The greatest gift I’ve been given this holiday season; my own desk space. Today I patiently sit at home awaiting the arrival of our home alarm system technician. It seems one of our alarms randomly pings and we receive calls at all hours. I have let this go for four years since we have returned to our home of permanent residence.
There are many things to do on my work desk as we prepare to take time off for the holidays. But here I sit. Tuesdays through Thursdays are the busiest days of my week as I balance work and kids’ after-school schedules. I light my scented candle and attempt to clear my distracted and irritable mind…fighting to create space.
I feel a bit like the stainless square U-bolts that were returned from the platers yesterday. The steel, dark with light soap, returns from the platers shiny and new. But the zinc clear finish revealed the pitted defects in material; something not noticeable as the coils were straightened and bent to create the U-shaped bolt. Phone calls were placed but with the holidays; material was unavailable for rush delivery.
The long-time customer arrived accepting the bolt, as is. This bolt still serves its function, the cosmetics not mattering since it will be hidden beneath a trailer.
That’s a lot like how I feel as of late; the hubs making the connection. With the busy-ness of work I have been unable to sift through my thoughts and so he listened, last eve, as I voiced them instead. You are a lot like the square U-bolts we shipped out today, he said.
Aren’t we all?
For all of us have flaws and defects that we attempt to cover with gloss…make-up, clothes, appearances, perfectionism. Just like the U-bolt, my function remains the same and the cosmetics really shouldn’t matter. The hubs accepts me, as is; pitted appearances and all. The integrity of our quality bolt product is solid and he reminded me to remember that. I am strong, like steel. I am not perfect and I should not waste time attempting to be.
As I attempted to tidy my very-lived in home for the technician’s visit I caught myself. I gazed at the Christmas decor, grabbed my cup of coffee and headed upstairs. I have to appreciate this alone time, in my space, to slow my pace. Grant myself grace.
And with that affirmation, last eve, I had smiled; falling asleep at last. I attributed my irritable self to the full moon, early this morning. It is the long nights moon just a few days before the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.
Three hours later I sit at my work desk…
I see the lack of white space on my calendar and have failed. The schedules are constantly in flux as paperwork continues to come home with my boys. What! There was no band concert on the schedule!? When the middle son shared the elementary school would be having one this Thursday. I am already juggling various activities to accommodate last minute school functions, to our already full schedule, and recently realized in the spring that we have multiple conflicts. And so it appears we will be letting go of extracurriculars once again to prioritize the bare essentials.
This balance is precarious….activity versus quality time. But as of late I do not go to bed in the evening feeling that it has been stolen from me. In simplifying, reconciling and prioritizing the stress factor has decreased significantly. Normally when I see empty space I can easily fill it. But this holiday season I have made the conscious effort to be mindful of what is important. Lowering expectations. Granting myself grace.
I hope to find my internal tipping point; the point in which a little change can affect dramatic results. It is quite simple, really, when I consider what has changed this holiday season. Normally I am in a frenzy as the days get closer to Christmas; to-do lists lengthening and patience deteriorating. The three things that Malcolm Gladwell considers in his book about epidemiological change: the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context mull about in my mind. But three things have kept me grounded this season.
- Time for ME (creating space). The pre-dawn walking time that is built into my schedule allows me to not think; about anything. And a mere thirty minutes of time in the evening, to do whatever I want, keeps me calm.
- Lowered expectations (slow the pace). House not super-clean? Oh well. I overlook the dust bunnies and, instead, sit as my boys press ornament play buttons or gaze at my Advent candles.
- Flexibility. (Grace). I can either be frustrated that my schedule isn’t working in my favor or learn to go with the flow. Most times I try to appease everyone but these days I’ve learned that is an unrealistic expectation. Saying No is not a bad word and it can be quite contagious. I can not always control the situation. What I can control is my reaction to it . Deep. Calming. Breath. Ommmmmm.
As I stood in front of the post office talking to a fellow parent; my body tensed as I noted the amount of people exiting their vehicles with packages to enter the building. My internal response was to hurry up and get in line. But thankfully, my mind overrode the adrenaline rush as I took a breath and continued to talk. I opened the door for the seven people who entered and eventually stood in line behind them as they smiled at me. All of them had multiple packages and I stood in line for stamps. Simple things.
This year I find myself excited for the holiday. Although my schedule has now completely filled through Tuesday, Dec. 24th, when we host family for the feast, I look forward to the cleaning and cooking. Why? Because the prep is well worth it, in the end, as everyone relaxes at the table and catches up. I enjoy wrapping presents, look forward to baking cookies and making more lumpias; but to do these things I sacrifice attendance at parties. The third grader insisted I make another batch of lumpias for us to try; the first batch allocated to his third grade classroom this Friday when he presents holiday cultural foods. We have another batch to make. Making cultural foods (i.e. lumpias or tamales) are time consuming but with many hands it goes quick. More time for the hubs and I to chat while multitasking…BIG LOL.
Okay. So the house is a bit of a mess, the annual Christmas poem I’ve written since 1996 got nixed and there are no gingerbread houses or crafts to be done. I continue to handwrite Christmas cards which are normally printed, labeled and in the mail. My schedule is filled with friends, near and far, as I count the blessings, drinks and ornaments exchanged. These days when I feel a bit stuck-in-a-rut I find inspiration in the beauty that surrounds me. Christmas decor and lights, three not-so-sweet smelling heads leaning against both of my shoulders and crowding my space, pictures of favorite books and reading places and quiet time to contemplate the Greatest Gift this season.
It is enough. Why? Because I said so.