It has been two years.
And the pain still lingers in the recesses of my mind.
My dear friend and colleague of 22 years, High School mathematics teacher extraordinaire Mary Layco, passed away unexpectedly on December 26th, 2013. And the holiday reminds me of the loss. And, the love I had and have for her. Is it selfish, I wonder, to move on and to enjoy many of the more positive “Hallmark Moments” that can and should be part of this holiday season with friends and with family?
The holiday also represents a time for a vacation. A much needed break ahead. I know there are readers of this blog glad they made it to and through last Friday – on the fumes of what little work energy they had left. Ready for a mid –year break from the pressure cooker of a 2015-2016 school year.
I try not to dwell on it, but it is both the curse and the blessing of this time of the year. The Holiday season can be such a wonderful and enjoyable respite with family and friends. 2015 ends as 2016 begins in a blink of the eye. It is a season often filled with renewal and new hope.
And yet, it is also a season that can bring unwelcome “guests” into our homes and our lives.
Those guests include unreasonably high expectations of pleasing others, shifting or changing rituals and traditions, painful reminders of the recent loss of loved ones, grudges and grievances with family members or neighbors, pressure to hurry up and donate time or money before the year ends, gift giving decisions, unhealthy eating habits, and the potential for overspending, all have the potential to come to our doorstep over the next 2 weeks. These unfriendly guests can overwhelm us at the holiday if we are not careful. Sheesh, everything becomes so hyper focused.
And, the reality rarely outpaces the hype. Where and how exactly did the word “holiday” (as in vacation) get lost in the translation of expectations during this season?
So, what can we do? How do we make this 2015 end of year Holiday as enjoyable as possible? Well, as I said to a remarkable group of leaders from Wayne Co Michigan last week, you need to find some intentional Quadrant II low energy time over the next two weeks. Give yourself that gift this holiday. And do it every day.
Here are some suggestions:
Get outside, let it all go, and just go for a walk! Alone! Find a place to hide for 2 hours and read a book! Sleep! Go to a movie! Find grace and give it freely to others! Dance! Listen to your favorite itunes songs and belt them out if you dare! Find laughter in the simplest activities with your family! Don't expect perfection! Hold on to rituals, but accept they might be changing as your family grows and changes too! Use lots of exclamations points! Oh, did I mention sleep?
But back to my more spiritual connection to Mary Layco, which these days include too, my thoughts about best friend and colleague of 37 years, Jerry Cummins (Now residing in an Alzheimer’s center, and living at the most acute stage seven of the disease). How do I honor Mary’s life in my memory? Will I take the time to honor Jerry’s life and all that it has meant to me? Or will I be too busy and wrapped up in the emotional drag of those unwelcome guests this year? Important people cross our paths, and the holiday can bring a rough reminder of why we loved them so much, against the backdrop and pain of missing them too.
So, I have decided that this season, I will sit with their memories in my mind, in the quiet hours before dusk. And in those quiet moments, I will allow myself to pull them in to the recesses of my heart and my thoughts. I will quietly and intentionally embrace them, and embrace the pain and sadness of missing these welcomed guests of so many wonderful years, by finding the joy of who they are and were as fellow travelers in this crazy fast paced, mixed up and now instant gratification social media world we live in.
I will intentionally enjoy the warmth of what was once their deep friendship. I will celebrate them as I slow down and fiercely deny all of those unwanted holiday guests that can potentially rob me of being the kind of person you would want to be around this season. I will laugh because of the gift their lives once gave me.
I will laugh because of the gifts of the wacky family and friends that continue to love me for one reason or another. I will stand strong against those other "unwelcome guests” by giving myself some grace, so that I can be a better me for them this holiday season and just maybe into 2016 too.
This season, be intentional about finding your place to get quiet. Every day. Think about whom you need to embrace? What memory gift of joy do you need to give yourself in the quiet moments of this season? I think it is the best gift you can give not just to yourself, but also to others, as those unwanted guests are left outside of your door this season.
Happy Holidays Everyone!