awhile, either because I might need it one day or because I spent a lot of money on it and suffered buyer’s remorse once I got it home. (I hate those skinny mirrors in stores. Fall for it every. single. time.)

Before purge- what a mess!

Before purge- what a mess!

Not this time, though. This time, if I hadn’t worn it in the past year, it was history. If it was one of those things which looked cute on the hanger but not so cute on me, it got tossed into the donation pile. I felt pounds lighter as shirt after god awful shirt got tossed into the pile. Getting dressed is much easier and faster now because I don’t have to dig through my old junk. True, I have less clothes now than I did before the purge. But, it is refreshing and freeing to open my closet door and only see those things that I like.

I’m learning that it is just as therapeutic and beneficial to do a thorough cleansing of my thoughts and memories. Some things that I’ve been storing in my mind no longer fit or serve me in any way. Some thoughts are just downright ugly and destructive. Yet, I hold onto hurts and disappointments, storing them and piling them up. Sometimes I like to take them out and let myself get angry and worked up all over again. Like my old biker shorts, some of these hurts date back decades. Forgiveness is always more beneficial for me than for the one that I am forgiving. Once I forgive, I can move from that hurt and make room for more joy in my life. Otherwise, my mind becomes filled with rage, anger, jealousy, and hurt and my actions soon follow. If I want to be a light in this world, if I want to radiate love and joy as we were called to do, I must continually remove that which I no longer need.

Feeling like an Old Hag

Even though my daughter is now four, I still want to inhale her scent and smother her with kisses. I could spend hours watching the sunlight play with the highlights in her hair. Hadley is an unfiltered version of herself. She is now old enough to express herself quite clearly but is still too young to know how to be anything other than her self. She is absolute delight and joy and her beauty comes from deep within and shines out of her every pore. I find myself thinking how beautiful she is throughout my day and very often will say the words out loud to her. I would imagine that every parent could say the same about his or her child.

Lately, I’ve been really trying to teach Hadley why I think she’s beautiful. I want her to know that her beauty comes from within and has absolutely nothing to do with her outward appearance. I think (hope) that she kind of gets it. If I ask her, “What makes you beautiful?” She will smile and say, “My heart.” My fear is that this lesson will not hold. Society is already teaching her that appearances do matter. The cuter she looks, the more attention she gets.  photo

I turned 38 a few days ago and sometimes feel like the invisible woman with the lack of attention that I now receive. There is no hiding the fact that I’m officially middle aged. Thirty-eight means that I can no longer just look “good.” I am now at that dreaded “she looks good for her age” stage. I am being called ma’am all over the place. The conversations that I have in my head regarding my own personal appearance are really downright rude. I’d never say the things to another person that I say to myself about my own appearance. It’s ridiculous. Obviously the lesson didn’t hold so well for me.

When did I start believing the lie that my worth is tied to my appearance? Why do I avoid being in pictures if I don’t like the way that I look at that particular time? Why do I sometimes pray that I won’t run into somebody I know while I’m out running errands and haven’t taken the time to make myself up?

Why do I chose to live like my beauty is tied to my appearance when I know better? I know my appearance is going to continue to change. If I continue to live, I will continue to get older. There is nothing I can do about that. I might gain a few pounds. I might lose a few pounds. I will continue to get lines and wrinkles. My hair will gray. I will eventually die. This is only scary if I allow myself to believe that I am my body. I am not my body. I am a soul living in this body for this moment of time. My true beauty, my soul, the essence of who I am, my spirit, is that part of me that will live on.

Life is funny. Hadley is beginning to really enjoy spending time looking in the mirror. She is completely fascinated watching her own reflection and is truly able to observe herself with absolutely no judgement. She fully accepts herself, just as she is. I am the opposite, usually trying to avoid direct eye contact with myself, to do what I need to do and get the heck away from the mirror before I notice a new flaw. I wish I could pinpoint that first critical thought that told me my appearance was not perfect and therefore I wasn’t good enough. Maybe it was my first bad haircut or maybe it was my first zit. Maybe it was the first time someone told me that I had bird legs. Regardless of when it was, I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror the same way again. I’d like to change that and I am, SLOWLY.

I daily have to refuse to believe the lies that tell me that my worth is based on my appearance.  I must strive to spend my time and energy concentrating on making my heart beautiful. May I, too, be absolute joy and delight. May my beauty come from deep within and shine out of my every pore. May I learn to appreciate my body more and criticize it less. May my life be a blessing to others. Then, I will be truly beautiful.

~ala

For more thoughts on how to speak to little girls, check out this great blog post by Lisa Bloom:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html