In today’s Action and Contemplation post, Richard Rhor asks what we need to liberate ourselves from and what we need to liberate ourselves for in order to best serve the world. As a mother of five and champion Christmastime Marshall’s, Costco, and Outlet Mall shopper, I am free from that craziness this year. I do not think this is what Richard Rhor had in mind when he wrote his beautiful, insightful blog, but it struck me today that I have spent forty years consumed with selecting gifts, switching items from pile to pile, wrapping, card sending, decorating, thanking, recipe searching, lunching, partying, cooking, and trying to bake (that slipped by the wayside during particularly crazy years).
Nine years ago, one of my kids told me that I make Christmas about me. This dagger of truth struck like no other. I proudly watched each Christmas morning as my children came down the stairs to piles of brightly wrapped presents. Each Christmas Eve, I created a scavenger hunt for each child to find a gift, and I gloated at my creativity and wit as they read the clues. They loved the game until the revelation hit one of the kids that I was indeed full of myself as I witnessed the fun.
This post is not about self-flaggelation, remorse, or regret. It’s about self-awareness, and sometimes it is exremely painful when someone sheds light where I have been blinded by ego. Usually when I learn something new, I’m fascinated, grateful, and energized. Not so in the case of revealing an ugly aspect of myself. Yet that is exactly where growth occurs.
This Christmas is different – for all of us. I’m liberated from seeking out the perfect stocking stuffers, the just-right gift for a loved one, the ultimate Christmas playlist on Spotify. I’m free from driving from mailbox to mailbox behind the mail carrier as I deliver Christmas cards addressed too late to make it on time via the post office. I’m free from hours of wrapping, worrying about equal piles, and trying to make this Christmas extra-special just because it is this year.
We will only have one or two of our five children home this year. It has been many years since we have been all together for Christmas. I got over the debilitating vision of the perfect family snuggling around the tree ten years ago. Love prevails through distance, estrangement, mental illness, and loss. I’m free to really contemplate that love this year.
I’m also free to focus on gratitude – for my husband, my family, my friends, my faith, my home, my history, and my hope-filled future. But mostly, I am learning to focus on the present – not the kind wrapped in paper in bows – but the gift of being where I am and with whomever I’m blessed to spend time with this Christmas season. Our pod is small, but mighty powerful in love, laughter, understanding and joy.
And our FaceTime with our grandchildren and children across the miles is precious. I long physically and emotionally to hug them, and I believe by giving the beautiful gift of attention through the screen, they feel it. I am liberated to go beyond acceptance of what is to embracing the present with thankfulness and joy.
I can curse this Covid Christmas, or I can accept the lessons it brings.