It’s the last day of November and round the world we have officially entered the holiday season. If you’re a US resident you survived the Thanksgiving weekend – congratulations! Your wonderful holiday may have included:
- Breaking bread with people you barely know
- A long road trip with your entire family crammed into a vehicle that felt like a shoebox as the miles added up
- Slogging through airport check-ins to spend time with relatives
- Dodging questions from your bubbe, nana or dear Aunt Betty that range from your marital and childbearing status to your weight and the job they don’t quite get
- Trying to politely decline food you no longer eat without going into a long explanation of your dietary choice and uh desire to live past the age of 40.
Ah , fa la la la la la la la.
On Thanksgiving Day, I ran into my local store to grab some forgotten item. I had just finished a run and the happy hormones were rushing through my system. The store had already abandoned the Thanksgiving decorations and red bows and green lights had taken their place. It’s a one stop store where you can buy your groceries, office supplies, lawn ornaments and power tools all in one place (don’t ask, I still don’t quite get it either). I was immediately hit with the delightful smell of fresh baked goods. Yet, among the twinkling lights and joy to the world, there was one thing missing – happiness.
The workers looked battle worn and fatigued. The shoppers were buying holiday trimmings and gifts but none were smiling. I received mumbled hello’s and barely perceptible nods to my cheery greetings (I was happy, I had a good run and I was going to eat pie!). Wasn’t this a season of grateful reflection and joy?
Finally at the checkout, I found it, a happy couple. They smiled even before I let them cut in front of me. They were in their late 70s and made quite a striking pair. They had bought several cans of some type of fruit, and the wife explained they had gone to three stores to find it. She chatted cheerily while directing her husband. He smiled as he followed his wife’s lead, clearly masterful at a lifetime of “yes dears.” They had gone to three stores and they were neither harried, grumpy or seemingly tired.
This dear couple had clearly lived through many holidays. As life goes, I guarantee that they were not all stress free. Yet, they seemed to have arrived at a place that allowed them to enjoy the simple things like finding a searched for food item three stores later.
Maybe it was my runner’s high or my delight about the pie, but I committed to hold on to my joy in the midst of this frenzied season. It’s so easy to be caught like a deer in Christmas lights at this time of year. Yet, the things that really matter have little to do with blinking lights and bright wrapping paper. I will not blame the retailers for ruining the holidays but will take responsibility for my own actions and attitude. I can choose to honor my own values and reasons for celebration this season or I can choose stress and frustration. I can also choose to spread that joy to everyone around me, and that just happens to fit perfectly into my budget.
This week I’ll be sharing some of my personal stress busting strategies, and I would love to hear from you. How do you manage the demands of this time of year? Any must have rituals that keep you sane?
Heather Villa says
You’re words are always so inspiring! It’s so easy to get caught up in busyness that you forget to enjoy the holidays. Putting up the tree; taking time to decorate it, not rushing the process, this is pure holiday joy for me.
.-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Got a problem? =-.
Alina Popescu says
Karen, you are so right! Holidays return every year,but they seem to me void of their spirit and joy. finding and keeping our joy close by is becoming quite a challenge. Speaking of anti-stress strategies, I’ve recently ran into a funny article: a hotel offering special mother-in-law rates to help people with holiday pressure. So sorry I no longer have the link!
.-= Alina Popescu´s last blog ..Rules of pitching: keep track and follow up! =-.
I de-emphasize the gift giving part. I give gifts, but my children are all in the early twenties. I ask them what they want, and then I get it for them anytime during the 3 months leading up to Christmas. They no longer need the ‘gift under the tree’ and are happy and grateful for the gift regardless of when they receive it.
By Christmas morning we are all relaxed and simply enjoying each other’s company and the fantastic food.
.-= Eliza´s last blog ..The (Mis)Adventures of Mike: Mapping out business processes =-.
Lillie Ammann says
I echo others’ comments about your wonderful personality and attitude. You inspire us all.
.-= Lillie Ammann´s last blog ..Scripture for the First Monday in Advent =-.
Karen Swim says
Hi Irene! Awww thank you for those kind words! I am so truly grateful to be here and to be surrounded in my daily on and offline live but such wonderful people. My cup overflows daily with reasons to give thanks. It’s heartbreaking to watch the stress and worry on so many faces in a season that should be joyous. I hope that together we can spread our joy. 🙂
Karen Swim says
Ahhh Jeanne! You know how much I love you! Well, just in case I do! You are such a bright and shining example of one who oozes love and compassion from every gesture and word. All that are near you cannot be help but be touched by you. Amen to Thanksgiving! It is such a good day for all the reasons you mentioned. I did eat pie and curled up like the cat that ate the canary. 🙂
Karen Swim says
Aww Joanna, I am the one who is proud and so extremely grateful to have you as a friend. As so often happens, your post today perfectly mirrored my own feelings. My friends and pie truly do make me happy. 🙂
Karen Swim says
Brad, my dear friend, thank you for sharing this moment with me. I am so thankful for friends like you who help me to remain grateful everyday and encourage me to stop and enjoy the moment. It is a challenge during this time of year to move in what seems slow motion when everyone else is running headlong in front of you. I needed help to stay focused so I shared it with all of you. 🙂 Another of the many benefits of blogging.
Karen Swim says
Oh Meryl, my heart goes out to your dear Mama and your family. Those first few years can be tough, such a big adjustment. It’s such a blessing that you all have each other. My goodness, that is a lot of activity and memories for one month. Sending you huge hugs and a barrel full of love.
Jeanne Male says
Amen, Karen. Studying and admiring senior couples (and inviting them to the line in front of me) are among my favorite errand-running past times so reading your post further cemented my love all all things Karen Swim! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s non-secular, non-commercial, and just about family, reflecting upon our blessings, and oh yeah…pie. Karen, I wish that I could always be as filled with Grace as you truly are but if I could bottle your spirit I would gladly give it to the world!
.-= Jeanne Male´s last blog ..Are You Normal? Fitting-in vs Being Authentic (part 3) =-.
Joanna Young says
Hi Karen, what a lovely post. I had no idea pie made you so happy!
One of the things I have learned most from you is how to (learn to) be happy without it being forced, or too much, it’s just kindness, and enthusiasm, and a warm heart, and an ability to see love in a store… and all the reasons I am proud to have you as my friend.
.-= Joanna Young´s last blog ..Essential Moments =-.
Brad Shorr says
Karen, A lovely post, and timely. The perennial challenge is to keep our hearts and minds on the true meaning of the Christmas season – joyful expectation, charity, friendship, and love for all people, especially those who need it the most. It’s a pity that this time, which you’d like to experience almost in slow motion, seems to go by in a mad rush. Thank you for expressing so well what many of us are feeling. You’ve encouraged me to try harder to be true to the season.
.-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..A Dialog on Blogging Focus, Part One =-.
Meryl K Evans says
Please, ma’am, may I please have some adrenalin? I never get that high from exercising. It saddens me how many things are open on Thanksgiving Day because someone has to work. Grocery stores are understandable for those forgotten items — but they do close early. Some stores started their Black Friday specials on Thursday.
Joined my family at my mom’s and had a nice time. A few laughs. And the Dallas Cowboys won. All around good day though it was the second one without my dad. (My parents’ anniversary falls around Thanksgiving as does my grandmother’s death.) So we did our best to make mama happy. One of my kids stayed with her for a few more days — which I appreciated so she wouldn’t have the after-Thanksgiving let down.
When we picked him up, we gave her flowers. Because it was her birthday, too. So the end of November is a roller coaster one for her. I’m blessed to have her.
.-= Meryl K Evans´s last blog ..Guest Post: Newspapers Might be Dead, but Good Copy Isn’t =-.
Irene Koehler says
As always, you are such a positive spirit and inspiration. You are so right that it is important to focus on the joys of everyday life rather than get caught in the the frenetic pressure to move faster and buy more. Being together with those we care about is all that is truly meaningful.
Thanks for sharing this moment.