This morning my sister and I went out on a snowy walk to clear our holiday heads. Our families arrive tomorrow, and our lists are long. We planned to release the charge of everything that we need to do by thinking it out on the frosty walk. I’ve been surprised this week by an oddly irritable mood. What is this, I kept asking myself? I felt distracted and raw. As a single parent I trained myself out of holiday overwhelm years ago, or so I thought. Yet this mood of slight cranky was stuck to everything.
My sister, who was feeling the same way, observed that we likely inherited this mood habit from our mom. Though she died years ago, the culture of dutiful self-sacrifice at the holidays was one she skillfully mentored in all of us. Christmastime was a flurry of parties and command performances rich with tradition and obligation. My parents used to host a popular party on Christmas Day that commonly had us serving dinner to at least 40 people.
It’s my habit, I realized, to feel over stressed about the holidays. My mom handed that tradition down to me just as she gave me her favorite recipes. I pull out the Christmas music right after Thanksgiving, and I pull out the irritation too.
An entrepreneur I know put a post on social media yesterday about a huge day in her business, and her own conflicted emotions about it. The knowledge that the hugeness of the day is something to celebrate, and her own feelings about having a ton of work to do and only ten working days left in the year. She didn’t feel like celebrating. "No accomplishment or achievement comes with a cushion of time around it to enjoy”, she observed. Every morning she reads poetry and yesterday it was Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. She quoted the poem.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Its message for her was clear. Savor the moment. Reading her post I was surprised to find myself welling with tears.
I work with emotions every day, helping brilliant people untangle from webs and weights that they’ve carried for decades and find fresh freedom and space. Yet an emotional addiction of my own crept in on me ‘like little cat feet” (let’s just stick with the poetry theme) and tangled me into a fog unrelated to my modern day.
Savoring. Being in the “generous present moment” as Dr. Joe Dispenza describes it.
We are celebrating this weekend.
And I am consciously releasing that habit of my mom’s.
Mom was also so good at making occasions special. My daughter Madeleine graduated from Portland State University last weekend and we’re honoring that with gluten free lasagna for 20 on Saturday. She was shy about this, given she's graduating late. With love and a little tenacity, I broke her into the celebratory mood. Now she's giddy about the plan. I even got a mortarboard in PSU green for the occasion.
I finished my last day of client work for the year last night. I am blessed beyond measure with the most spectacular, brave, brilliant, creative, fun, and wonderful humans as clients. It is an honor to be in their bright lights.
The chunk of our clan that is gathering together this year is meeting up in my own town, the best little city in the West--beautiful Bend, Oregon.
That's 3 gratitudes. If you've ever worked with me, you know that practice! And just typing them out is giving me another well of grateful tears.
Miles to go before we sleep? Absolutely. But a moment of savoring in the quiet snow...oh yes.