On the 24th day of December …

Contentment

“He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have.” — Socrates

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I think contentment is greatly undervalued. There’s a lot of focus on being happy — but I find happiness is fickle.

Look up synonyms for happiness, and you find words like “bliss” and “elation.” That’s hard to keep up 24/7. And can ultimately lead to disappointment.

But contentment?

“Satisfaction, ease, peace.” That I can do. It’s not even hard.

So that’s my wish for us this Christmas Eve. And you guys, I’m feeling so content right now. We’re headed to my parents’ after Mass tonight for a little celebration. I’ve got all my favorite people under one roof. And it will be more of the same tomorrow.

Yessssssssss.

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On the 23rd day of December …

Tradition

“Traditions can be really important. It’s a way of bridging the past with the new year.” – Yoni Pielet

“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” – Susan Lieberman

I’m a big fan of tradition and ritual (which is probably why I make such a good Catholic, liberal as I am), and although the holiday season stresses me out, there are certain aspects that I enjoy – because I have good memories of seasons gone by, and now my kids’ do too.

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The girls during our Walkers Go Downtown extravaganza in 2014.

When I was growing up, we always had our family Christmas on Dec. 23. That’s because sometime on Christmas Eve, we’d be loading up into the car to travel to my parents’ hometown to spend the holiday with my Dad’s side (Christmas Eve) and my Mom’s (Christmas Day). Those were great traditions, too — Santa swinging by, Grammie’s sweet pickles, cousins, noise — but it felt like the festivities had begun early for us, thanks to Mom’s insistence that Dec. 23 was ours.

Dinner could be anything – pizza, burgers, enchiladas – but we’d have our meal and open our gifts, and call my Grandma to wish her a happy birthday.

Things change as we get older, of course, and the Walker 4 tradition is to celebrate Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas Day with Eric’s. Christmas morning is ours. A few years ago, I started a new tradition — or, I should say, I planned it once and the girls decided it was something we were going to do forever — that I called The Walkers Go Downtown. We went to dinner, walked around downtown to look at the decorations — and get the girls a book — and then hopped in the car to take a drive to find lights.

Rinse and repeat — although not always on the same day. I was surprised at how much the girls enjoyed this at first, but I think they do for the same reason I loved my family’s traditions: You can count on it happening. It might not look the same each year, but the bones are there, and it’s nice to know that some things, at least, can be counted on to stay the same.

So that’s my wish for us today.

On the 22nd day of December …

Relaxation

“Sometimes I wish that I could go into a time machine right now and just look at myself and say, ‘Calm down. Things are gonna be fine. Things are gonna be all great. Just relax.” — Tristan Wilds

Fridays are deadline days at the office, and add to that the fact that Christmas is Monday and we have the day off … with our next deadline Tuesday morning (nothing like coming in cold) … today is going to be a long one. We’ll put one paper to bed and get another one started.

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Someone put a Santa hat on this “bird,” part of our town’s public arts installment. Never fails to make me laugh.

But that doesn’t mean the whole day has to be crazy. I can still take Wednesday’s wish of health to heart and take a lunch break and a walk. I can listen to music while I put Friday’s edition online. I can laugh when things go south, which they inevitably will. (That’s not pessimism, that’s just reality. Newsrooms move fast, so it’s not surprising when it happens. What’s surprising is that it doesn’t happen more.) I can lock myself in the bathroom. 😉 I can come home, eat a good dinner, and then relax on the couch with some kittens, and listen to Abby’s chatter and Johanna’s wry humor, and appreciate the fact that the tree is still standing. (Um, kittens.)

This one might be too much of a wish, to be honest, but hey, if we’re going to wish at all, we may as well go big, right? Even if we only get five minutes to breathe, we’re gonna count that as a victory.

On the 21st day of December …

Light

Today is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere (really jealous of you right now, Australia), so my wish for us today is light.

Feeling light, being light, giving light, accepting light.

Driving home from work tonight, my plan is to really pay attention to the holiday lights and imagine I’m soaking all that brightness up — there’s something really joyful about those festive little bulbs, and, as we get closer to Dec. 25, I need to remind myself that this IS a time of light, of joy, of … all of the wishes I have for this month.

And it only gets lighter from here.

On the 20th day of December ….

Health

“I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.” — Joyce Meyer

Last Wednesday was our office Christmas party — I don’t want you to be jealous, but our publisher brings in sandwich platters and we get to eat and work! — and that was sort of the beginning of the end as far as my will to successfully navigate offerings based on what my jerk of a stomach is willing to tolerate.

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Just because I know my stomach is a jerk doesn’t always mean I remember my stomach is a jerk. There’s a bit of a disconnect in my life, there, Joyce Meyer. But you’ve got a point — it’s hard to kick ass when you don’t feel well.

So that’s my wish for us today: Health. It’s not too late to regroup and reconsider. And maybe make an early resolution or two. Because the truth of the matter is that if we don’t take care of our health, then the rest of our lives are going to be much harder than they need to be — and I think that’s especially true during this month of too much sugar and too little movement. (Um, for me — it’s cold, and I hate being cold, and all I want to do is be indoors. Preferably reading by the fire, eating one of Mom’s sugar cookies.)

Anyway, my plan for the day is to give my stomach a break — you’re welcome, little guy — and instead of skirting that fine line between feeling good and feeling terrible, I’m going to drink water (gross), take a walk, and make good decisions (bring on the carrots).

Here’s to health. And a good rest of the week.

On the 19th day of December …

Deep breath

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
Amit Ray

We’re over halfway though December, and I could really use a deep breath. I can’t be the only one, so that’s my wish for us today.

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This month has been crazy so far, which I knew it would be, but it’s also been kind of fun, and I know that has a lot to do with these wishes — it’s given me something else to focus on — as well as a conversation I had with my mother early on, about giving ourselves permission to just be happy and enjoy the season this year.

Sometimes I lose sight of that, so that’s what today’s wish is for: To take a deep breath and center ourselves. To just … appreciate this moment. To just be.

On the 18th day of December …

Understanding

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

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Turns out the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is really just my office.

My wish for kindness on Dec. 14 reminded me that understanding is also probably a good wish to include, just because … well, I’m finding that I don’t want to understand where someone else is coming from these days, especially when they’re on the opposite side of the spectrum (everything is politics in the U.S. right now. It’s just exhausting).

But that’s not fair. And it’s also feeding into the whole nonsense concept that differences divide us, when in reality they make us stronger.

So that’s my wish for us today. As for myself, I’m going to make a concerted effort to err towards understanding. To not fear. To not worry. To not judge. Even if I don’t understand. Because I’d want someone to give me that gift, too.