I recently read this quote from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans: “The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood” and I couldn't agree more. Christmas smells will evoke in us nostalgia like no other time of the year.
It's impossible to smell something, good or bad, that doesn't bring a memory to your mind. A friend and I were talking the other day about how people decorate with magnolias at Christmas and, even though I'm a little indifferent to it, my friend stated emphatically that she doesn't like magnolias and thinks them ugly! I wouldn't go that far, but I will say that magnolia trees can be quite the challenge as they mature, spread out for miles (well, maybe that's an exaggeration), and drop their hundreds of leaves year after year. But before I allowed her to totally diss the beautiful magnolia tree (aggravating as it can be), I recalled a memory from childhood that has kept the magnolia near and dear to my heart over the years. When I was a young child, my mom took us to our local church for Vacation Bible School in the early weeks of summer vacation. Being in the south, warm temperatures abounded, as did mature magnolias, and we took our refreshments outside in the breezeway between the sanctuary and the educational building. The memory of those coconut cookies and lemonade served to us still floods over me when I taste that combination today. But mingled with it is the smell of those grand magnolias and the intoxicating scent their hand-sized blooms released. Coconut, lemon, and magnolia. Just one of the "smell" memories that has not released me in over 50 years.
Moving to Christmas as a young person, there were more smells that locked themselves in my memory and that still keep me bound today, but in a good way that recounts many happy Christmases as a child. Now, I am definitely going to date myself when I make this confession but here goes... On Christmas morning, my siblings and I received a stocking full of fruit, nuts, and candy. Yep, that's right, no small gifts tucked inside, just fruit, nuts, and candy. I don't know if it was a tradition or just the fact that we didn't always have fruit in the house, so Christmas fruit was a luxury. But to this very day, the smell of oranges at Christmas take me way back to a simpler day. Even moreso if I smell oranges studded with cloves. What about the scent of apple pie baking, apple cider simmering on the stove, or a blazing fire burning hickory wood? Peppermint candy? A turkey roasting in the oven? The heady perfume of freshly cut pine? These are just some of the smells I associate with Christmas and when I smell them, the scent not only fills my nostrils but my heart as well. They take me back on a journey where I spent many Christmases with parents who loved and adored me and were the reasons for so many of my happy holiday memories.
Today, we can buy scents: Christmas scents, floral scents, herbal scents, beach scents, exotic scents. You can purchase candles that smell absolutely amazing, scented oil bottles that permeate an entire room, plug-ins, stand-ups, lotions, potions, creams, and spray air fresheners of every imaginable combination. Smell is one of the most stimulating senses, and it can move us to remember, once again good or bad, all the events associated with those smells. I can smell a cologne that takes me back to the seventies and the challenging days of high school and feel quite happy that I have moved to a different time in my life -- Chanel No. 5, anyone? No, thank you. Love's Baby Soft cologne or Windsong? Uh-oh, I'm dating myself again! Every time I smell an older person who is wearing a coat they just pulled out of a cedar chest, that familiar smell definitely speaks to me of a time when many people, well, put their coats in cedar chests! Not sure how I feel about that cedar chest smell. And if it's mixed with the scent of Ben-Gay, I don't even wanna go there. But it's funny... All the fragrances I associate with Christmas are desirable and I enjoy their ability to get me in the Christmas spirit just by visiting them -- or recreating them -- once again. They keep me grounded in the "specialness" of Christmastime and remind me to never take for granted the memories they stir within me.
What Christmas smells are you brewing up this year? Baking gingerbread cookies with the kids? Making rosemary bread for your Christmas Eve dinner? Whatever you're doing, may the many wonderful smells of Christmas be with you and carry you right into the New Year. BTW, have you smelled the Winter candle from Bath & Body Works? Hands down, my favorite Christmas/winter candle for the last five or so years. The permeating scent is burning hickory, so it will take you all the way to spring through the coming cold months. Without a doubt, it's heaven (and a roaring fire) in a jar... If Bath& Body Works EVER discontinues this candle, I will stage a protest they won't soon forget!
Happy smells, my friend, and a very Merry Christmas to you!
I have watched no less than 10 or 12 Christmas movies over the last month, and I do believe there are several more recorded on my DVR ready to be viewed at my beck and call. By the time Christmas day arrives, I will have had enough Christmas-themed cinema to hold me for the next year without fail. Christmas love stories abound this time of year and I am all too obliged to be the receiving audience. I find a common thread however in most of these movies. They usually involve some variation of this same dilemma: Someone is looking for love and is hoping to find it at Christmas. They may even be looking for old Saint Nick to bring someone their way and the movies usually contain a good portion of Christmas magic that brings it all together. Now, the hubs and I (don't tell him I told you he watches with me!) pretty much can tell you the storyline and ending in the first couple of minutes, but that's not because we are so smart, it's because these movies are so very, very...very predictable. They have names like A Husband for Christmas, Christmas Magic, A Christmas Miracle, A Crown for Christmas...you get the gist.
Lame, right? But, alas, I continue to watch them, what can I say? I simply cannot help myself.
From the beginning of time we have associated the holidays with romance. What will my significant other give me? An engagement ring maybe? An anniversary band to commemorate all our Christmases together? The keys to a new car (probably not)? A rare present that took lots of thought in choosing, with a special meaning and significance? Maybe. We work to make the holidays magical for our love interests each and every year. That is, until about the third decade of marriage, and then you realize it's magical just to get through the holidays and still be standing upright. But even after three decades it's still quite fun to sit down in the evenings and watch a Christmas movie together that almost always has a good ending. I think that's what Christmas does to people. It brings them to a place where they think anything is possible and, even if not for themselves, for others. My hubby and I as a couple rarely exchange gifts at Christmas and the reason for this is twofold: 1. There is nothing either of us really needs; 2. There is nothing either of us really wants (that'll fit under the tree anyway!). I could use a new sofa, but even my tree is not that big! Plus our anniversary falls right after Christmas and that is our time to celebrate us. We also try to do things for each other all through the year. Valentine's Day? Not a biggy for these old-timers. Any day of the year can be Valentine's Day for us.
I've realized over the years we've been together that "things" just aren't as important as they used to be. Don't get me wrong, we like new things just as much as the next person. But as we've grown in our marriage and I'd like to think acquired much more wisdom than that first Christmas 35 years ago, we realize that the things we really want cannot be bought. We lean more towards the gifts that are free, but are also priceless. Like all the kids coming home for the holidays. Like a delicious meal prepared together and eaten together around the table. Like quality conversation with our grown children and precious, unforgettable moments with our grandchildren. If you could be a fly on my wall during the holidays, you most likely would see me sitting back while chaos ensues, sporting a very satisfied grin on my face and just taking it all in. There is no gift any more precious than being with the ones you love.
Behind the glory and glitter, this more realistic theme emerges at the holidays and I believe, if given a choice, most people would choose reality over make-believe. Even though we watch the movies filled with glamorous gift-giving and the decorating of stunning country estates or New York City lofts, and the totally unbelievable stories of magical love that really only exists in fairytales (hey, I'm a realist), what we really all want for Christmas is being with the ones who mean the most to us, warts and all, and sharing simple times together. And what it really boils down to is we can do this with very little money and living in a two-room cottage. Christmas songs belt out lyrics of how the best Christmas ever had was the first one when they were poor and had no money but had each other. Other lyrics speak of families who cut down a tree in their yard and decorated it with popcorn and paper garlands and how that Christmas remains in their hearts forever. You can get a prince for Christmas but if he isn't a keeper the rest of the year, it's one gift you might have to return. The everyday down-and-dirty of life is what really counts, not the shallow magic found in many of the Christmas movies we see.
So the only thing me and the hubs will be exchanging this Christmas is contented glances across the room while our family brings us the kind of noise and commotion only grandparents can love and appreciate. And after a long day of festive merry-making, we might just pop a big bowl of corn together, get on our jammies, and gather around for a sappy Christmas love story on the telly.
And I can pretty much guarantee you that one.
Christmas is less than seven days away and, if you're like me, this next week will prove to be one of the busiest of the year. There are still presents to be wrapped, linens to be changed for my guests coming into town, menus to be planned and groceries to be bought. I always think of Christmas sort of like I do weddings...they both take quite awhile to plan, but only one day to actually be completed. But just like a wedding is only the beginning of a great many hopeful years of marriage, Christmas should be the start of a hopeful new year to follow. And just as marriages take work and we can never take them for granted, neither should we take the many gifts of Christmas for granted.
I've always thought it a good plan the way we celebrate Christmas and then move to our celebration of a New Year. To me, the clean fresh start of a new year feels good after the excess of the holidays -- you know, all the extra decor and glitter, lights and tinsel, spending, presents, rich food and such. I think these holidays are a good metaphor for just life in general. Sometimes our lives seem to become more and more cluttered and we find ourselves refocusing on cleaning up and paring down. Whether we choose to eat better by going on a cleanse or a new diet or exercise more or get our finances in order or try to be more disciplined in a million other ways, the promise of a new year always brings hope to people. Hope that things will be better. Hope that things will be easier. Hope that things will be happier. Hope for a boyfriend, a husband, a new or better job. The new year brings hope that things will be more, well, hopeful.
When my siblings and I were very young, our brother (the youngest in the clan) was always the first one up on Christmas morning. I guess he was more excited than any of us in hoping Santa had left many treasures under the tree. Or maybe sis and I just treasured our sleep more than him, I don't know. But each Christmas morning he woke us all up, and it seemed as though it was earlier and earlier every year! I'll never forget one Christmas it was ridiculous how early he woke us... I think about 2:30 a.m.! I don't know if that year he was hoping for something extra special from Santa but even my sister and I didn't want to get up that early! We scolded him and told him to go back to bed, so reluctantly he did. But I'm sure not before peeking into the living room where Santa had left his bounty. Poor kid, he probably never did go back to sleep after that. The hope of receiving something great was just too exciting.
After I had grown up, married, and had three children of my own, we developed our own Christmas traditions. The kids were always bummed because we made them wait to feast their eyes on the Christmas treasures awaiting them until the hubs had his video camera on and poised for the first shots of the day. He always wanted to get their faces filled with hope and wonder as they jumped off the stair landing in a race to the tree. Then we insisted we must make coffee before we could possibly be awake enough to open gifts, so I'm sure my children, like my brother, also felt like an eternity passed before they could get on with the festivities. What the kids didn't understand then (but all three certainly understand now that they're grown) was that coffee was mom and dad's hope of a good start to our day! Now I see them each forming their own Christmas traditions, but none that don't include a good dose of hope within them all. I mean, has anyone ever known someone who plans for Christmas or a wedding or a new baby or a new job or a million other milestones in life without the "hope" that it will turn out well? I personally don't know anyone. Nope, not one.
So I would venture to say that the silver thread of Christmas hands-down is hope. Hope is the one gift that is given to all freely and is woven in and out of every single thing we do during the Christmas season and most of the rest of every year. Whether you are a religious person or have never stepped foot inside a church, hope is within us all and is the one thing that keeps us going. Hope is the force that we house deep within our souls that tells us everything will be okay. There is no greater hope than the hope that was given on that first Christmas morning in the form of a tiny little baby. I don't know what you're hoping for this Christmas. Will your stocking be filled with more expensive trinkets than the gifts under the tree itself or will it be filled with oranges, apples and Hershey kisses like mine when I was a child? Maybe you won't receive a stocking at all, or even one tangible gift. But some gifts cannot be touched with your hands, only seen with your heart. May I suggest that the gift of hope is yours this Christmas? Your gift of hope might be as grand as the biggest mountain or as tiny as a flickering flame; it's different for different people. But just as that flickering flame will grow if given the proper conditions, so will hope. Above all things and all the bling Christmas has to offer, I wish for you hope this Christmas.
It truly is the greatest gift of all.
When you're packing up the final remnants of a household that was an entity for almost 67 years, you find things you didn't even realize still occupied space on planet earth and a mix of curiosities spanning those six decades that will evoke every single emotion known to man...everything from laughter to tears to awe and surprise. The act of rummaging through these treasures runs the gamut of feelings produced by a lifetime of extraordinary love and devotion, mingled with a little heartache and sadly a few regrets.
My sister came to spend a couple of days with me so that we could tie up a few loose ends at our dad's house. Even though I had dealt with most of the items that my parents possessed (some things for the entire 66 years they were together), there were things I felt my sister should look through so as to claim some of her own history to carry down through the ages...or at least the next 20 or 30 years till our children can reluctantly make the same hard decisions (it's their duty as our offspring, you know). There have been larger items sold to raise finances for my dad's care, items that were unfortunately worth only a few dollars at our garage sales, and some that should've been trashed 20 years back. But then there were those items we lamented over. Do we keep this in the family or reluctantly part with it? Is this something I can use and continue to enjoy and then pass on to my kids and grandkids? How do you release something that has been in the family for well over half a century? By the end of Day 2 and following three trips to Goodwill, we had successfully made the decision on each and every last item, but not without first dropping a few of those tears and engaging in a couple of bouts of belly-busting laughter.
There was an assortment of boxes and containers holding everything from the retro toaster that still works but we're not sure should be fully trusted to the treasured family albums my mom had put together of the many, many photos taken over the years. We found evidence that she saved every greeting card ever gifted her in the last 60 years because I am absolutely sure she couldn't bring herself to throw them out. And greatly to our surprise, we found boxes filled with -- I could not believe it -- stacks of pictures my siblings and I had drawn in kindergarten! We found letters written to my parents when we were kids and visiting our grandmother in the summer. We found awards we'd received, report cards, elementary class pictures, Vacation Bible School certificates, and even greeting cards from 1959 congratulating my parents on the birth of their new baby boy. It was a treasure-trove representing tiny and not-so-tiny moments in our lives that no one, not even us, remembered. We were shocked in a creepy kind of way when I found my first tooth in an envelope and my first lock of blonde hair. Ewe. Why in the world do we save such things? Sorry, Mama, but those things went straight into the trash where, hopefully, some sweet mother bird will recycle the hair for nest-building material. After carefully choosing a few drawings and letters that spoke to us, the rest was delegated to the trash as well. One by one we went through photographs of our family, our grandparents, great grandparents and extended family, and quite a few of folks we hadn't a clue who they were. We tried to carefully consider each and every picture because my mom always had a reason for every one she kept and we tried to honor that. However, when we found images (at least 10 or 15) of the drainage ditch they put in 15 years back, that was a no-brainer. The pictures were tossed one by one into the burn pile.
But through this two-day endeavor with my sister (which in and of itself was a precious and rare time just being with her), we were reconfirmed about one thing. There is only one reason a person would lug all these antiquities from house to house and find a spot for them taking up precious real estate year after year, and that is LOVE. My mother loved her children dearly...immensely...completely and without reservation... Her love for us was not only lived out while she was alive, but now confirmed in her absence as well. The love of a mother is one of life's richest blessings but unfortunately not a blessing that everyone gets to experience. My sister, my brother, and I most definitely did. Day after day, week after week, and year after year there was never one single solitary moment when we were not loved by our mother, and for that I will be eternally grateful. And to this day her love still permeates us to our cores. What a true blessing to be able to claim the love of a mother's undying devotion.
So we close another chapter in our lives. Except for the few items my dad took with him to his new little apartment, he owns very little now. One day I suppose our kids will be faced with the same chores of sorting through our earthly "stuff" and racking their brains as they decide what to do with it. And listen up kids... I hope as you do, you too will be reminded of our great love for you, for it runs wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean. I hope you are reminded of the sacrifice mothers make for their children and that, regardless of how tiny or insignificant something might be to others, if it is from you or about you or mentions your name, it will remain precious to us and it just might be impossible for us to part with it in our lifetime.
But for future purposes, I give you absolute permission to discard things now if necessary. Be released from hanging onto every birthday and Christmas card we have given you and we promise to do the same. You are forgiven if you run out of space for the gift we gave you in the nineties or just simply because it is now totally outdated. Throw it out, baby! We promise to make it easier for you if you promise to make it easier for your children. Because even though items might seem precious at a given moment in time, memories are the things that we carry with us forever. They linger, they remind us, they sustain us, our memories. They are the caretakers of our experiences and they mold and complete our lives by giving us insight as to who we are. They take up little space in our houses but occupy great big ol' chunks of our hearts.
However... You can rest assured, we will not be keeping your hair or your first tooth for you to find in a dingy old box when you're 60 years old. Just ain't gonna happen, we promise.
And you're very welcome for that.
As women, we have been labeled quite a bit with the word "emotional." I guess it's true that women tend to be more emotional than men and I surmise it stems from our hormones and the nurturing instincts we possess as mothers. If our child is wronged or hurt or something bad happens to them, we are sad -- in fact, the sadness may turn into heartbrokenness. Only a mother can understand what it truly means to be heartbroken because the brokenness brought on by the love for a child is the worst brokenness you can feel in my opinion. But to be perfectly honest, I have seen grown men who cried like babies at the drop of a hat. I don't understand men who cry so easily. Perhaps that's because my generation taught their young men to stand tall, keep a stiff upper lip, and never show emotion. Today parents encourage their sons to not be afraid of emotion and teach them to be in touch with their more tender side. I have nothing against it; I just don't totally understand it. Because I, for one, (comparatively speaking) don't even cry at the drop of a hat like most women I know or even those few men I know that cry easily. I have probably seen my husband cry three times in 35 years, and that was not even really crying. His eyes welled and one tiny little tear might have fallen if it had a chance to fall before being whisked away. I am not even sure it counts as crying. When we go to a movie, my girlfriends can be sobbing into their popcorn and I'm over there...what is so sad, ladies? The one thing that will make me cry however is anything having to do with my kids. And then I might be the one to fill that popcorn bucket to overflowing with tears. No need for extra salt on that popcorn.
We gals indeed are emotional creatures. We love, we hurt, we cry, we laugh. And sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we get very, very angry. And this is the emotion that has me stumped today. When we love, we can express it in all kinds of ways...we hug, we kiss, we bake and cook, we work harder, we do for others. Doing for others is one of the biggest ways we show our love, wouldn't you agree? When we are sad, we might withdraw, we might find ourselves in a crippling do-nothing state, we might watch a sad chick-flick marathon and give into our sadness for awhile, but we almost always allow ourselves the privilege of being sad. I've always said that tears are God's way of helping us to release sadness. Those tears have a way of cleansing you, of re-setting the clock, of just helping you to let go of the sadness that lurks within in order to move forward. Have you ever been so full that you must give in to the tears and afterwards you feel strengthened to move on? I have. There have been times when a good long cry comes out of nowhere and I say to myself Wow, I must've just needed a good cry, I feel so much better!
But anger has me befuddled sometimes. It's the one emotion where we have to be cautious when entertaining it. Anger is probably one of the most powerful emotions we can experience. People have done horrible things in fits of anger. Marriages have ended and lives have been destroyed because of uncontrolled anger. When I was a young wife I can remember not minding a good knock-down dragged-out argument once in awhile. It seemed as though arguing was clarifying and maybe it was, but I think I liked making up -- that was the best part! But as I've gotten older and hopefully a bit wiser, I try to avoid arguing at any cost. I'd also like to think I've learned better how to argue by expressing differences without hurtful words. Nothing pains me more than to think I'd say something out of anger that might cause irreconcilable separations with the people I love. Anger is one emotion that, if not controlled, can turn into a deadly force. It behooves us as women to control our anger emotions and keep them corralled in the pen of self-discipline because to not do so could have bitter consequences.
It's so easy and gratifying to give into emotions that produce good outcomes, like love and laughter and goodwill. But it's quite hard sometimes to harness anger, to lasso it like a bucking bronco and put it in its place. So what do we do with anger? When I am angry, the first thing I do is pray and ask God to help me. Then I have a long, hard talk with myself. I tell myself nothing is worth being too angry over. I tell myself it's not worth the chance you take to say or do something out of anger because it will only make things worse. Anger can be expressed but doing it in a way that is not harmful is the ultimate challenge. I keep myself busy. I wholeheartedly believe that an idle mind is the devil's work shop. I exercise by walking. Walking a lot. Walking miles if I need to until I feel that release of feel-good endorphins that have a magical quality about them. You can almost feel them as they release all over your body and spread to every corner of your being (like the pain meds I've experienced after surgery, haha!). They miraculously cover all negative emotions with a peaceful calm of wellbeing. Nature's medicine I say. These things are my arsenal of weapons I use against anger when it tries to overtake me.
But sometimes it seems that anger still tries to hang on, like a demon dragging behind you, hanging on to your coattail refusing to let go, nagging you day after day without relief. It might be just a tiny little voice in the bottom of your heart that will not subside. What do you do then? You wait. And while you're waiting, you once again reach into your bag of weapons and use them over and over and over again until the foe has retreated and flies its white flag of surrender. Anger has finally been defeated.
One other thing I might consider doing if I'm having a really hard time with anger...go into a lonely place with a pillow. It might be the back of the house or outside in the empty field. I cover my face with the pillow and scream as loud as I can and for as long as I please! Screaming into a pillow is just as satisfying as screaming at the person with whom you're angry, but with far fewer consequences except maybe a sore throat. Better your sore throat than another's sore heart, right?
One final thought...talking to a friend can help as well. Oh, wow, I feel so much better now. Thank you so much for listening. Muah.
At nearly every major intersection crossing the divided four-lane in my town there are remembrances for people who have died in car accidents. I'm sure you have them as well. At some of those intersections abides more than one memorial commemorated with make-shift crosses bearing the names of those who perished. I actually hate to see these monuments because they make me sad. They make me remember that someone died there and I don't like being constantly reminded but, if it gives the families of those who died some peace, then I am more than happy to see them. But as I contemplate these incidences that took someone's life, I am forced to be more careful, to remember that we should never become lazy in issues of safety, and I guess that in and of itself is a good thing. Then I considered what could have been done differently so that the accident might never have occurred and people would not have died. The only thing I can come up with is that in every incident someone perhaps was not watching. Not watching carefully enough. Not watching steadfastly enough. Not watching for the other person. Not watching their speed. Not watching what they were doing. Not watching at all maybe. And then I think if they had just been watching better, whether the person who was at fault or the person who became the victim or even both, then maybe it might not have happened. I know not everything can be prevented by watching, but somehow I can't help but think it would've made a difference in most of these fatal accidents.
As I passed no less than six memorials en route to my destination that day, I began to ponder the act of watching. It seems as though in this day and time we are always watching for something. When we go to the store or the movies or out to eat, we are watching over our shoulder to make sure we are not the victim of an attack. When we drive we are watching for others (or maybe watching for police so as not to get a ticket for speeding!). We are watching our neighbors to make sure they do not do something suspicious that we'd have to report in the possibility (no matter how slim it might be) there might be something illegal going on that would harm us or others. We have neighborhood "watches" that incorporate the entire community to be on watch for questionable acts. We are watching activity on our electronic devices to insure our protection there. We are living in a day where life has gotten scarier and scarier and watching has become the norm. Day in and day out, we engage in the act of watching and do not even consider the alternative, for to do so just might mean disaster.
I am constantly reminding my kids to be watchful. Even though they are now grown and perfectly responsible adults, I continue to remind them. I tell my daughter who lives in Central America always be watching; never become complacent. I tell my daughter who lives in a large metropolitan city to watch out for this and that and everything in between. I remind my son to watch his speed (he drives entirely too fast). Yes, for me and everyone else I know, watching has become part of an ordinary day. But in case you are one of those who think that we are the only generation who has had to watch, think again. I am reminded of the families who lived during the Civil War and the constant fears that each day brought for them. They never knew when soldiers might enter their home and slaughter their entire family. Even if they were watching and saw it coming, there was not always something they could do to prevent it. I can only imagine the fear of that time in history. I think of the ones who lost it all in the Great Depression, not just their money but their sanity as well and how, regardless of how much watching they did, there was nothing they could do to change the outcome. I think of the terror that living during the holocaust brought and the fear of being found if you were Jewish, because it most certainly meant imprisonment or death. When I think back about these times in history where, just like us, people were constantly watching, I am also reminded that watching is not always a guarantee for things to come out right. But every generation has had its fears to conquer and watching is as much a part of the human condition as eating or sleeping.
But just in case you might be thinking this blogpost is a Debbie Downer, let me reassure you that it is not. Yes, it is a reminder to be watchful of those things around you because watching just might spare you a boatload of trouble or harm or even spare your life, but it's also to encourage you to be watching for the good as well in this world. No matter how bad it gets, things could always be worse and there is always good to focus upon. In this season of hope, I pray that you'll see and experience some of that good...the acts of kindness done by one to another...the joy of a new marriage or a newborn baby...the goodness of a meal around the table with friends...the hope of yet another Christmas morning as you're surrounded with family. And, just as we are reminded of the fears of this present day when we turn on the news or see a makeshift memorial along the highway, we are also reminded there are signs of hope everywhere.
But a small hint for finding the good that is sometimes overshadowed by the evil and heartache in this world...
You, my friend, have to be watching for it. Happy Saturday!
Early this morning I sat on the sofa sipping my coffee with exactly two small sugars and (lots of) half & half (what can I say, I like a little coffee with my cream). It was very quiet and I listened as a train whistle blew about a mile down the road from the house. There is something so comforting to me about hearing that train so far away yet so close that I am reminded of its presence when it slips by. Sometimes I am sure that I miss it completely because hearing the train has become the norm for my ears which are usually engulfed in the noises of life. But it is especially prominent in the wee hours of the morning when everything is still and quiet and most of the community still sleeps. Since the sun was not yet up, I flipped on all the Christmas lights and sat in the gentle glow of the ornaments. I've never quite understood why the glimmer of Christmas lights brings such a calm for me, but I suppose it's because, just like soft light brings down the glare of harsh lighting, the combination of soft lighting in the absence of harsh "life distracters" makes the troubles of the day seem easier and more manageable. It reminds me of the peace and goodwill that is on everybody's Christmas wish list and the hope that we all want the Christmas season to bring. It's like a tiny whisper that everything, no matter how hard life gets, will be okay. It reminds me how the soft light of truth can overcome even the darkest hours.
If you are one of those persons who always has to have some type of noise, let me just say this: I DO NOT understand you! Now, I say that not to be critical of you, but very simply because I do not understand it. Quietness to me is a cleanser, a purifier and clarifier of all the noise that constantly surrounds us every day. We have a million different noises that enter our ears to divert us from the stillness of our own hearts and minds. We have the drone of the television, the conversation of those around us (whether we want to hear it or not!), the sounds of business and traffic and discord and confrontation. But to find a place of solitude brings us to a place of renewal, of recharging, of resetting the clock so that we can face another day which will always, without a doubt, bring much noise into our lives. I've spoken a lot lately about resetting the clock, perhaps because I've had to hit the reset button so much recently! My life has been especially challenging since my mother became ill and passed away in 2014 and the days have followed with so many tests for me. Just when I think I've rounded a corner with the care of my fragile father, another demand springs up and I am forced to reevaluate and find, once again, the need to refocus. Years ago as a young adult I honestly thought there'd come a day when I would arrive. Arrive where you ask? At a place where problems would be a thing of the past, where I would no longer have cares and unwanted challenges and days where it seemed I was hitting that reset button time and time again. Boy was I naive! As I've matured in my adulthood I've learned that no one ever gets to that place. As long as we have breath in our lungs we will be challenged with the hard issues of life and faced with solving them or at the very least learning to live with them in peace. But I've also learned that faith and family and friends help to make life bearable and, in the good times, so much richer.
You may be thinking that the desire for quietness is the product of old age. And while I agree that noise does tend to make older people more nervous and that some young people seem to thrive on noise and the louder the better, I have always been one to enjoy quietness. Even as a young mom, some of my best moments were in the wee hours of the morning before everyone was awake or late at night when everyone was already asleep. It was time to focus on the events of the day and to reflect on things of the past, good and bad. And as much as we hate to deal with the bad, the only way to truly rid ourselves of the negative is to face it head-on and sometimes we can only do that when our hearts and minds are quiet. I have never been afraid of being alone with my discontented mind; in fact, it is a place where I go often and never regret the resolve it brings.
I have no idea what is in your heart and mind and soul today. I feel pretty darn sure that if you are reading this, you are living and breathing and your life is no more perfect than mine. You may be dealing with family issues or financial issues or social issues or simply the craziness of keeping your head above water in everyday life. But whatever it is, may I suggest you surround it with a pocket of your day that is absent of noise and distractions of any kind? I am about as far from being a life counselor as the north is from the south, but I do know this without a doubt: quietness can be a great sedative for a restless heart and mind. I would challenge you to give it a try if you're one of those who has been leery of getting alone with yourself. It won't alleviate your problems or the frustrations that life has thrown your way, but it will help you to reset the clock.
And that's something I know quite a lot about.
Posted by CC
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