There is something about being in my later years that encourages reflection, maybe even demands that I look back and come to terms with what I perceive to be personal faults or failures. This is true particularly at the Holidays, when the bar is set so very high for everybody having a Happy This and a Merry That.

Each year more people are missing from my table; their seats filled by ghosts and memories. The cards become fewer and the lists of doings done by people I don’t know. Traditions that were once essential are now safely stored in boxes where they remain. Stories that were told over and over, with punch lines said in unison, now have gaps or are forgotten altogether.

Finding Joy in Sadness

This year is not particularly joyful for me, nor is it particularly sad. It is somewhere in the middle. So, I have set a task of finding joy in sadness, and appreciating that there may be sadness lurking in the joy.

I am doing my best to acknowledge that I am different this year because of all that has happened and just allowing that to be without trying to put on any extra sparkle or take away from all that makes this Season so special.

My Turn to Sit and Be Still

This year I sold my Christmas Tree to a young couple who just had their first child. They are now the proud owners of a 7-1/2 foot-tall Balsam fir (in three sections) that they can create their own Christmas memories around. I am so pleased that they will enjoy the tree and so happy I no longer have to take it out, put it up and take it down.

This year I will put out a few ornaments in honor of my cousin, Alex. I will hang my Advent calendars that my mother loved. I will bake some goodies to honor my grandmother. I will watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” because I love Jimmy Stewart and Bedford Falls is really Seneca Falls, NY where I went to college, and watching it makes me cry for the good old days. All of which will truly fill my heart and home with things that bring me Joy!

Being a Solo Ager at the Holidays

The holidays are challenging as a solo ager – at least for me. I am lucky to have friends who invite me to join them in their gatherings, but truth be told, I have become accustomed to spending the time by myself.

For the most part I don’t mind this, although I acknowledge that I miss certain of my relatives and being able to share memories of past gatherings. I also admit to feeling just a little sorry for myself, especially since I do have some really wonderful stories to tell – just no audience to tell them to!

My Observational Self

I am an only child. I have always had a well-developed sense of imagination and was never one to pull on my mother’s skirt and complain, “There’s nothing to do!”  It seems that I could spend countless hours day dreaming or playing by myself for as long as I can remember. Because of this, I developed an observational self very early on in my life.

It is as if I have a constant “crawl” beneath my awareness that is commenting on what I am doing. When I am out running errands, the crawl centers on the behaviors of other customers, the challenge of finding what I am shopping for, and my excelling in a particular aspect of shopping skill ranging from not blocking the aisle with my cart while I scour the shelves to letting someone ahead of me in line when they have only one or two items.

When I am back home, the crawl berates me for forgetting something in one room or chastises me for having to repeat a task because I didn’t do it correctly the first time.

My Inner World

Sometimes my routine becomes too routine and I try to mix things up by doing the same things in a different order. Here I defy convention by not reading my email first thing or having tea instead of coffee at breakfast!  There are times when I feel like I have really gotten away with murder!

What is often more difficult, however, is to not do anything at all. That is when my inner executioner rises to predict that I will “turn out to be nothing!” which I still have a tendency to believe, in spite of the fact that I did turn out to be something!

Appropriate Distractions

It seems that every culture has identified these mental meanderings as needing some discipline ranging from chanting to drumming to body positions to breathing. Some of my favorite include sound distractions ranging from Tibetan singing bowls to Gregorian Chants.

Reading is another activity that I can become lost in. But I can also become lost in driving or swimming, or activities that require I pay attention to my surroundings. At least for a time. Then my brain returns to its familiar patter and off I go again.

Inappropriate Distractions

There are, of course, distractions that have negative consequences. Only recently have I become aware of how much time I spend in online game playing (Matchington Mansions). While I appear to focus on a particular problem to solve, in truth I am disconnected from everything around me, including my inner dialogue.

Numbing agents have played various roles in my life over the years. At times I drank too much, smoked too much, ate too much and stayed out too late. I am grateful that I have made it this far and better understand my limits. I am still working on sticking to those limits.

Wishing You a Happy Holiday Season

Whatever these next few weeks bring, may you find moments when you can pause and recall a person or memory that brings you a sense of joy and let that fill your heart. May you be touched by the generosity of spirit and find a way to share that with those you love. May there be moments of peace and good will toward all. May you know that you are enough just as you are.

3 responses to “Kicking Off the Holiday Season”

  1. Dhammadharini Monastery Avatar
    Dhammadharini Monastery

    Much of the time I know enoughness within. I know, and am grateful, I have come to pausing moments. I will put up my tiny tree though wish someone would do it for me…. I could just plug in the lights. Some news column I read earlier spoke about how much time people are spending alone…evolution or avoidance..contemplation. A disconnect.? May the human connection prevail. Joy is in the moment beside sorrow. Blessings on us all.

  2. nan sullivan Avatar
    nan sullivan

    great remember/observations as usual; glad my aging path is aligned with yours – truly believe less is more

  3.  Avatar

    Such a beautiful story. I think it invokes feelings of “that’s me” to so many that read it. As always Mary, your wonderful way of expressing your thoughts touches a part of my soul. Thank you

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