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I cannot believe it is already December, and the holidays are here, yet again.

As cliché as it sounds, the older I get, the faster the years seem to go by. I really do love this time of year — the festive lights on houses, the gift-giving, kids home from school, days spent in pajamas baking cookies together. That being said, the holidays can also be overwhelming, and the pressure can rapidly build. I often feel the need to make everything perfect, to put together an amazing and memorable holiday experience for everyone.

As I reflect, I recognize I have begun to develop a few holiday practices — disciplines, I suppose — that make December a happier, more joyful time for me and those around me. Lest you think I am some sort of Zen-master and my house a stress-free zone, let me assure you I am a very messy work in progress. These are simply a few ideals I aim for. I fail frequently, but I do try. In the hope they might benefit even a few of you, I share my “Holiday Disciplines.”

The Discipline of Being Present

I am working on not “doing” so much and just being present during the holidays. I am generally in motion in my house, cooking or cleaning, setting food out or picking it up, making sure everyone has what they need. I find it difficult to just sit down and relax, to watch a movie or play games or talk. As a result, I miss out on those great moments of being together because I am fussing about. I want to experience more of those moments. It’s a balance, for sure, as someone has to make the food and clean the kitchen, but I’m going to attempt to swing in the direction of truly being with my loved ones.

The Discipline of Wanting Less

I desire to embrace the reality that I have more than I need, and want less. Don’t get me wrong: I like stuff as well as the next person. I adore new clothing, and bags, and shoes. Just walking into Target fills me with the urge to redecorate my entire house. The reality is, though, that I have enough; I truly don’t need anything more. I think operating from this center of gratitude will enable me to have a more joyful holiday.

The Discipline of Valuing Experiences

I recognize most of my family’s best memories are of activities we do together. Experiences, not things, are what seem to bring about the most happiness, and create memories that last the longest. Instead of spending my holiday budget on things, maybe I should choose experiences we can have together: theater shows, concerts, art classes, a zoo membership, etc. The “things” often lose their appeal, but the memories of the experiences remain.

The Discipline of Shopping Local

When I do decide to purchase gifts, I aim to purchase from local stores as often as I can. This discipline is quite challenging for me: I completely agree with it in principle, but, as a complete introvert, I struggle. This practice requires going to the store, and talking to people, whereas ordering from Amazon requires almost nothing from me. I have to make a conscious choice to support our wonderful local stores. It requires effort, but I am always happier when I do.

The Discipline of Reducing Waste

Our family has made a commitment to trying to reduce waste over the holiday season. Several Christmases ago, we became aware of the huge amount of wrapping paper we used and immediately discarded and were horrified. So, we purchased a “Santa Sack” for each member of the family: a huge, canvas, drawstring bag, found on Amazon, of course (sorry, local stores!). We placed each person’s gifts in the appropriate sack, then took turns on Christmas morning reaching into our sacks, pulling out one gift at a time without looking. Everyone loved it: we had zero complaints, and we had almost no wrapping paper to discard.

Those are just a few of the things I am hoping to practice this holiday season. Whatever you choose, I hope you have a joyful, memorable holiday with your loved ones!

Elizabeth Eden is a mom, writer, yoga instructor and musician. She lives in Northgate with her big, beautiful, messy clan. In her free time, she enjoys wine, dystopian novels and documentaries on quantum physics. Send her ideas and feedback at trilakeslife@pikespeaknewspapers.com.

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