Monday, December 13, 2010

Reframing My Response: Reluctant to Relaxed

For some reason I have been dragging my feet through the whole Christmas process this year. Now what is that about? I love Christmas and all the preparations and always have. I understand that is not true for everyone and that Christmas can be a very difficult time for many, but for the most part that has not been my story. True, like everyone else I can feel overwhelmed and wonder how IT will all get done. I wonder how many times in our married life my husband has said, "Don't worry, it all gets done, " and I have responded, not kindly, "True, that's because I do IT." Not that he is an innocent bystander. Over the years he has been an active participant in the Christmas Express, but I am clearly the engineer and the conductor. And I love those roles.

What's the difference this year? Why, for example, have I completed a task, such as going to the post office with packages that need to be mailed, and then come home and stretched out on my chaise with a good book, instead of wrapping additional packages? Why have I agreed so easily to go out for a movie on Friday night, instead of staying home to write our annual Christmas letter? I have told friends I feel as if I am stuck in low gear this year. I speed up only with great reluctance. I have even been doing some chores typically reserved for January, such as cleaning my closet and taking loads to Goodwill. How is that possible with all that needs to be done?

The answer seems to be "because I can." I finally realized that I am not so much "reluctant," as "relaxed," and I can be relaxed because I no longer have as much to do as I did in the years when I was working fulltime and the kids were still living at home. The calendar used to burst with church and school activities and dates for entertaining and concerts and parties and responsibilities for volunteering and somehow laundry and grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning still needed to be done. How did I manage it and how do my children manage it now?

Sitting for 20 minutes of centering prayer one recent morning allowed me to reframe my response to this full time of year. Yes, I am in low gear, but not because I don't have enough energy or because I have managed one too many Christmases or because I have the all too common "Christmas Blues." I am not reluctant to enter the joys of the season. Far from it. Instead, I am in a new stage of my life--one not driven by busyness and other peoples' schedules and needs. I have incredible freedom to enjoy and treasure the gifts of these days. No, I am not reluctant. I am relaxed.

I think I'll fix a cup of cocoa and read a couple chapters in the mystery I started this weekend before I return to addressing Christmas cards.


  1. Great post, Nancy. Thanks.

    I say, if you're good at upholding traditions and that's your role in the family and your community, then yes, get to it once your energy comes back. If not, if you're like me because of upbringing and/or personality, then let yourself enjoy not doing all those things, and instead do what my yoga teacher just this morning suggested: celebrate the solstice and avoid turning important rituals into consumer events.

    I'm going to try to be a better listener to people this December. Wish I could wrap that "gift" up.

  2. Nancy—what a lovely description of the change in pace for holiday preparations that can take place “later” in life. After retirement, when the many obligations of the working world are past and the children are grown, I think that the relaxed approach you describe actually enlarges and enhances our experience of getting ready for all the festivities of the season. We have the time and space in our lives to savor aspects of holiday preparations that would have passed by in a blur of busyness at earlier times in our lives. If we have the inclination, we have the opportunity to give ourselves little holiday treats along the way—most especially the gift of time to ourselves—for reading, or walking in the snow, or having an extra cup of coffee with our morning newspaper. And the fact that you find yourself starting on some projects that you used to save for the New Year shows, that in retirement, time becomes less linear and more flexible. We relax because we can, and at times we “climb mountains,” also because we can. What a gift and a blessing this time of life can be!

  3. I sat and read your post as my sweet moment of quiet,thank you. I am still scattered in my preparations but I am embracing each small bit of Christmas checked off the list. I even have a few peanut blossoms frozen in the basement freezer, thanks to the storm and Marissa's itch to bake. So I will attempt to continue my see all these gifts of doing as blessings.

  4. Nancy
    So much of what you've written resonates for me but I could never express the way I'm feeling in the way that you do. I love every detail and I LOVE the humor, too. You are such a nuturing soul! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Hello Maven!
    What a wonderful post. I am so glad that you are able to relax through the holiday season. We have quite the opposite experience this year. I still have shopping to do, we are hosting a dinner party with 3 couples this Friday evening and I am preparing an Italian dinner from scratch, Christmas Eve will be here at our house with # of guest un-confirmed and BOTH sides of my family will be at my Dad's house on Christmas Day so I am coordinating that as well. While it seems daunting to get all of these things done I find at this point in my life a satisfaction in the busy-ness of it all. Bringing our friends together, facilitating holiday joy for my family who has just experienced a deep loss is comforting to me. I know, I know - the care-taker in me shines through again. In these days leading up to Christmas my mind is filled with memories of the past, visions of future Christmases when Geof and I have our own family. I hold a very deep love and gratitude in my heart to have our family happy, healthy and safe. So my dear Maven, savor & celebrate your relaxed approach to the holiday's. Take it with you to Minnesota and hang onto this feeling if things get to be stressful. We will miss all of you on Christmas!!

  6. Glorious honesty and great transformation.