Wednesday, November 23, 2011

in clover: you say joyful, I say stressful

A few days ago, early, early in the morning, just as I was beginning to even realize that yes, I was awake, it hit me like a ton of bricks...."Holy S**T - I've got to get busy."  My brain started screaming, "GET UP NOW!  There's so much to do.  You will NEVER get it all done."   My brain was in full panic mode one minute and then, waving the white flag the next, "You might as well just lay here.  You're screwed anyway.  It's too late to do it all and you're just a a big old failure!" 

Yes, it's here.  THAT time of year.  The Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is tomorrow and Advent is beginning.

Time to deck the halls, prepare the feast(s), give time and money to those less fortunate and, above all, spend meaningful, quality time with friends and family!  (And oh yeah, I'm a Christian so I need to figure out how to squeeze some time in with G-O-D too.)

Here's what the dictionary has to say about the word "holiday."

The word holiday derived from the notion of "Holy Day", and gradually evolved to its current form. The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg. The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school...

I don't know about you but when I think of a holiday, the words rest and relaxtion rarely come up for me. 

I love the holiday season...I love being with family, I love decorating our home and I love cooking special meals.  I even love choosing special gifts.  Most of my friends say they love it too.

There is a problem though.  How do we do all of these extra things to make the holidays "special"  when our normal, everyday lives often feel so stressful?  

Perhaps I could stop asking you and focus on asking myself. "How do I do it?"  And the answer to that is, "Not very well."  

Entering into spiritual direction and spending a year of intentional contemplative living has completely transformed me.  Instead of poking Michael in the ribs, this year I waited for him to wake up on his own...before launching into the screeching, frantic litany that has become as much a tradition this time of year as the sweet potato casserole ....."I CANNOT do this alone.  You HAVE to help me."  And there must have been an echo in the room, because the same voice that just a few moments before been yelling at me was now urgently shouting at a bewildered and half asleep Michael, "GET UP NOW! There's so much to do!"  

It's totally unfair because Michael is completely willing to do anything I ask. He really pitches in and does a great deal of the work in our home.  I understand why it hurts his feelings when I start screeching like that.  Especially if he is still half asleep.  Honey, if you are reading this, I'm sorry.  

I don't have an easy answer for myself and I sure don't for any of you.  If you have suggestions, do us all a favor and post them in the comment section.  I am very organized. I've read all the books AND implemented many of the suggestions I found in them.  I've cut back. I've simplified.

The fact is, this time of year, everyone wants in on the fun...there are school parties, team parties, office parties, bookclub parties, and neighborhood parties. If you are part of any sort of community, odds are there will be a party. And you will have to bring a dish.  And maybe a Secret Santa gift.

There are holiday sights to see, special plays and music concerts, dance recitals and holiday sports tournaments to attend.  There are ministries to participate in that are meaningful and important,especially this time of year.

Anyway you slice it, this is a busy time of year. The only option we have then is to how we choose to respond.

You know how trees sometimes grow tall and wide and beautiful but in doing so, they begin to get in the way of powerlines?  Often, without thought for aesthetics or even the longterm health of the tree, utility companies will hastily whack off a tree top.  Or a whole side of a tree...leaving in their thoughtless wake scarred and sometimes fatally wounded trees.  I wish we would respect the trees.

One year, in an overreaction to the stress in my life, I did that to our Christmas celebration.  I pruned it back so hard that it was nearly unrecognizable.  That didn't work any better than the previous years of living for two months on caffeinne, alchohol and 3 hours of sleep, all to ensure a "perfect" holiday.  

On the other hand, those lovely, beautiful trees can get in the way of the powerlines and, when the days of wind and snow and ice are upon us, those trees can lose branches or even topple over...they can damage the powerlines...leaving us without light.  Leaving us in the cold. We must respect the power lines too. 

It's a delicate balance. We could do our best to stay mindful.  We could do our best to honor the needs of our bodies...for rest, for sleep, for healthy food.  We could do our best to carve out silent, still quiet moments in the midst of loud, chaotic, joyful busy-ness, wherever we can.

I will pray for you this joyful, stressful, meaningful, hectic, spirit filled, busy holiday season.   

I ask that you pray for me as well.  (And Michael.)




  1. Thank you for sharing this, Lisa. If there's a voice in your head warning you that you're on the brink of failure, it's no wonder the holidays are stressful, and Mike ends up getting yelled at :) Maybe the trick is to realize that you are already a success. From my kitchen window I catch glimpses of your beautiful home and family and, from that perspective, there is no universe in which you or your holidays could amount to failure. And since you're already a success, then whatever happens this holiday season is just icing on the (already very successful) cake. You're welcome to come over to look out my kitchen window any time you'd like. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Oh Emily, that's a blog post in itself! Thank you for your kind words and thank you for sharing your view, from your kitchen window. From my sunroom, I love watching your boys jump in leaf piles and from across the back fence, the peals of laughter is music to my ears. Happy Thanksgiving, neighbor!

  3. What I've been doing, slowly, year after year, is learning to watch for and really enjoy messiness, imperfection, and the not quite as planned, especially during the holidays. At first I could only do this in hindsight. More recently, I've noticed we can do this in the moment its happening. This thanksgiving, for example, one of my favorite moments was when a long-burning candle in a metal tin decided to shoot flames out its sides on our entry way table. It was found simultaneously by a relative and a friend (who didn't know each other before that moment) who then together flung it in a perfect arc of flames out the door and into the rain as if they'd been working together in sync all their lives throwing exploding candles out front doors. So impressive. And so funny.

    Its the messy, not-quite-right things where all the best memories live anyway. So why wait 5 years for something to become a funny or profound shared memory? I loved this, and them, as it was happening. (They did roughly 30 seconds later when they relaxed after their adventure.) :-)

    This is where peace often lies, I think. And as I get better at loving the mistakes and flaws and not-quite-perfects, everyone around me seems to be getting better at it too. Either that, or they'll decide to have Thanksgiving at a less flammable home next year. That remains to be seen. ;-)

    1. Somehow, dear Lori, this comment never made it's way to me in has found me now I prepare to lead a group of women in a "getting ready for advent" retreat. Perfect timing!

  4. I know what you mean, but one important thing I have learned from coming to your "creative mindfullness" mtgs, is that one can be busy yet have a calm mind while doing so. This does not always happen for me, but at least I am aware of it and can focus on that more. I'm working on it.

    1. Some how, Lisa, I don't think I saw this comment...all the way back in 2011...and have just now seen it. I'm glad you took that from Wednesday nights and we'd love to have you back, anytime you can come!


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