Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'm seeking serenity in what seems like an especially difficult season

By Ed Stannard, Community Engagement Editor

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.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m feeling incredibly grateful about my life, my wonderful wife and son, my extended family, my friends, my job, my health. Those are the things I’ve turned to this year to make it a season to really celebrate.

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.)

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:

  • Hank Silverberg Nice column. I think the whole country may be feeling a bit jumpy or maybe wheezy this year.

  • 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
From our Litchfield County Times editor, Doug Clement:
Just read you column Ed and, with all sincerity, I think it's great. Feeling much the same way myself. My son was in a junior choir holiday concert yesterday at his Catholic school, my family lit the candles on the Advent wreath in church last Sunday, the kids are both in Brass City Ballet's "Nutcracker" this weekend and my daughter will carry Baby Jesus up to the altar during Xmas Eve Mass. All of that feels more impt. that shopping and commercialization, especially this year.

Also from Facebook:

·             Valerie Reynolds Carubia likes this.
Renie Zahariades Groumousas That is a great article and oh so true. Been there. I do think it has something to do with kids going off to college. It means another era has ended and we are starting down a new one.
I know I do not like change. And it means, let's face it, we'r...See More
20 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
Larry Greenberg Great article in the paper this morning. Thanks
6 hours ago via mobile · Like

Jim Onofrio of New Haven called in:
"It really, really hit home. I just wanted to let y ou know that I too have found this Christmas season different in a few key ways. I definitely agree with you about the election and the economy part. I too feel that those in Washington really don't care about our welfare. I've been struggling, have two jobs and so forth."


Blogger Patti said...

This is a great column, Ed. I really related to what you have written, this year in particular.

Commercialism won't go away, but we can all find other ways to get in the spirit of the season. On the other hand the economy does need a boost.

Hmmm..guess we all need to figure out how to strike a balance.

Ralph and I enjoyed a Shoreline Soul concert two years ago. It was so inspirational!

Thanks for writing this.

December 13, 2012 at 2:36 PM 
Blogger Patti said...

P.S. I shared your column on my Facebook page.

December 13, 2012 at 2:37 PM 

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