I'm seeking serenity in what seems like an especially difficult season
I have found this holiday season that I really have needed to make some major changes in how I approach my life in order to keep some semblance of serenity.
(And I don’t say “holiday season” as some politically correct way to avoid “Christmas.” This started before Thanksgiving, but the “Christmas season” has definitely turned up the pressure.)
I don’t know exactly why, but this has been a very difficult fall, and the idea of shopping and the over-commercialization of Christmas has really been tough to take this year.
I don’t know exactly why, but I do know some of the reasons:
- Sandy. I did not suffer from that horrible storm, other than to lose a small tree that would have been taken down when they resided our condo. In fact, we got to stay at my sister’s house and were fed well. My bond with Susan and Tony only grew stronger. But I know that many people went through hell and I feel for them.
- The election. No matter which side you were on, maybe you agree with me that the lack of concern for Americans’ welfare was discouraging.
- The economy. I know an awful lot of people without jobs. I’m trying to avoid adding the “fiscal cliff” to the list, but it has the ability to terrify me. I’ve been laid off. I empathize too easily.
- Illness. I’m healthy, thank God. But I have too many friends and family members who have been dealing with some real tough stuff.
- My son’s in college. I don’t understand it, but I miss him terribly and I don’t want to go to shopping malls to compensate.
This is why I’m writing this column at all.
Every year we say we’ll simplify our celebration, and usually we do. We don’t go crazy with expensive gifts, except maybe something special for our son. But it seems that a real change of heart is needed this year, at least for me.
Here’s what I’ve done so far to make this a season of, if not joy, at least serenity:
- I’ve gone to a couple of Christmas concerts, ones in which I know people who are singing: there was Shoreline Soul in Madison, an annual gospel workshop; and the Cantabile Vocal Quartet, a fine group, which was joined by the Bel Canto Choir of West Haven High School, led by my friend Phyllis Silver, musical director at WHHS.
- This isn’t something just anyone can do, but I also went to my 40th high school reunion. All that materialistic crap meant nothing as we gave each other hugs and caught up.
- I’ve been going to church, something I haven’t done that much of in the last two years, for complicated reasons. It’s one of the ways I’ve been able to spend more time with my wife.
- I’ve had lunch with friends and, believe it or not, made more phone calls. I’ve called friends and family just to check in. I’ve texted my son just to tell him I love him.
- We’ve increased our giving to charity.
None of this is fancy. All of this could be considered obvious. But it still has taken effort to do it.
Please, in the remaining days before New Year’s Eve, do some of these things. There are so many events—concerts, art shows, the Fantasy of Lights … just do something for your soul. Strengthen that bond with a family member or friend.
I’m not saying not to shop. The economy needs it. Spend what you can without overextending yourself. But don’t let it stop there. Make a connection. Be good to yourself.
Share with me the ways you are making this Christmas, calm, wholesome and peaceful. Post them here and we’ll print them in the Register.
Have a peaceful holiday!
(This column will also appear in the New Haven Register on Dec. 13.)
- Read a take by Lucille Graboff, a member of our Community Media Lab, in her blog, You Still Have to Eat ...
As I receive comments on Facebook and other places, I'll include them here. You can also comment at the end of the column. These are from friends of mine:
- Martha Staeheli Lawless This is a great piece and I feel similarly- not only personal suffering, but a kind of Weltschmerz that's hanging around! It must be combatted with true connection, at least in my experience.
- Mary W. Cox Thank you, Ed--this is wisdom. Sending your only child off to college simply changes your world--how much sadder it would be for your relationship if you DIDN'T miss him! I am feeling happier and more centered this evening for having had the great luxury of spending the whole afternoon with probably my very closest friend, whom I've seen very rarely over the past ten years since she left Miami. There is just no substitute for actually spending time with someone you love.
- Patricia Olson Mary W.Cox....yes it is wisdom that Ed has established I have had some issues lately but I am strong today and able to stand tall and face some difficult moments "A minute at a time" in some instances. I have youngsters in my life today they "Keep It Simple" We laugh at silly things.....just have fun being together.....I must say " lots of play dates and sleep-overs "LIFE IS TREMENDOUS" Thank you Ed Stannard
Also from Facebook:
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