Category Archives: The Holidays

End of Year Rituals

The tree is up. Presents are wrapped.  Christmas dinner menu is planned. This is the time I enjoy the holidays.

I also love my end-of-year rituals.

I have a few New Year’s Day rituals, mostly having to do with file folders and paperwork.  I clean out the filing cabinet, label new empty folders, anticipate a fresh, good year. I put all the old stuff in a box designated for the attic, as soon as the taxes are filed. I finish entering all the financial crap into the computer so I can print out the pertinent stuff for the tax preparer.  (I hate doing that throughout the year, but I love doing it at the end of the year.)  

I learned last year the value of putting a “name” to my year. 2008 was the year of Hesed, the Hebrew word for Lovingkindness. Naming it helps to make it so, or so I believe. So I witnessed. I don’t have a name for 2009 yet; it’s not New Year’s. But I will.

The ritual I have before me right now is returning things I’ve borrowed and not returned throughout the year. Books, CDs, movies, tools, patterns, whatever. I go through drawers and shelves and collect and return. Most things I just pop into envelopes and take to the post office when the rush is over. When possible, I would always prefer to deliver these things personally (after all, they were loaned to me personally); it’s an opportunity to get face-to-face during the holidays.  But that isn’t always possible, especially with the current stormy weather.  So I pop ’em in the mail with a note of thanks, and an invitation to get to gether soon after the first of the year.

I also take this time to ask for things back that I’ve loaned to others. I don’t loan very much, so that isn’t a big deal. When I taught classes I was pretty liberal with loaning my resource books to students, and that’s when I began this program of asking for loaned things to be returned.  Some are better at returning things than others. I want to be one of the ones who always returns things, even if it takes me to the end of the year to do it.

When I think of New Year’s, I think of a clean slate. It’s good to get clean in bookshelf, file folders and relationships.

Is there anything I need to say to anybody? An apology? A thank you? An “I Love You”, just in case I’ll never see them again? Then I best do that without delay.

The New Year.

A clean slate.


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Filed under relationships, The Holidays

Out of the fog

Whoa. I’ve been some place weird.

I got annoyed about something last Wednesday — that’s over a week ago — and the annoyance just would not go away. I can’t even remember what I was annoyed about. But I didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to answer the phone, didn’t want to work, didn’t want to play with the dog. I didn’t want to do anything except be alone and be annoyed.

Is that depression?

The concept of being depressed is pretty foreign to me. I mean I’ve seen short glimpses of it, but hoo boy, if that’s what I went through last week, I want no part of it. And why did it come on me like that?

Pressure, I’m certain, was part of it. I had a 30-page research paper to do, the holidays are here, and I was behind because I devoted six weeks to my mother. So I was backed up on everything and stressed to the max because of it. One by one, those things began to resolve themselves (the tree is up, the paper is in the mail, the shopping is done, work is caught up, I’m back to the gym, etc.) and each time I ticked something off my list, my mood lightened.

And then there’s also the possibility that this was a little residual grief. It appears that just because the tears are no longer standing by, ready to gush at any inappropriate (or appropriate) moment, doesn’t mean that the process is finished. Grief is amazing.

Anyway, I’m back.

And look! It’s Christmas!


Filed under Stress, The Holidays

Fragmented energies

I need to get my mind right about the holidays.

In a normal year, I really enjoy Christmas because I keep it low key, I’m organized and well prepared, I can enjoy shopping because I do it early and keep it conservative. Christmas cards are fun to write and fun to get–they’re little kisses on the cheek to and from friends I rarely see.

This year, I’m out of control. I devoted the last six weeks to my mother, and now I’m behind on everything and freaking out. I have Christmas cards in four different places in the house, in four different stages of completion, and can’t seem to find the time to coordinate and consolidate. I have a paper due for school, and the almost-finished first draft does not hold together and makes no sense. I’m behind schedule in work. My house is a wreck. My dog no longer gets walked regularly and I’ve put on weight. I have obligations that I have had to slide on, and all that makes me grumpy.

The holidays are prime territory for an alcoholic to go crazy. I learned in AA that Thanksgiving, Christmas,  and New Year’s are just days on a calendar. There’s no need to go overboard. I took that advice to heart, and I have never gone overboard. I fix a nice Christmas dinner (for only 9 adults this year — that’s no big deal), give little gifts to everybody (mostly cash this year — everybody needs it, it’s one-size-fits-all, and nobody needs more junk), and put up minimal decorations.

It’s just that I need another month before Christmas arrives, so I can catch up on everything.

Life isn’t going to slow down after Christmas, either. Well, Al will go hunting with my brother, so that will give me some alone time and I will probably make progress on all fronts, but then winter term starts, and I’ll have two more papers to write, there’s our winter vacation, and then tax time, and then, and then, and then…

No, I’m not going to get more time, so I need to get my mind right.

I need to understand that devoting six weeks to my mother and her affairs was the right thing to do and the top priority.  I regularly get Christmas cards from unorganized friends into the New Year and I don’t mind. If that happens to be me this year, so be it. Christmas is a season to be enjoyed, not endured, and if I’m enduring and not enjoying, then I need to spend a little more time contemplating the reason for the season. The paper will get written — good grief, I can write a little research paper. I just need to carve out the right amount of time and get it done.

What I really need to do first, right now, is get organized. My lists have lists and I don’t do well with that.

So my resolution for today is to take an hour and get myself organized. I’ll consolidate my lists, put everything first into perspective and then into priority. I’ll enlist Al’s help in a calm and appreciative way, and then I’ll put my head down and take down these tasks, one at a time.

Nobody knows how many Christmas celebrations we have left. As I well know, those sitting at the dinner table change every year. This year my mom’s chair will be empty, but then we’ll be enjoying the twins for their first Christmas.

I really don’t want to lose this celebration to my own silly craziness.

So I won’t.

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Filed under The Holidays


I have boundaries on the mind today. 

I feel bombarded from every angle, from ads on the internet to ads on television, to junk email and junk mail. I feel like I have to protect myself these days from intruders, so I have erected boundaries. For the next few months, at least, I have set parameters.

These boundaries are to protect my resources for the things that I hold dear and deem most important. They protect my time, my health, my money, my family and my friends, all of which are, at this moment, at a premium. Perhaps they have always been, but I have not always been as protective as I am now.  Partly because I see a finite number of Christmases with my mother left. Partly because I see a finite number of Christmases left, period. Partly because I’m working and going to school and the holidays are upon us, and I’m feeling a little more pressure than is comfortable for me. Partly because my daughter and her sons have just moved back to town and now my mother and both of my kids and their kids live within minutes and I want to erect my boundaries to include them and exclude things that are harmful to them.

Many years ago, I learned the feeling of freedom in the word “No.” I don’t even have to explain myself. A simple “no” is polite and sufficient. These days, I’m really exercising that word.

This is the season of people wanting money.  There is no question that most charitable organizations are reputable, and that there are needy people everywhere, but Al and I have charities that we feel passionate about, and those are the charities to which we contribute. Our funds are limited, as are everyone’s, and we choose our charities carefully. So I am saying no to everyone else who calls or solicits or stands on the street corner or knocks on my door during dinner.

This is the season of parties, and gifts, and fattening food. Again, most parties are fun, most gifts are delightful, and you know we’d love to indulge in all that food. But we won’t go to most parties we’re invited to, because that’s just more stress (clearly Al and I are both introverts), I hate having to reciprocate on gifts given by acquaintances, and all that fattening food has to be disposed of, and not into our mouths. So I am saying no to most Christmas parties, reciprocal gifts and tins of cookies and fudge.

I learned the other day that when I say yes to something, I am saying no to ten other things I could be doing instead. Even if one of those things is taking a nap, or reading for pleasure, or designing a new knitting project. Napping, reading and knitting are all requirements for my mental health. So is gardening. So is sitting and staring out the window. If I busy out my calendar until there is no time left for taking my dog for a romp at the dog park, I am saying no to myself.

I want to say yes to myself. I am enjoying life more now than ever. I have time to read, to write, to study, to spend with my husband, to travel. 

And because of this, I will not feel bad about saying no to anything, ever again.  As someone recently pointed out, two-year-olds have no problem saying no, why is it so hard for us?

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Filed under peace, The Holidays