I want this to be a twice a week blog, and it will be, but… I fell ill on Sunday and have only gotten worse since then. And this is the big show, the most wonderful time of year. Joy to the world! and bake cookies, shop like crazy and wrap and go to parties and do more splendid things. But…I’ll just own up to it and let you in on a secret. I have been dealing with a serious illness since 2012 and have had serious, life altering health stuff since I was seventeen. There. Done.
So when I write about happiness wherever you are, it might mean finding it in the hospital, or on a trip to see family where you are feeling awful, or dealing with ongoing family or friend problems. Happiness can be found there. I know. I found it in all those places and more. I’ve had to cancel some fun and exciting plans this week, and I went to see the Nutcracker yesterday and while loving the ballet and excitement (I took my daughters as I usually do each December), I spent a great deal of time wishing I were home in bed. Have you been there?
I took these pictures to bring some cheer to a challenging post. I have learned to look for the good and always the fun and funny. In life. In the moment. Those bells that I hang on every door knob each December jingle and drive the guys in my family crazy. I love them! I know when someone is walking through the door (different jingles for different doors) so I can shout a hello, even from my bed. And bringing in fresh greenery somehow brightens my spirits. I have plenty of faux trees in this house, but the fresh fir tree smells like Christmases, just the way they used to be.
Surrounding yourself with some things that make you happy, even joyful is a tactic I use every day. And while it’s easy to buy stuff to place around you, it’s more meaningful to thoughtfully choose what to bring into your space. Anything made by hand is beyond precious.
That Santa figure right above? Made for me by my husband in our first year of marriage. He didn’t know how to carve wood, but he labored over it one November long ago. He decided to give the first Santa to his mom. He didn’t leave enough room for the legs, so she got half a Santa that year. I guess my husband thought his mom would like just about anything, and now that I’m the mom of mostly grown up children, that’s so very true. My husband thought his new bride would want a whole Santa, complete with legs, and as usual, he was right. Things meant a lot to me back then. Stuff. Getting things.
After nearly thirty years of marriage, the two of us have enough stuff and I see now how little that matters. My dad used to say, “The more you have, the more stuff breaks.” How true. If you can go through this season knowing what people want from you this Christmas, is…you, simply you, then you’ve learned a great lesson. Your loved ones can buy a bathrobe or blanket for themselves, but they can’t buy having you at the table for dinner or Christmas morning breakfast.
That handmade Santa is as precious to me as the Chanel bag my husband bought me this summer. Wait. More. My busy husband no longer carves, and so I have only two Santas from him. From his hands. Only I have those now. When I look at the one in the kitchen (and I placed it there so when I wash the dishes, I can see what my love gave to me long ago), I feel loved and cherished. I am happy. Joyful! With my hands in a sudsy, soapy sink.
Wherever you are, look for the good. It’s easy to complain and wait for your life to improve. To wish for what you don’t have, or to long for long ago days that will never appear. But don’t. I’ve been there. The poor me. The look at all my friends are living in bigger houses in a better part of town and I’m stuck here. Away from my family. That thinking and wishing never helped me. I had to lift my head up and decide to look at the good. I imagined I lived in the woods, while I lived in a tiny house in a large city and could see the tops of the neighbors’ evergreen trees. I didn’t even own the trees!
Look at the manger. Jesus really didn’t have much going for him. Born illegitimately (not really, but that’s what the people believed) to a young mother, far away from home, who laid in a barn and had to deal with labor pains in a smelly stable. Can you imagine? And there is no record of Mary complaining of the long, weary road to Bethlehem. She didn’t make the trip worse by cursing the politicians who demanded a new tax. Can you picture yourself having to drive this December to your hometown and pay to stay there just so you can pay the government more money? I’d be saying a lot of ugly words. But I don’t think Mary did. Or patient, caring Joseph.
So while I show you my home filed with light to make my days and long nights brighter, cozier and happier, I hope you’ll think along with me about how to make the next few days happy and even better than happy…joyful! I can write my Christmas cards while being sick on the couch. Instead of baking, my oldest has offered to do that tomorrow, and I actually finished reading a very good mystery novel last night.
Can you find happiness even if your child is ill? Your mom dying? Your money drying up? My husband and I were both unemployed about twelve years ago. At Christmas. (Why companies get rid of people in December is lost on me. It might help the bottom line, but it’s mean.) And we didn’t buy many gifts that year. Actually, my husband lost his job, two Decembers in a row. He had a sick wife and three kids to feed. So when I went to the mailbox to wearily pull out more bills, I fell to my knees when I saw the $200 in an envelope. Happiness and even joy were brought to us by someone. Find the good. In others. In you.
Give yourself to others. You are the absolute best present out there. Help with the dishes and take out the garbage. And smile.
I’ll write to you again, the day after Christmas. We’re heading to our farm, so I’ll see how you’re doing with Christmas and New Year’s. And remember, our holidays are not supposed to look like what we see in the media. Toss those ideas aside. Unless you truly are a Martha Stewart…then go for it and become my friend. This Christmas bring you. Show up and maybe have a story from long ago or last week to share.
I’m working up the courage to tell my family that the reason my car would not lock last week at my doctor’s appointment was because I left my car running. Yup. I couldn’t figure out why my car would not lock. So I shook my head at my stupid car (I know who the stupid one is now) and went in the building. Can you believe it? I’m happy my unlocked car was still running and waiting for me over an hour later.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and Happy Winter. See? Merry, happy and happy. Claim it. Be it. Bring it.
Until Boxing Day, sweet friend. Let me know how you’re doing…