Keep. December. Simple.

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    Here we are…December. The month adorned with gold, red, and twinkling everywhere. Where weekends are filled to the brim with obligatory Holiday parties, food prep, cookie making, and shopping. Where we rearrange schedules with work and life to make it to school concerts and special performances. Where we make sure to re-read forms sent home in order to cement in our minds that we don’t forget the cupcakes we promised to send in on the 22nd for the class party. I’m in full acceptance of that fact that I will very likely forget. I’ll forget because I can’t keep up with it all. And I’m learning that by living a bit more mindfully in other areas of my life that those choices will lead to a healthier me.  Accepting not to attach to the details of cupcakes and  Christmas cards. The classroom will have enough food at the party because we live in NJ and in NJ “food” always means more than enough…always. And if family and friends want to see pictures of my kids, just please take a look at my Facebook page.  Because here’s the thing: that’s what December has become about…the details. And the details are emotional energy drainers. 

    Ironic to take this stance when December’s long-held-supposed-to-be-theme encourages us to embrace with great “joy” ALL of it’s surprise and delight that make up these annual details? Nope. Instead, I’m standing firm on my tired feet to share why “letting go” of how things should be in exchange for how things should feel is the secret for a successful season of whole and complete YOU!. The inspiration for this blog post comes from a conversation I recently had with myself as I unpacked the red and green plastic bins of decorations. “ I’m tired. Why is Christmas here already? I miss the summer.  I don’t really want to make cookies. When am going to find the time to get to stores for gifts? Christmas lights for outside…why didn’t I buy them on sale last year? “ Do I sound miserable and Grinch-like? Yep. Do I sound like a mom excitedly anticipating the twinkles in eyes on Christmas morning? Nope.  Do I have the power to change my outlook? Yes! So I did. 

    I stopped in my living room and took out only half the decorations. My mantle looks simple and spectacular. The tree, the energetic centerpiece of the house radiates the same spirit it always has. The mistletoe and stockings are hung and that’s a wrap. Two out of the three plastic bins of decorations remain full of snowflakes, table runners, and holly covered mugs. And I feel full of relief that I chose to accept less work for the same fulfillment in adorning my home and further feeding the light that will fill those tiny twinkles the morning of the 25th. 

    As far as Christmas cookies go…we frosted and decorated sugar cookies out of store bought pillsbury dough (oh the shame…but, oh the ease!).  Christmas music played, the kitchen table was the same mess of flour, confectionary sugar, and red hots (my favorite).  The result…a mom who was present. A mom who was better mindfully able to connect with the clumsy hands that made the stars way too thin and mouths that consumed more frosting than the cookies. It was a joy, a memory I will tear up about when I sit in my favorite chair years from now in hopes that one of my five kids will call or better yet stop over to visit their mother.  We will somehow collect an array of cookies from other sources and by choosing to accept and not make the typical 8 different kinds of cookies I normally do, I will march further towards a healthier me and better display of emotional and full energy for the little eyes watching and more importantly, feeling. 

    Being mindful, doesn’t just mean present moment awareness. Being mindful is a way of evaluating the scope of our life as we move easily and not-so-easily in and out of the seasons of life.  90% of the time when someone asks how you are doing, the standard answer is likely “I’m just so busy.” Cue for, I don’t have time for things that matter, time for this conversation, time to flip resentment towards life into a restoration of self. As we move into 2018, I challenge you to periodically step back and give yourself an assessment. Start with how you feel. Sit with it, don’t be afraid to admit the hard stuff. Next, ask yourself what you can let go of or who you can delegate things to. Don’t say yes if you don’t want to do it. Fill your life cup with self love and something or things that make YOU feel good. Lastly, recognize how naturally the gift of mindfulness seems to present itself. Like magic, real magic (not the kind that creates an  illusion); the mysterious reaction the body has when you choose to listen to it. Mindfulness means better sleep, brighter eyes, an ease in recollection of details, and the ability to find joy in this Holiday season. Seek messy flour-filled kitchen tables for one afternoon, take one less trip to Costco, say no to that thing you really don’t want to do, and be okay with leaving a Holiday party a bit early or maybe just not going. And notice your inner presence and the new found gift of connecting with the things that really matter. Kisses under mistletoes, sloppy decorated cookies, bright eyed twinkles on Christmas morning followed by sticky fingers from the monkey bread.

Sarah Stevenson