And a Happy New Year

As I sit to write to you this morning, it might in fact be the first time I’ve sat in a week. Well, sat without the echo of “Mom!!!” ringing in my ears or sat without shuffling to the next holiday activity. Like many of you, I’m coming off a week of Christmas, a family birthday, and a happy new year. I’m just going to say it, that shit was intense. On my drive home last night I called my sister, “Who decided this?” I whined, “Who decided that we’re supposed to spend an entire month planning for Christmas, spend an ungodly amount of money, eat more sugar than our bodies can hold, and keep a LIVE tree alive? Anyways, I’m pretty sure I’m Buddhist.” My sister laughed, followed by the validation of, “Rough week?” It was joyfully packed with gifts, family, parties, food, squealing children, and yes, exhaustion.

Tradition vs Reality

I’m going to be honest with you, I thought I had set better boundaries with myself around the holiday. I might have been boastful, “I only send Christmas cards if it feels right!” You know little comments like that make me feel as though I was choosing how to celebrate the holiday. I thought I was doing a standup job at this until one of the highlights of my week was realizing my closet has a pocket door. You heard me right, a pocket door! When needed I could slip inside for quiet, breath, and let the busyness melt off of me until I heard the ringing of, “Mom!!” This holiday season, for me, didn’t bring peace on earth, it brought life at its fullest and emotions at their highest.

Anyone else? Surely I’m not alone in trying to make our holiday special only to be left lying next to our partner with a fist bump of, “We did it” then crawling into a cocoon of sleep. Yes, my holiday was filled with Gingerbread houses, cookies, lights, presents (the everloving candles in the window that take battery), Santa, Christmas cards, cheese balls, ham, and sure, a little whiskey in the eggnog. Those tiny moments and activities did bring tradition and family together. Yet those tiny moments collectively stole me (and my children) from our presence. I planned for the holiday only to be whisked away in a flurry of my plans. It went well enough; tantrums came as well as laughter. But in my lifetime I’m not looking for, “well enough,” I’m looking for “rooted.”

What can be done in reflection? Of this, I’m not certain of the right answer. The truth is some of my favorite childhood memories come from Christmas. Not the gifts (ask my mama, I was not a gracious receiver), but the traditions and time together with family. I want to recreate this for my children and actually like doing the Christmas traditions. You can bet I still hide a pickle on my tree. You can also take a bet if, after a second morning of stealing Christmas candy before breakfast, I threw it all away. Any takers, do you think I did? It was like $50 worth of candy, and that my friends is the price of a cute crop sweater thrown away.

This little dichotomy is everything; tradition versus daily reality. I tried to build Gingerbread houses that had expired unbeknownst to me, we had tears. I tried to put ornaments on the tree after a Christmas parade, there was hitting over whose ornaments were whose. I tried to ice cookies at 8:00 pm, but there was a full-blown tantrum because I wouldn’t let my son mix the red one (Jesus help me, it stains!). I tried to buy what they wanted from Santa, but it was found during hide and seek becoming a gift from Mommy. This was then followed by the days of, “Why didn’t Santa get me…” and mentally screaming “Because Mommy is Santa and you still got the toy!!” This list goes on exhaustively of planning traditions and navigating life. The little mantra that got me through was “Maybe Christmas perhaps doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” The Grinch and my pocket door; saviors of Christmas.

The Bustle of “Should”

Has this happened to you, darling? Did you plan for a beautiful holiday season only to be knocked down by parenting through the holiday season? As you sip your coffee of the new year, are you also calling your sister exclaiming, “WTF was that?” I’m guessing to some extent all of us are because the hamster wheel of the American holiday is exhausting and children are tiring all on their own. Together, of course, they make the perfect storm for moms and dads alike. That alongside a healthy dose of wanting to make traditions perfect. I suppose darling, I got lost in the bustle of should.

I do not have a proposed solution from grappling with tradition and reality. The only thing I know to be true is that when I find myself lost in should, I have to shift and actively choose what my soul needs to thrive. If I want to be rooted, I have to choose to plant myself in stillness. Stillness is what I could not find this holiday. I am still determining what we’ll put down next Christmas (it will be something..). But I do know what I need to pick up today and through my next busy season is air. Air that is breathed in against the dashing stillness of life.

Intentional pausing, stillness, and breath are always a path back to my roots. My darlings, what were you doing because you should and what must you choose for yourselves to come back home?

I’m breathing in, holding my breath for a count of 10, and exhaling you all A Happy New Year.

Jessie Cooper

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