The pace of the world as we know it these days is beyond disturbing. Things – everything – moves too fast. Multitasking is a way of life; in fact, I recently realized it is impossible for me to do one thing at a time – I just don’t feel right unless I’ve got at least two or three balls in the air at once, at home, at work, and even in the car! It’s crazy, not to mention exhausting. And at the holidays, the madness tends to increase exponentially.
I wrote the following post in December 2003. It isn’t about Alzheimer’s or caregiving, but it’s definitely about life, and I think it resonates with me now even more than it did ten years ago.
I hope this piece serves as a reminder to slow down, focus on what’s truly important, and enjoy the holiday season…
Catch the Spirit
December 17, 2003
As I sit here alone at the end of my day, the house is quiet and dark, lit only by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and the glare of the laptop’s display panel. A sparse dusting of snow has fallen and the mercury will likely plunge to icy-cold depths tonight.
My workday was hectic as usual and I opted to forgo lunch in order to escape the office early for some errand running. Little did I know those errands would prompt such a conundrum of thoughts in my overactive, ever-churning brain.
Drained by the day’s frenzy, yet wound tighter than a rubber band perched for launch, I was more than ready to switch gears when I hit the road shortly after 3:30. With holiday music playing on the radio and a light powdery snow falling gently from above, I thought about the fact that Christmas is just one week away.
With each year, time passes more quickly. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is gone in the blink of an eye; holiday preparations are rushed, and it seems as though there is less and less time to actually soak up the spirit of the season.
This year, I made a conscious decision to simplify. Rather than putting up two trees, I did one. Instead of dragging out every single Christmas decoration from the many I have collected over the years, I pulled out only those that struck me as most cherished the day I set to the task of “decking the halls.”
As for baking, I decided there would be no rushing to squeeze in all the hours it takes to make a dozen different kinds of cookies. Instead, I opted for two traditional favorites – Aunt Flora’s pizzelles and my soft cutout sugar cookies. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without those. Even the process of shopping for gifts was simplified as much as possible through use of the Internet.
My deliberate attempt at holiday simplification was definitely a tradeoff. Sure, I find myself missing some of those extra decorations and lights that are still tucked away in their boxes, and I would love to have my usual extensive assortment of homemade cookies with which to adorn holiday trays. But, at some point, something has to give.
This year, I actually enjoyed the 4 hours or so that it took to lovingly press each of those pizzelle cookies. I wasn’t nearly as rushed as in past years, so I was able to relish the warmth emanating from the iron and the scent of anise seed and sweet pizzelle dough as it wafted through the air.
Since I’d pared down my decorations, I took my time trimming the tree. I sat for hours sorting through the ornaments – taking time to place them just perfectly and think about the history and fond memories each special ornament holds.
This past weekend, we even took a ride to look at Christmas lights, something we hadn’t done in years. And, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to spend some quiet time now and then in the evening, just enjoying holiday music and the magic of our very special tree.
Even with all of this, I feel as though the holiday season is passing me by. The evenings are short and the weekends even shorter.
It all makes me wonder about life and the ridiculous pace at which we run.
In the past two days, I have witnessed three drivers blatantly run red lights. I’m not referring to sneaking through as yellow turned to red, but rather RUNNING the full-fledged-red light at a dangerous rate of speed. Fortunately, in all three instances, other drivers were alert and disaster was averted.
Are people in that big of a big hurry? Has the holiday rush made everyone kick up their pace yet another notch? Or are people just so consumed by their ever-growing to do lists that they have become oblivious to their surroundings? How much is too much?
Twice in the past week, I have been in stores and seen people rifling through racks while carrying on lengthy, rather loud, cell phone conversations. I am one who has always defended appropriate use of cell phones. Mine is a great convenience to me; however, I find it hard to believe that anyone has a 30-minute conversation that is so pressing it must be carried out in public for the entire world to hear. Can’t these things wait?
What is happening to our society?
Based on life as we know it today, I truly fear for where we will be in 10 or 20 years if this pattern continues.
Priorities have become a tangled up mess, and for too many people, the things that bring true happiness are nowhere near the top of the list. There is certainly no time for dreams or setting truly fulfilling personal goals.
People displaying road rage as they make their way from one pre-holiday sale to the next – where will it end?
The next time you’re waiting in line in a store or sitting in traffic, take time to observe those around you. How many people are on cell phones? Compare the number of friendly faces you see with the number of scowls. How many instances of road rage do you witness in a week? And, how many of the people you pass by in a day look as if they are stressed to wit’s end?
So many people just living day to day, minute to minute – not even LIVING, but merely existing. From the moment the alarm sounds at dawn, until their weary heads hit the pillows in the wee hours, people are just going through the motions. Crossing things off the to-do list, paying the bills if just barely, scurrying to meet unrealistic deadlines and goals dictated by others, running hither and thither never really accomplishing anything of great significance.
This year, before it’s too late, I challenge you to slow down and catch the holiday spirit. Don’t let it go – grab it. Enjoy the simple things. Don’t let the intense commercialism fool you; Christmas isn’t about the material things. Without hesitation, I would trade it all for simpler times and a more serene world.
In the words of John Lennon, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
Each of us only gets one life; make the best of everyday…do what makes you happy; make a difference in the lives of those you love and those you may not even know.
And, Happy Holidays. Now, go catch the spirit – before it’s too late.
Terrific, Ann. Or you can choose to do what I’m doing and ignore the holiday season. It isn’t working out thought. I need some sparkling lights. I have a plan. My younger son (who isn’t so young) arrives this weekend and I’ll ask him to help me decorate the house. He’ll make it fun rather than a lonely chore. I’ve asked everyone to donate to their favorite cause rather than give me a gift. I’ll share this on my author page. Blessed Solstice.
Ann Napoletan said:
Thanks, as always, for your support. Your plan sounds wonderful, and I’m anxious to see photos of your sparkling lights! I imagine your place is just beautiful at this time of year!
I’m behind, but hope that by the end of the weekend, the tree will be up and I’ll have 5 or 6 kinds of cookies baked. 🙂
Happy Holidays to you and your family, my friend.