I don’t exactly remember when I realized that the twelve days of Christmas began on December 26th. I was well into my adulthood, not giving the 12 days much thought. The only thing I noted was that the twelve days before Christmas were highly stressful for me. As much as I loved the Christmas time, I was always aware of what went undone.
Relief arrived, unexpectedly, like a moment of enlightenment the day I realized that I had 12 full days after Christmas. Here I was, able to do those small, ordinary and special things I had wanted to do but couldn’t manage. After all, we are all still working up until Christmas but many of us have a few extra days afterwards.
All of a sudden I had time to sit and read the cards, digital or otherwise and I could reply. There was time to read, moodle, call my relatives and talk as long as I wanted. I could start my gentle review of the past year to see what I wanted to continue, stop or change. Day dreaming and trying out a few new things: like the drawing pens or calligraphy set that were given to me. Taking time to watch a u-tube video sent from a reader. Going back and re-reading the sections in Oliver Burkeman’s book on “We Never Really Have Time.” Furthurmore, giving up the absurd notion that a better productivity method will solve the problem. Coming to grips with ultimate reality – we can’t do it all.
So, these days of no rushing, and breathing space are the gift of gifts. Room for spontaneity, playing with ideas on how to renew my Living Well with Illness programs, as an example.
I shut off my alarm clock this week and am fully rested for small projects that I enjoy doing. For the first time, I thought I would pick one thing each of the 12 days to hi-light in my notebook. Nothing planned; rather, a surprise or something spontaneous.
Hi-lights of the first three days of Christmas
- Day 1: Reading The Shepherd, by Frederick Forsyth, to my 50 year old daughter. We love the story, and took 90 minutes, curled up on the couch with a coffee, and a big box of tissues. Ninety minutes of emotion about a pilot, in the North Sea, on Christmas Eve. In the midst of dense fog, he loses all radio communications, and we get to hear the story of what happened.
- Day 2: Through a series of fortunate events we got to meet the author of a beloved children’s book (adults love it too) Hana’s Suitcase. Now translated into 40 different languages, the author, Karen Levine, a prize winning radio producer with CBC, first did the book as a radio documentary. My grandson, was assigned the French translation, before Christmas and he proclaimed to me that it was the best book he had ever read. His one question to her: “why did you write this book?” He told me later, “my teacher will be surprised with the answer. Which simply goes to show how often our assumptions about others are wrong.
- Day 3: The wonderful scene of my son-in-law running partway down the street to get my garbage on the garbage truck. Here’s the story: I am house sitting across the street from my daughters and part of what is hoped for by our family friend is that I get her garbage out today. This is not a problem, except that in our city the norm is to add a day to the pick up schedule for holidays. So, I made an assumption instead of checking my notifications. When I looked out the window and saw the garbage truck moving on I sped to the garage, grabbed the garbage and my son in law ran relay to the truck. Poor guy was shoveling out his driveway and was therefore available, at that exact moment in time. My lucky moment for which I am grateful.
Don’t worry, I will not be posting my personal Twelve Days of Christmas, but I did want to illustrate how important it is that each of us find small ways to notice and make meaning of ordinary moments. This is where we live and work. What strikes you will be different from me and that is the point. To make your own way. To find what grabs your attention and celebrate it. Writing things down appears to help us remember and make meaning.
Taking breaks, walks in nature, and finding small things that we love to do. Or taking notice of how we are helped by others, aren’t soft skills worth little. They are vital to our toxic stress reduction, which in turn improves our ability to ward off cognitive decline. (note that I will never use the word prevent) Our natural resources are also fortified to improve the quality of our everyday life on every level. Our mindbody is one, not two.
It is tempting, as the year draws to a close to make resolutions. I propose this year that you look back and note the things you are proud of. Things that mattered to you. No matter how small. There is no checklist of what we should have done and if presented with one, I suggest you ignore it. Each one of us gets to decide, by our own standards, how we measured up. Noone else can possibly know what that is. One of mine is that I flossed more consistently – you get the picture. A yearly review can be a useful thing to do, as long as you decline to use it, as a way to beat yourself up.
I will always and forever stand my ground that all of us are doing the best we can, with what we know, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. And fortunately this does not mean perfectly. Nor does it mean to achieve someone else’s standards. Trust yourself. We all can do what we need to do, and when we need a hand we ask for it. If there is one thing I do know it’s that kindness is the touchstone. Sometimes kindness needs to say no. Oftentimes we miss the mark. However, we have unlimited moments, until our last one, to try again and that is what counts.
1:) Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine. You can buy this through any online store or borrow it through the library.
2:) A reader of this blog sent an interesting video about leaves. For nature enthusiasts you can watch here. “This is the complete leaf sequence used in the accompanying short film LeafPresser. While collecting leaves, I conceived that the leaf shape of every single plant type I could find would fit somewhere into a continuous animated sequence of leaves if that sequence were expansive enough. If I didn’t have the perfect shape, it meant I just had to collect more leaves.”Music: Slyungda by jm france Images: Brett Foxwell
3:) All photos today taken by Rob Gaudet, while visiting Gabriola Island. Fortunately, on the west coast, even when the snow comes, it doesn’t last. Like a spring day. Thank you Rob.
4:) Ōmisoka New Year’s Eve, is considered the second-most important day in Japanese tradition as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-
soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next. At midnight, many visit shrines, or temples for Hatsumōde. Shinto shrines prepare amazake, a traditional, sweet fermented Japanese rice drink that dates back to the earliest era of recorded history in Japan. This drink is passed out to crowds and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells that are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires believed to cause human suffering.(my Japanese readers are free to comment on errors or omissions here. )
5:) I can’t thank you all enough for spending part of your precious time meeting me here on this blog. Even though I haven’t met most of you, I have a sense of you and I like you all. I truly hope for the best, of what can be, for each and everyone of you. And I also wish for you, the courage, flexibility and adaptability for whatever comes your way. We never know what lies ahead, but we do know we can handle it. And most importantly I send you all an armload of joyful and meaningful moments. May you enter each day with a great sense of aliveness. “I woked up,” my granddaughter exclaimed, beaming from ear to ear, when she was two. May this be true for us all. Hugs all around, Trudy