Archives for posts with tag: celebration time

I’m sipping my second coffee on a proper day off. I highly recommend taking the occasional actual day off from work (and yes, even from non-work routines). Real down time. Don’t check that email. Don’t answer those calls. Don’t participate in “just one meeting”. Be available for you, once in a while.

…There are very few things that feel reliably more luxurious, satisfying, and nurturing than having my own undivided attention for a few hours, a day, or a weekend… Just saying. Totally worth doing, even during a pandemic. Even if social distancing. Even staying right here at home. I like the woman in the mirror, rather a lot these days, and I enjoy her company greatly. (If you don’t feel well-disposed toward that human being you face in your mirror each day, well… it’s a great place to begin again, on better terms!)

It is a lovely autumn morning, well-suited to all sorts of things I might like to do with my time.

Autumn is already more than just hints of color, or occasional leaves found on the deck.

It is a chilly morning. Yesterday, there was even ice on the windshield of my car, well past sunrise. I enjoyed my morning coffee with my Traveling Partner. I took time to soak in the hot tub, watching the morning sunshine warm the dewy rooftops, steamy vapor rising into the air. I listened to the birds in the neighbor’s pear tree arguing over the not-yet-ripe pears, hoping they’d leave a few unmarred by pecking, but not particularly concerned about it. My mind wandered briefly to chores and housekeeping, and weekend meals, and I made some “mental notes” (promptly forgotten) about things I could add to my list. No pressure.

Today is definitely about “no pressure”, and that feels good.

The holiday season crossed my mind. Gifts to think about. Meals to consider. Guests to invite. No guests; there’s a pandemic going on. No, seriously – and it is serious – we’re okay here at home, and fortunate to enjoy each other in close quarters over a long period of time. (I sometimes suspect our military experience gives us an advantage; we “work as a unit”, even when we are aggravated with each other.) I know there are people who are frustrated with the constraints placed upon them by pandemic life. I get it. I just think it’s worth making the effort to be generally safe, generally respectful of the wellness of others, and generally fully compliant with the requirement to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to avoid crowds. Yes, even close family crowds at important family events; those people will go home (and so will you), having shared whatever they’ve been exposed to, and to share what they were exposed to at the event. It’s not an acceptable risk, from my perspective. We see it play out in the news every week; a big gathering, a spike in new cases of COVID-19. It honestly just seems like an easy choice to me… so, since March, my partner and I stay home, except for a handful of difficult to avoid errands. It complicated house hunting. It complicated the closing. It complicated the move.

…Both of us remain well. Worth the complications.

We relaxed enough to allow my partner’s son (my step-son) to visit after we finished moving in. I regretted that more than a little bit, as much I enjoyed seeing him, particularly after he admitted to attending gatherings of friends, more recently than two weeks prior to traveling to see us… and… he did have to travel. He was here less than two weeks. Yes, it caused me stress to consider that with greater care – too late to change the planning. I am unlikely to make another exception as we head into flu season. I’d rather not even get the flu, or a head cold, and social distancing and mask wearing has definitely reduced my exposure to those risks! Win.

…But… Thanksgiving…!?! Giftmas??

Yeah. Thanksgiving. Giftmas, too. Fuck your Thanksgiving feast and holiday parties if they send half your family home to far away places with new exposure to COVID-19, and with increased potential of losing loved ones to it. I mean, seriously? Weddings too. Baby showers. Parties of all kinds. Music festivals. Worship. Celebrations. All of it. Fuck every minute of every “important life event” any one of us chooses to attend that results in the loss of someone else’s life. What right do we have, as individuals, to be callous with someone else’s risk of death?

So. Holidays will be simple this year, here at home. Cards. Letters. Calls. Merriment. A comfy holiday at home – intimate, joyful, and low-stress. Healthy, too, maybe…? (I am one of those folks who nearly always has a head cold, or is “just getting over” – or just catching – the flu, right around Thanksgiving or Giftmas – maybe not this year?)

I sip my coffee and smile. We’ve already figured out where the Giftmas tree will go… and there’s so much room for it… 🙂 Right now, that’s enough. I look at the time. The lovely day stretches out ahead of me. It looks like a good one to take a walk on an untraveled trail… or simply to begin again. 🙂

“The Holiday Season” is almost upon us*. Well, my idea of ‘The Holiday Season” is almost upon me – I don’t know many people who celebrate quite as I do, quite so enthusiastically. It’s a thing with me. For me, the winter holidays begin with Thanksgiving and continue through to the new year, ending on New Year’s Day, with my personal “One Hour” celebration (a personal tradition that has endured decades through tough times and good times), spent reflecting on the year before, progress made, obstacles, new and old goals, and committing my intentions for the year to come. It’s a whole lot of holiday celebrating, connecting, sharing, and enjoying – and it’s my idea of how such a thing can be experienced.

Even the creatures of forest, meadow, and marsh are getting ready for winter.

Even the creatures of forest, meadow, and marsh are getting ready for winter.

I rarely experience ‘holiday blues’ and I am eager for the holidays this year, utterly unreservedly eager. It’s not about money, I’m stretched pretty thin these days, and I don’t expect to afford a lavish holiday. That’s irrelevant – it really is about the baking of cookies, and the sharing, and the letters, cards, and calls to far away friends and dear ones. It is about having cocoa or cider with friends, more than about presents – although I do love to see the colorful wrapping paper under the tree; I suspect it is the colorful paper more than the contents of the packages that delights me so. It is the meals and memories enjoyed and shared, not the dollar value of the money spent. Yes, I say “Merry Christmas” – and I also say “Happy Holidays”, and most importantly – “welcome to my home” and “I’m so glad to see you”. I am as likely to celebrate Chanukah with Jewish friends or loved ones, or Diwali when it falls ‘within the holiday season’ as to celebrate a holy observance in any other faith; it is the celebration that makes the occasion both special and holy, although my personal experience of Christmas began as the usual mostly secular sort. I would cram the season with observances of all the holidays I can value, honor, and welcome into my own experience – all of them that I know of, I make the attempt. These darker winter months, the metaphorical end of things, are a good time to welcome light and laughter into my home and my heart – and I do it every year, because life reminds me, every year, that there is an end to all things – by bringing winter to my experience.

This is my way of celebrating… so many things… all jumbled together, day over day, week after week. I take time to contemplate life, love, the nature of success, and how fortunate I am. It’s definitely a strong foundation to begin with gratitude and a holiday of giving thanks – and yes, that’s how I celebrate it, I am not hesitant to acknowledge the troubling origin of the holiday, and for me part of that Thanksgiving Holiday is a certain ‘spirit of hospitality’ and accord that sources with the tradition of indigenous Americans welcoming foreigners from across the ocean, helping them settle and survive – and sharing a harvest meal before winter sets in, in earnest. Many years ago, a stranger stranded with a flat tire (that was a thing back then, and not uncommon) stopped at my door to use the phone on Thanksgiving. I invited him in to use the phone. When I over heard him telling his family he would not be home in time for the holiday meal, I made room at my own table, and when he finished his call, invited him to join us. My partner-at-the-time helped the man change his tire while I finished getting dinner to the table. It was a joyous occasion. It seemed the right and proper thing to do, for a stranded traveler on a holiday. Why would I not? (If a list of reasons pops into your head, examine them with care – how many are about fear?)

This year, I’ve been content to look forward to a solitary Thanksgiving holiday. I have been surprised to find that I haven’t been at all blue about it; the menu will suit me perfectly, being entirely only things I enjoy myself. No compromises for tradition or taste. It turns out my traveling partner may be joining me for the holiday meal – which takes me from content and eager, to excited in the time it takes to understand the words. I’ve been smiling ever since. The remainder of the weekend, aside from the bit interrupted by work commitments for a couple of hours on Saturday, will be spent putting up my holiday tree, decorating the apartment, baking fruitcake, and picking out a wreath for the front door.

There’s this grin on my face just now, as I sip my coffee and realize that the winter holidays are something I’ve ‘gotten right’ for many years; I made them my own as soon as I turned 18, keeping what I valued and changing things that didn’t suit me, and have continued to build and enjoy my own traditions and deeper meaning to each feast, each ritual, each calendar date celebrated. At one time, it was the one time of year I took care of me, luxury self-care to the limit of the skills and knowledge I had at the time… once a year. This year, I am doing it with my eyes open, and that makes it all sparkle even more. 🙂

What will you be celebrating with your traditions this year? Something old? Something new? Something for others? Something for you? With enough twinkly lights the darkness can’t win. What a very good time of year to be enough. 🙂

*Almost upon us. I spared you the pictures of Christmas’s past – it’s a bit premature for all that. 😉

Okay, so… there will not literally be party hats, cake, or ice cream. I am, however, celebrating – and you’re invited! Let’s do this thing! First, we need to set the mood. Jessie J? I think so.

Note: the links are all music that I like, that feels powerful and celebratory in some way – your results may vary. Just saying; it’s a matter of taste. 😉

One piece of growth and progress I often miss is celebrating the win – when I ‘get it right’ on a new level, or in an unexpected way, or after trying and trying for so long, I forget to just pause and really appreciate that moment, to let is soak into my consciousness, and to really enjoy the win without reservations, and without needing validation from an external source. I’m done with that. It’s not a very nice way to treat myself – to work so hard, and then just shrug off success in pursuit of the next thing to fix, or because perfection is unattainable. This morning I am celebrating yesterday; there’s a party in my heart, and I’m the guest of honor. (It feels really good, I highly recommend appreciating your small successes.)

I had some challenges yesterday – but I managed them myself, which feels pretty self-sufficient and powerful.  It wasn’t that the day was perfect and easy – it had some really difficult moments, and that didn’t stop me from having a great day. No meltdown. Good choices. I bounced back! More than once. I got through the entire evening (after being profoundly tested during the commute) on my own strength, even taking time to attempt to gently express a small moment of hurt, without using emotional weapons of mass distraction; finding success there was a surprise. This morning I woke up feeling calm, strong, and in a pleasant mood. This, too, is worthy of celebration.

Yesterday I brushed off the small stuff with good self-care practices, awareness, self-compassion, and the will to take myself in hand and help myself out of the muck…even Facebook joined the fun; a good friend redirected my focus gently in the moment with a soft question redirecting me to a mindful moment. Friends matter. Connection matters. Being open to success, too, matters. (A lot, actually; it is a choice to remain in a bad place.) Love matters – particularly that love I have for myself; it’s been hard to get here. Is it strange that feeling strong and capable also feels beautiful? If I had that sort of art at my command, I would find the words for powerful statements of beauty, autonomy, strength of will – that’s all very sexy stuff.

This isn’t about bragging about a good day; I want to celebrate the successes more than I grieve the misses. The positives in life really rate more attention than I’ve given them, more delight, more focus, more opportunity to linger on what feels good. Some beats and some dancing! So here we are – party hats on! Today is a good day to be open to success – and to appreciate it when it comes, whether through skill and practice, or good fortune and good friends. Feel the win! (What will you celebrate today?)

Taking a moment just for me to enjoy my own moment - totally okay, too. :-)

Taking a moment just for me to enjoy my own moment – totally okay, too. 🙂

This morning I woke feeling sad. Feeling angry. Feeling discontent and dissatisfied.  I woke seething. I woke on the edge of tears. I woke early and without any recollection of the content of my dreams.

My slowly waking consciousness flailed in the darkness for some event or offense to hang on to, to point toward and say ‘this, this is the thing that hurts me now’.  One or two likely items were obviously on the menu… and as new tools and skills kicked in, I recognized that making assumptions about my emotional state was likely to cause me further pain and unhappiness, and result in struggling with myself for hours. I took a few moments to observe the darkness around me, and within me. I took some deep breaths and found that my body was tense beyond explanation, and my heartsick feelings were side by side with significant physical pain – and a stuffy nose.  Another deep breath as I admitted silently in the darkness that pain and a stuffy nose, and unremembered bad dreams could easily result in waking with a feeling of discontent and sorrow. (It isn’t as if I am lacking a history of troubled sleep. )

It’s nice to sit here now, more contented, calmed, enjoying a morning coffee without tears and without festering rage waiting to explode unexpectedly in the face of any attempt to interact with me. I am choosing new practices, and building new skills. I am taking an active role in becoming.

In general, life feels much better than it did a year ago. I feel calmer, so often that it is tempting to say ‘always’ or affix some measure of awesomeness to the improvements. I’ve also learned that sometimes those measurements can lead to a desire to pursue accolades, recognition, and validation rather than simply enjoying growth and change. Sometimes defining progress and growth in a firm way even stalls further progress and growth by creating expectations or a sense of entitlement or a ‘deserved’ outcome.

Meditation this morning was an interestingly deep experience. Making room for the hurting, the sadness, the anger, and without insisting on explaining, or justifying them in my experience in the moment, feels strangely comforting and nurturing. The feelings dissipated and quiet compassionate tears slid down my face without shame or embarrassment.  I let go of feeling the lack of things so strongly, and found myself open to feeling the strength of what I’ve got now.  I felt the grief and sadness of what-is-no-more, and honored the memories of wonders and joys and loves of the past without resenting the absence of any one moment or experience that has gone before.  Having given myself the respect of honoring my experience, and feeling my feelings, the warmth of wonders and joys and loves in my now began to fill my awareness. It was a lovely and moving moment.

What woke me? I do wonder, then I let it go.

Yoga. Pain. More yoga – because it isn’t the yoga that hurts. It’s not that sort of pain. It’s just the pain of my arthritis. The headache of my TBI. These are long-time companions that accompany me so many days that for years I didn’t bother to tell people I was hurting. What was the point of bitching about something that was so everyday? The yoga does help.  Eventually I feel less stiff. I hurt some less, certainly enough to begin the day. Even the headache recedes a bit, although that is likely more about putting some distance between my difficult waking moment, and my right-now.

Thanksgiving tomorrow… a festive dinner with friends, baking, cooking, eating, talking… I look forward to it every year.  For me it isn’t even a little bit about Pilgrims and Indians. Why would it be? Hell, it isn’t even about turkeys, or childhood holiday crafts. It is a harvest feast, a celebratory moment shared with friends and family, a tradition of gratitude in a world that doesn’t appreciate very much, or very often. It is the start, for me, of ‘the winter holiday season’. Thanksgiving,  birthdays,  Hanukkah [the official WordPress spelling], the Winter Solstice, Yule, more birthdays, New Year’s, and sprinkled throughout there are parties and dinners, and occasions for merriment of all sorts*.  I love ‘the holiday season’.  I love celebrations! Something more significant than a party, something that supports a value larger than one person’s joy – these are some of what is best about who we are. We gather and share joy, memory, humanity, culture.. and cookies. 😀

This year I am baking cookies. lol. I didn’t last year, we were in the middle of moving, and the kitchen was not really in a reliably ‘baking-ready’ state. I spent some time last night tracking down my own personal favorite holiday cookie recipes, and finding traditional family favorites I remember from childhood.  I haven’t yet brought mindfulness to cookies…

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Hunting down those cookie recipes brought me face to face with my past in the form of recipe cards of a series called My Greatest Recipes.  It was a mail order subscription, and not a great idea for someone on a tight budget; a cookbook would have been cheaper. I still love these recipe cards, though, and they were one of the few things I did ‘just for me’ at that tender age, long ago, when I was in my 20s. Texas? No, earlier. Virginia. I’ve long ago lost the clear plastic box they came with, and the cards follow me through life nestled in a plastic food storage container without a lid. They don’t fit in it well. lol. Some of the cards are stained, or the edges frayed. Some are written on in ball point pen, in most cases notes about favorite modifications, in one case a phone number. Most are recipes I’ve never tried. Some are recipes for dishes I prefer to prepare differently, and have a favorite recipe safely stored elsewhere, and then there are the recipes I love…those worn cards, those stained cards, cards I can hold in my hand and be reminded.  🙂

Funny that these recipes cards seem to be some sort of collectible now. lol. They were at one point a rather troubling experience for me, arriving faster and more frequently over time, billing me unexpectedly when I was short of funds already.  I still wanted to have them ‘all’, but like episodes of InuYasha, they seemed limitless and infinite in number.  I ended my subscription before I ever got close to having a complete set (and where the hell would I have stored a complete set?).  Probably a good thing, it was getting really expensive. lol.

There will be cookies this year, and recipes, and holidays, and celebrations, and perhaps more good days than difficult ones. This holiday season holds a lot more mystery than usual – new tools, new skills, new practices. For now it is enough to quietly contemplate whether my Russian Tea Balls will be preferred to my Cardamom Cookies, or if it is worth making the fairly everyday (but tasty) Broken Cookies instead of the more festive and elaborate Butter Horns that I first made in 2010 with a dear love by my side, using his Mother’s recipe. (What a precious memory.) I don’t yet know what cookies I’ll be baking, this year, but I do know there will be cookies. 🙂

Yes, there will be cookies. :-)

Yes, there will be cookies. 🙂

Today is a lovely day to consider recipes, and memories, and to celebrate what has been, and what may be.  Happy Thanksgiving.



*My list of holidays is not, and is not intended to be, inclusive of all possible winter holidays. It merely reflects the holidays I am most likely to be involved in celebrating, myself, at this time in my life, based on lifestyle, personal beliefs, the beliefs of loved ones, and calendared events I have accepted.  If I were to be invited to celebrate Kwanzaa, Diwali, or Ramadan (when it falls in winter), I would include them. 😉