Delightfully December…

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We’ve made it. Arrived. December sits at our feet and what do we do with it? Rush around, picking out the perfect tree, lit with fifteen strands of lights at least, baking perfectly homemade cookies, while attending holiday events looking incredibly composed even though we feel slightly crazed, desperate to create the perfect holiday (as if that exists), with Christmas cards written and sent before December 25th.  I forgot the gifts! Shop for the perfect gift for everyone on our overly long lists, including the mailman, as long as the monetary value is less than $20 per regulation. But not me. Not this year. I’m embracing a form of simplicity. I decorated with eight Christmas trees because that is my thing, but I let other tasks slide. Store-bought cookies taste great. That’s why I buy them.

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The point is to do the things you most enjoy. Christmas brings out the tree fanatic within me, but my neighbor rocks an outdoor colored light show each evening, and my friend bakes long into the nights, sharing her assortment of cookies with us every year. What do you like to do around the holidays? What makes you happy? Focus on that. Bring your brand of beauty to December, and the other stuff is just stuff.

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Christmas is not a competitive sport. No one wins an award for doing it all, even if we did it all well. Which isn’t humanly possible. Here’s a secret to my eight trees: I don’t adorn every one with ornaments even though one year my mother decided to bring a U-Haul filled with Christmas to me, as a surprise. I have enough ornaments (massive understatement); I just don’t feel the need to place them on every tree. Though the first year after the U-Haul I did re-create a Santa tree, and all my kids said that year was how utterly creepy the Santa heads with full beards and no bodies were. And I placed the Santa-head tree in the front room so everyone had a month of laughter each time they strode through the door. Not quite the look I was going for, but, I laughed too.

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In dark December, I crave light, and my trees bring that to me. I have different lights on each tree and the glow makes my soul warm even in this terribly chilly month. Candles, fires, lanterns and lights bedazzle my eyes and I don’t feel the dark descending upon the world. I love the soul who places a lit Santa next to our winding, heavily treed road, and this year Mrs Claus joined him. I smile every night and wonder how many extension cords they needed to plug in the Clauses in the middle of their woods.

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Embrace December, regardless of your beliefs. Be willing to change traditions. I don’t know how this started, but after going to church on Christmas Eve, my family loves to go to China Town Buffet. So we do. I only have to produce one dinner then, as expected on Christmas Day. But if you don’t do Christmas, go to the movies (though I think that is becoming very popular), or stay all day in your P.J.’s doing what you love. Spend these dark nights with those who light up your world.

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And even better than that; spend some time with others who struggle with bills, loneliness, bad health, and face a bleak winter. Give. Give away your manicure. One December, I really wanted to take a romantic horse ride through the city, but decided to hand the cash to a homeless man. I’m so warm thinking of his smile. I feel it years later. Find the beauty in this month. She might be hiding a bit, but search for her.

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I’m back on the hunt for beauty and happiness, and it feels so good. Spread the warmth. Light up your soul. My goal this month is to set aside the time to read a good novel. Iced tea and a book, even if December brings more cold and cloudy days.  I’ll sit by my Christmas forest and smile in sheer contentment. I’ll be back in a few days. We have so much to look forward to…together.

Long roads with wonderful views…

 

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While sorting through the pictures to choose the ones I want to place here on this page, that take you through my day, I pass through photos going back more than five years. And in those pictures of specifically my family, I see an array of emotions. Sure, happiness on a birthday where we all deliberately sing terribly out of tune (and one daughter insists on regaling us with The Star Spangled Banner at the same time) is evident. That’s fun. Special and happy. We’re all laughing and grinning!

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And I see the vacations. Happy times, right? Except I see the depths of depression welling up into one daughter’s eyes. She cannot hide what lies beneath. She tried to take her life. Deep stuff here, I know. But I see it every time I come here to write to you about happiness. Be happy wherever you are, except. Except, there are simply times where we cannot feel it. So what do you do? I chose to ride it out. It hurt. I hurt, and others around me were affected, which didn’t make me feel any better.

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But I made it out. I’m happy to be here doing this thing called life.

In those particular vacation pictures of me and my always smiling daughter, I see her smile never reaches her eyes. And I remember her long road to happiness. That was so very worth it. She left the kind of life that brought her down and climbed out of the darkness and now lives a life full of laughter, with much kindness and concern for others. Because she knows what it feels like when we just can’t cross the bridge to happiness. But she and I know it’s a climb worth making.

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So what can we do if we’re not at happy? When it’s nowhere in sight? Talk to somebody. Reach out. Counselors can be good, but sometimes it’s a kind friend. Find the merciful, kind people in life and keep them. They are worth so much more than a roomful of raucous laughter. My daughter just happened to call a college friend to say good-bye. A forever goodbye. Outside my house, while I slept.

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That far-off friend called the police, not knowing quite where she lived, and that saved her life. I had no idea how sad my laughing, uber friendly, voted funniest of her class, daughter was. But I found out.

She lived. Thank God, she is alive. And if you are at that point of thinking nobody cares and that you’re worthless. Stop. You are worth more than jewels. Just being alive matters. Not how much money you make. Not the clothes you wear. You. Are here. For a reason. You might not know that reason yet, but hang on. Because the day is coming when you will find out why. Why you went through pain. The suffering. The loneliness. Worthlessness. And you know what?

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Don’t buy into it. Don’t listen to the negative voices in your head, or the people around you that bring you down. Because you are worth so much. You matter. You’re smart enough, good enough and nothing you have ever done takes that away. Hold your head up. Look for the beauty. If you can’t see the beauty looking back at you when you look in the mirror, that’s okay for now. But please, take my word for it, you are beautiful, wonderful and amazing. And someday, after you survive this time, you will look back and see why. Why it happened. That dark and lonely road you travelled had a purpose.

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See those stairs? I pass them on my favorite walk, and it means I’m almost finished walking or running. Our life is a bunch of stairs we get to climb to go somewhere pretty amazing. We can stop here and there to catch our breath and admire the view higher up. That’s life as you age. Trust me. And then you start up the stairs again. I’m here to tell you the view gets better the higher we climb, so do not give up. Talk to someone who is caring and kind, if you feel alone. I have been there. Alone. Sad. No one understanding why I couldn’t pull myself together. But…I let time, medicine (we might need that at times), counseling, and kind friends help me. You can do this. You’re not alone.

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Happiness can be found along the way. In so many places. For me, it’s beautiful flowers, bought on the cheap. Iced tea in the afternoon. Pasta for dinner! A good book and my kind of music. Candles. My cozy spots in this house, where I retreat to when I feel like I need that. Find yours.

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I love long walks. Alone. It gives me time to untangle problems and I dream up my best writing ideas for that book. You? You might prefer matcha or an espresso in the early afternoon. Maybe a jazzercise class? Hey, my 77 year old dad goes to jazzercise three times a week. I love that about him! Go daddy! Find your thing. And stop to enjoy the view along this trip called life. We only get one shot at this. Let’s make it a happy one. Here’s to you and how amazingly beautiful and wonderful you are…

 

Until next time…