It is a stormy Sunday evening in Nova Scotia and we just returned from watching Amy (the one on the right in the picture) sing in an inspiring community choir performance where the ages of the choir members ranged from 9-70+. It was a great way to kick off our holiday season and to end a tough week.
Our community lost a mother, wife, artist and dear friend this week and she leaves us far too early. It was a week where there was a lot of grief, questions and people coming together to celebrate her life. We came home from the visitation mid-week and I went for a walk. I thought about how this will impact her family and her friends and naturally it caused some reflection about our lives. We are reaching our 40s this year and unfortunately we are going to start hearing with more frequency of friends who are developing illnesses they will not be able to shake. I decided on this walk, I am committing to making this the “best” holidays I have had with my family and friends.
What qualifies as “the best” you might ask? I had to ask this myself once it popped into my head. I thought of Christmas experiences as a child, youth and then adulthood. I thought of how we decorate our house, the different activities we do together, balancing work and other commitments and what to get the kids. It dawned on me that while I enjoy seeing the kids during the holidays, my fondest memories of the holidays are still when I was a child…and I think I know why.
Kids don’t think about money, running around to various events, trying to find the decorations, putting in for vacation, where and when to buy the gifts, when to take down the tree, etc. As during the year I (and many others I suspect) spend mental energy in the past or the future. Up till now, I have been physically present but my mind is often on the meeting I have the next day, how much to spend on Christmas, dreading the January Visa bill, and how many vacation days I will have left if I take off the time between Christmas and New Years. The holidays are stressful for many people and we bring this upon ourselves as we set high expectations and make it more complicated than it needs to be. When kids look at beautifully decorated house or Christmas tree, they are living in that moment soaking it all in with amazement. They aren’t thinking about all those other things that cause anxiety or panic that we burden ourselves with.
This year, I want to get back to the magical feeling I had when I was 9. This year, the kids and the holiday season will be my priority, not something I think about for a fleeting moments when I get a chance. I am going to be present and intentional this year. I am going to spend an entire day struggling with strings of lights, building gingerbread houses that collapse automatically after being built. I am going to watch Christmas movies with my kids with my phone turned off and in my laptop bag. I am going to attend our community caroling event and sing at the top of my lungs, not hang out in the back waiting for it to end so I can get home to the couch (I hope nobody in Scotsburn is reading this). I am going to live fully in every minute with my family and friends and not take anything for granted.
Yes, this year my gift to my kids, my wife and myself will be Holiday presence and really folks, as parents is there anything better we could give?