Most Wonderful Time?

My bluebird of happiness ornament

As hard as I try, I can never entirely avoid a good cry or two during the holiday season. I call it the “Christmas Cry”, and I had a couple good ones this year. December stirs up a lot of emotion for me, and I know I’m not crazy for, or alone in this in the slightest. I don’t like the pressure to be anything other than what I am, or to feel anything other than what I feel. And I’m terrible at pretending otherwise.

Christmas is this huge deal to a lot of people, and it’s built up for weeks-and-weeks-and-oh-the-shopping-and-the-gifts-and-the-parties-and-the-cookies-and-the-blah-and-the-blah. It’s a little too much for this low-key introvert. Every time I hear that carol that starts with “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”  all I can think is “Geeze, the pressure…”.

I’m no Grinch though. I adore the real tree I have – the one I get every year from The Maher Garden Center. Each ornament has meaning, and I love unpacking them and hanging them. I love the lights around Newport, strung all over trees and boats and storefronts. I love the food, and the wine, and the time shared with friends and family. I love making cocoa and watching “Elf” and, please don’t judge, “Love Actually” (though that triggered an early Christmas Cry this year.) I even like some of the music.

In the past few days, I decided to put aside a few hours alone for myself on this Christmas day.

When people asked me what I was doing today, I didn’t expect the looks of pity I received when I mentioned the plan for some solitude. I guess that sounded sad to some people. But the truth is I really just needed a long walk, and a nap, and to rest after a busy couple of weeks.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the looks, since this holiday is engineered for moms and dads with kids. But me? I’m childless (by choice), and single (by fate) at  forty. And while I’m comfortable with my life, I’ll admit that it’s tough not to feel a little sting about it, now and then, and especially at Christmas.

But I’m not the slightest bit lonely or sad today, save for missing my dad a little. I spent Christmas eve and part of this morning with the family I was born in to – 5 brothers and 2 sisters, my mom, some nephews (lost count, 5?), one awesome niece, and a few in-laws. They are all strong, unique, smart and, well, totally annoying people. But they crack me up endlessly, and I am so grateful for them.

And then I have the family I chose – friends, who know my every quirk and flaw, every strength and weakness – who’ve held me in their arms and hearts through very tough times, and who keep me laughing every day. I’ll be spending time with some of them tonight, and some of them tomorrow night, which means that the only Christmas Cry-ing I’ll be doing is laughing until I cry.

I am obviously counting my blessings here. And that is a holiday tradition I am totally fine with.

Peace and love to you all.

And of course, more food, less pain,
xoxo -L

 

 

Love and Joy

A favorite ornament, handmade in Germany.

It’s a beautiful, chilly, quiet morning on Historic Hill. Out the window to my right is blue sky, with the tall white steeple of Trinity Church in the distance. In the foreground, colorful little clapboard colonial houses of varying heights. And then there’s Touro Synagogue, right below my third story window. I’m about to meditate, and this will be my view.

My hope is that 10 minutes of sitting will calm my rattled nerves. I’d hoped a good night of sleep would settle them, but that didn’t happen. I tossed and turned last night – thought about nothing and everything. Anxiety about nothing. Anxiety about everything. I’m sure you understand. I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles a bit with the demands of this holiday.

Despite feeling this way, I’m looking forward to today. I like the bustle of Christmas eve. After a few quick errands this morning, I’ll be helping out at Newport Wine Cellar and Le Petit Gourmet. Friends and customers that I adore will come by, and it will be a joy to see them.  It will be busy, of course, but fun. And after that I’ll see my family for dinner. I haven’t seen my little nephews in far too long, and can’t wait to get silly with them.

Rattled nerves won’t keep me from enjoying Christmas, or from meditating on what it has come to mean to me. My ideas about it evolve a little more each year. I’ve unplugged from the things I don’t like about it, and have learned to focus on the things about it that I love.

I’m also ever aware of how painful this time can be for people who are grieving. All those expectations of “love and joy” sting like a slap to the face when a source of love and joy is taken from you. Of course I’m thinking of those families in Connecticut. Who isn’t?

I know this all sounds a bit melancholy. But the holidays are complicated for so many of us. I’m trying to acknowledge that. Trying not to turn away from that fact. Trying to embrace it, and bear witness to it.

The sun is a little higher in the sky now, and the bustle is starting. More cars are driving up and down Touro Street, and I see people walking into town to shop. I should probably be doing the same, but wanted to wish you all a happy holiday first. I wish you love and joy. And I hope that with each hug from a old friend or family member, any stress or sadness you may be carrying around fades into the background for a little while.

More Food, Less Pain,
xo -L

Real Gifts

I struggle with holiday gift giving. I know we all do, but I think I struggle with it more than most. My ex would probably agree with that statement. One year, when we were together, we had a tense, tear filled (me) argument about the subject. We somehow came to an agreement, and had a laugh about it later when he gave me a card that said he was still happy to be with me at Christmas even though I “took the wind out of his giving sails”.

I guess each year my thoughts and feelings about it evolve a little more, and this year is the easiest it’s been in a long time. I hate all the hype and the pressure and the excess, and so I simply opted to approach it all in my own way. Gifts, to me, are just tokens of love, not the love itself. So I just tried to think hard about what the few people I was buying for would enjoy, and left it at that.

Cracking Up

For my four year old nephew I picked out the book “Falling Up” by Shel Silverstein. I didn’t actually have any of Silverstein’s books when I was a child, but was introduced to his poetry when I was a nanny in my teenage years. I loved reading his silly, imaginative verses. His poems inspired giggles and gross outs in the kids, and always left us smiling.

My nephew is as silly as a 4 year old gets, but has the added edge of having two hilarious parents. My little brother, his dad, is one of the funniest and most ridiculous people I know. My siblings (all 7 of them), and I were blessed with great senses of humor, largely due to our father’s influence. That man was constantly pleasing us with funny faces, great jokes, and a willingness to laugh in any and every moment. We lost him 11 years ago, but his sense of humor, a combo of dark and silly, is with us always. I think of him most at Christmastime, as he had an off-the-charts love of decorating.

Every time I see one of those big, inflatable lawn decorations I am thankful that he passed away before they were available, because he surely would have fastened one to the roof of our house, or filled the yard with them. (A joke, of course, but one I know he would have loved and laughed hard at.)

When I went to write an inscription in “Falling Up” for my nephew, I decided it would be more fun to pen him a little Silverstein-inspired poem instead. This felt like the best kind of gift giving, as it was spontaneous, and truly from my heart. In a way, it’s actually a gift from his late grandfather too, as he lives on in every moment we get our nephew smiling or squealing with laughter. 

Here’s the poem:

I know it’s no shiny electric cool train,
but I want you to use all the parts of your brain
This book is quite silly, it’s funny and crass
And no matter my age, it still makes me laugh
 
I hope you’ll enjoy it through-out your youth
and that it still makes you giggle when you’re long in the tooth
Because what’s most important is finding a way
To still laugh at nonsense when life goes astray
 
Someday you’ll get what I’m speaking of

and will see that this book was given with love

 

Merry Christmas to all of you too! And keep laughing, and eating through it.

More Food, Less Pain,
x-L