Me in the Middle of Christmas Once More

Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” —Dr. Seuss

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Image from Pixabay

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With each passing year I find myself withdrawing from all the ratcheting up to the holiday season.  I think it’s partly due to my surrendering to the December years of my life.  It’s also because I find some of the noise and chatter to be superficial.  The true meaning of Thanksgiving through Christmas seems to settle into my life no matter how many carols I listen to, no matter how many ‘Merry Christmases’ I say and no matter how many parties I attend.  Each year I see more and more people realizing this and choosing not to frantically hustle to get things accomplished within that one month.  So, when I read this wonderful essay on the Becoming Minimalist blog I decided to re-post it here.

This  was My First Reflection on how my views have changed.  I think the politicizing of Christmas intruded into my yearning for what I’ve experienced down through the years.  There is no ‘War on Christmas’.  It happens in our hearts no matter what’s going on in governments.  When we get caught up in the political aspects of the Season we lose sight of the spiritual gifts we all receive no matter how we believe or worship.  The Gifts of Faith, Hope, Love, Peace and Joy are given to each of us no matter where we are in life.  It’s a time of good will toward all men and women.  It’s at times like these that I’ve experienced what the real meaning of Grace is.  It’s at times like these that I’ve learned that Christmas  can happen every day when we’re open to it.  ~ Me in the Middle of Feeling Christmas Spirit.

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Image from Pixabay

A Lighter, Simpler, More Beautiful Holiday 

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Allison Vesterfelt of AllisonVesterfelt.com

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“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” —Bob Hope

I believe it is possible to do less, buy less, cook less, work less and even decorate less and still have a full, happy, satisfying, beautiful holiday season. But in order to get there, and stay there, we’re going to have to focus on a few changes of mindset.

Or, at least I am.

The other day my husband and I were driving to an event together and, out of nowhere, he asked, “Hey, do you realize we’ve never bought each other Christmas presents?”

Honestly, when he asked that question, my heart leapt a little. I knew it was true, but it sounded so harsh to say it outright like that. In fact, I found myself feeling a little embarrassed, thinking of a million excuses for why this was the case…

“We’ve only been married for two Christmases…”

“We’ve been trying to get out of debt…”

“The first Christmas we were together, we were busy planning a wedding…”

But just as I started to let my thoughts get away from me, my husband spoke up again. “Honestly, it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother you.”

The truth is it doesn’t really bother me. But I find myself thinking it does. I find myself worrying what people will think, or what they’ll say if they find out. I find myself thinking about what others are doing for the holidays that I’m not doing; and feeling pressure to make my holiday season look and feel a certain way.

But our decision to forgo Christmas presents (which was mostly out of necessity at the time we made it) has actually opened space for us to have a lighter, simpler, more beautiful Christmas. I’m not against celebrating, or against buying presents. In fact, my husband and I may buy each other presents one day.

But I do believe the common maxim “less is more” applies to the holidays more than it does to just about anything else. And I think each of us will discover a more satisfying holiday if we’ll focus on the following changes in mindset.

1. Don’t get too stuck on “the way you’ve done it before.”

If you grew up in a family or neighborhood (like I did) that went all out for Christmas, maybe scaling back for your own holiday celebration makes you feel a little bit like I felt when my husband reminded me we have never bought each other presents—like a failure. Or, like you’re doing it wrong.

I have good news. There is no wrong way to do it!

Try not to get too stuck on the way you’ve always done it before. Instead, focus on the values you want to cultivate in your family or community or home this year, and experiment with creative ways to promote those values. Also, if you’re entering a new season of life (newly independent, newly married, have young children, or have a newly empty nest), what better time to start fresh with a brand new “way?”

If you’ve always been extravagant in the past, you don’t have to “live up” to that version of yourself, or to anyone else. Take a deep breath. You’re not a failure.

2. Focus on experiences over possessions.

One of the reasons my husband and I have never bought Christmas presents for each other is that we are always traveling for the holidays. We live far from all of our extended family, and in order to spend time with family (without breaking the bank) we have had to choose between plane tickets and Christmas presents.

We’ve agreed together that, when it comes buying habits, we will always (not just at Christmas) value experiences over possessions. Possessions are nice, but they rust, rot, get stolen and burn in fires. Experiences can’t be taken from us. They have eternal value.

Consider how you cultivate experiences this year, rather than just buying gifts which will likely end up in the Goodwill pile in a few months or years.

3. Do the best you can with what you have.

This is advice a mentor of mine once gave me about a totally different subject, but I think it applies here, as well. When I was getting ready to go on a date, she would advise me not to go buy brand new clothes, or to feel like I needed to lose 10 pounds before the date, but simply to, “Do the best you can with what you have.”

In other words: be the best version of yourself.

I would give really similar advice when it comes to Christmas. Do the best you can with what you have. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy presents, or that having a Christmas tree is a waste. It simply means don’t go into debt over presents or trees. It means decide what you’re going to spend on Christmas—and it doesn’t have to be extravagant—and then do the best you can with what you have.

4. Turn off the TV (or find other ways to avoid being swayed by advertisements).

You’d be surprised how influenced you are by advertisements. Suddenly you begin thinking that everyone has a better Christmas planned than you do. Everyone’s Christmas tree belongs in a department store, and everyone’s husband is buying them diamond earrings, and everyone else is buying their kids new computers.

That’s simply not true, no matter how convincing the ads make it look.

The other thing that’s not true is that families who have these things are automatically happier (like they are in the commercials) than your family, or other families who go without. Presents are nice. But they can’t make you happy.

If you want a truly happy holiday season, you’ll have to find ways to cultivate happiness from the inside.

What tips do you have for creating a lighter, more beautiful life?

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Allison Vesterfelt blogs at AllisonVesterfelt.com where she inspires and encourages others to live with less. Her book, Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage is helpful and compelling. I highly recommend it to you. She is also worth following on Twitterbecoming minimalist@gmail.com

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My Grown-Up Christmas List

 

Me in the Middle ~ Self-Love

“The greatest gift a woman can give to herself and her family is her own independence.”

  This quote came from the book ~ The Shell Seekers ~ A novel  by Rosamunde Pilcher about a woman and her evolving relationship with her grown children ……… and adjusting to the cycles of life.

I did a self-portrait sketch of myself (kind of, sort of 😀 ) describing the different qualities I saw in myself and using the above quote as a guide.

#AJWchallenge Jan Day 19 #2

When I was growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, self-love was considered a negative thing.  Being kind to myself was something I’ve learned to do over the years.  I have been told I am too rough on myself.  This sense of unworthiness began at a young age when we were taught to think up all the ‘bad’ things we did when we went to confession every Saturday so that we could be worthy enough to receive communion on Sunday.  The best I could come up with at 7 years old was something like ‘I answered back my mother’, ‘I ate a piece of chocolate during lent’ ‘I got angry with my brothers for teasing me’….etc.   Sometimes we’d make up something!   Love of God/Love of Neighbor and self-sacrifice were all tied up into one ball of yarn and somehow self-love was left out….. or so we thought.  When I attempted to put myself first …… to say I mattered too …… it was thought to be selfish and unkind.  Now I realize that being selfless vs being selfish are more about balance.  That I am worthy and I do matter.  It’s helped me to set healthy boundaries in my life when others pressure me to be and do what I’m not comfortable with.  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself”.    It’s helped me to trust my intuition and my heart going forward even though I sometimes wrestle with ‘Catholic Guilt’.  😀

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. “

~ Brené Brown ~

It’s Enough!  It’s Plenty!”

Dear Human

Some of us have too little self worth and are too selfless. Some of us have too much narcissism and take advantage of the kindness of those who are too nice.  Seek the middle ground.

Be there for others

Me in the Middle of Writing

 

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The Eternal Sea of Creativity

The Eternal Sea of Creativity

© Mary Lou

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“I must write it all out at any cost.  Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” 

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh ~

Why Do I Write?

I write because I have a story to tell and memories to share.  The story and the memories are through my eyes and not a reflection of someone else’s perception.  Sometimes our stories can be lost or hidden from view unless we find our own voice.  Writing allows an expression of that longing to be heard when we’re surrounded by other versions, other perspectives and other agendas that can distort and embellish the validity of our own experience.

Writing has been a path to my middle ground.  It’s there at the center of my thoughts where I’m able to find that thread of continuity of my own self.  It surprises me when, after procrastinating on getting started, I find a joy and freedom that begins to awaken and I wonder why I waited to begin.  It’s an awakening that points to the whole ‘me’.

What stands out in my memory about my writing experience over the years, more than the keeping of a diary or writing a personal journal, is that writing has become a way to be able to identify the process of finding out where I fit within the middle of things …… my reality.

I remember an award I received in an Anthology of New York-New Jersey High School Essays ~ “Young America Speaks”.  I was genuinely surprised that my essay was chosen and I felt mine wasn’t as good as the other high school writers.  When I reread what I wrote at this time of my life, I can clearly see that what I wrote was helping me to find my place ……. where I belonged in the middle of things.  I belong to a family of writers ~ my father, my mother, my two brothers.  When I wrote I was saying I was a part of it all and that I belonged here.

Whenever I attempted to write poetry, it was usually at a more challenging time in my life.  When I was sorting through life’s paradoxes and finding my way through the complexities and seeking answers.  When I wasn’t able to find the words to express what was going on inside, writing poetry helped to define that struggle.

There’s value in writing!  Sharing what we write is secondary to just the pure act of putting pen to paper.  When it comes to the gifts and revelations we receive about life, both now and in the future, writing is a priceless contribution to ourselves and others.

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Me in the Middle of Well Being and Positive Aging

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

– Jiddu Krishnamurti ~

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The course I’m taking right now with OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) with the University of Virginia has really given me the support I was looking for to apply the lessons I’ve learned over the years of my life.  Transcendence, Well Being and Positive Aging helps you to maintain a ‘transcendent mindset’.  This is something that becomes easier and clearer as we get older if we’re open to being in the moment and being mindful.  We’ve learned more about ourselves and are more willing to choose the behaviors that lead to our well being instead of being pushed and pulled by others and society’s expectations.  I’m finding it a refreshing validation of how to set my own healthy boundaries during these years of letting go and simplifying my life in order to meet the inevitable changes that come with aging.

“Buddhism asserts each of us are born with Buddhanature (something akin to the western concept of a soul, but more precisely a luminous expanse of awareness), an intrinsic state of wholeness that can be discovered and cultivated through meditation.”  

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Successvul People

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Emergent Mind:  Each moment we are constructing our mind, feeding it perceptions, sensations and thoughts which coalesce into beliefs and reality pictures which in turn foster positive or negative feelings.

-Kindnessis a powerful reminder that behind all the negativity and malice, there lies goodnessthat has the powerto change the world.- (1)

Me in the Middle of an Etsy Sale ~ 20% Off!!

Well, it’s the season for looking for special gifts for those we love!  With that in mind I’ve decided to post my Holiday Season 20% Off Sale for items in my Etsy Shop.   If you are looking, or someone you might know is looking, for gift ideas for someone who loves Ireland, please share.  The Sale runs until November 26th.  I hope you’ll take a look!

~ Sketches by Mary Lou ~

Christmas Roses #2

Now through November 26th ~ 20% off ALL ITEMS ~ Take a look!

 Holiday Greeting Cards and Gift Ideas ~ Note Cards and Ireland Prints