Thursday, December 29, 2016

What's Really Important

I never quite made it totally to Christmas this year.  I loved Advent, that time of waiting, of reflection,  of trying to not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas.  I "did" Advent so well that I didn't even get the Christmas tree put up until December 20th.  And by that time, other than some outdoor lights on the front porch, I wasn't inspired to do any other decorating.  Usually I seriously decorate the mantel and hearth, as well as both the dining room and library.  None of that happened this year.  It was kind of strange; I had no unhappy or negative feelings surrounding the holidays, I just didn't have the inclination to put all of the decorations up and then take them all down and pack them away.  So, I didn't decorate.  

This time last week I started feeling a little guilty about my lack of environmental holiday cheer, but thankfully, that quickly subsided.  Christmas has now come and, for all practical purposes, gone.  I know, I know...Christmastide lasts until Epiphany on January 6th, but let's face it,  once we all go back to work and school next week, or this week for some, Christmas is over.  Since I now have some down time, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what was going on for me this holiday season.

I usually do our holiday decorating the weekend before my final exams; that was the weekend of December 9-11.  This year, Weber and I travelled to Colonial Williamsburg that weekend for a photowalk with some fabulous Capture Your 365 photography friends.  The weekend was filled with lots of fun, laughter, photos, and Williamsburg was filled with much holiday cheer. 

During the weekend,  I also reconnected, after thirty-five years, with my college sweetheart.  He read On Blueper B's blog that we were close by and made the hour drive to come see me.  We shared, over a few beers, the Reader's Digest condensed version of our respective lives over the last three decades.  

 I don't regret for one second having taken this quick weekend excursion instead of decorating.

By the time my semester was over the following weekend, I still had a few gifts to buy and everything needed to be wrapped.  Once the tree was up, I got right on the wrapping.  Unlike in years past, I had all but two or three things wrapped and under the tree by the 22nd.  That's a good thing because on the 22nd and the 23rd Christmas was again put on hold so that we could celebrate the girls' birthdays.  Ethiopian food and the musical The Book of Mormon on Brooke's birthday and an Escape Room and upscale southern cuisine for Erin's.  We had two wonderful days of our entire family being together having fun and literally celebrating life.  If you have never done an Escape Room, I recommend it!  Lots of fun and a great family bonding experience, even though we were crushed to death because we were trapped in a cabin whose roof could not support the weight of the snow during a blizzard.

And then it was Christmas Eve.

Because my entire family (kids, ex, significant others) gathers at our house to celebrate Christmas, I spent most of the 24th grocery shopping and making sure that we had everything that we needed for Christmas Day.  Brunch is our "big" family meal.  Well really, Brooke's homemade Christmas cinnamon rolls are our big family meal, but we did have a spinach and potato slab pie just to give the illusion of being slightly more healthy.  Food beyond the breakfast feast is grazing, as we call it.  Brooke did most of the brunch food preparation and while I was singing two Christmas Eve Masses, Weber made a brisket and barbecue sauce for later in the day.  The others brought simple sides to go with the brisket.

Christmas morning came.  We opened our stockings, ate, drank coffee, exchanged gifts, drank more coffee, ate some more, sat outside in the 70 degree weather, ate some more, played Cards Against Humanity (I know. A bit irreverent for Christmas, but we sure had fun!), ate a little more, packed up leftovers (Yes, there were some!), packed up gifts.  Everyone headed to their respective homes.  I fell asleep.

We had a wonderful, happy, beautiful day.  And you know what?  No one cared that the hearth and mantel weren't decorated or that the dining room wasn't decorated, or that the library was void of any hint of Christmas.  You know why?  Because it is not those things that make Christmas.  Christmas is love.  Christmas is joy.  Christmas is peace.  Those things may be found in beautiful decorations, but at our house they were most certainly found in homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee (The Bailey's may up the coffee's joy factor slightly), laughter (even if it did come from playing a raunchy game), and just being with people that make you happy.

Looking back, I now realize that my Decemeber was all about being with people who make me happy - my photography friends that I was blessed to spend a day with in Williamsburg, my college sweetheart, my girls, my local friends, my ex, my husband, even my students and colleaugues as we all dragged ourselves to the end of the semester finish line.  It was all about people.  

People are what's important.  People will make or break your spirit.  It has taken me a long time, but I now surround myself only with people who make my spirit, not break it.  Those people protect me from others who may want to break me, hurt me, or steal my joy.

Think about the people that surround you.  Do they bring you happiness?  Do you bring them joy?  Do you share peace with one another?  If so, count your blessings.  If not, ask why.  

I am grateful that this year's twinkling Christmas lights came not from strings of lights and glittery baubles, but from the sparkling eyes, smiles, and hearts of all of the beautiful people with whom I shared my December.  Thank you, everyone!