Heart home

We’re traveling again, on the road for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year we’ll be with family, seeing different ones over the course of the week. Some years we’ve been with friends, and had to add the family touch via phone. We do the best we can, but making the family connection in person is not always possible. When that happens, friends round out the circle, fill in the space at the table, make the holiday bright.

Here’s what I’ve learned about celebrating and connecting in spirit, since we moved far from family, 27 years ago:

  • When you connect on a regular basis, holidays are icing on the cake. Holidays don’t have to function as points of glue. The day-to-day relationship is the glue.
  • Connecting can be as simple as a phone call or Skyping or a card or an email. Or in today’s world, a Facebook post.
  • Distance can work for you. It can smooth the rough spots and make you appreciate the good stuff.
  • You’ll only maintain the relationships you nurture. That’s especially true when you have to relate across the miles.
  • A carefully planned “surprise” visit, or some gesture that shows you’re thinking outside the box…becomes a highlight. There’s nothing more fun than orchestrating a trip like this. And the faces when you pull it off…priceless!
  • Spending holidays with friends has enlarged our circle and our traditions. Some of my favorite memories are of Thanksgivings with friends. We’ve learned new foods, new games, and built relationships that have lasted over the years, solidified by adopting others as “family.”
  • Find the right balance between pulling out all the stops for a special gathering, and keeping it real and sane. I’ve learned to pick and choose…we don’t try to do everything, we just try to do a few things well.
  • Mark the moment. I’ve learned to stop in the middle of the hustle-bustle and just look around and absorb.
  • Limit the drama. Family gatherings should not be a time of crisis or scenes. Create memories that are good so you’ll want to get together again.
  • Bring something new to the party…a new food, a new game, something different.
  • Decide what traditions are keepers. What are you always going to do, no matter who sits at the table?

Holidays don’t wait for life to be perfect. I’ve never quite achieved the Martha Stewart magazine spread for my living room or my dining room, although I’ve tried. Who doesn’t have the ideal scene in their head, just waiting to be unveiled in real life and captured in family photos as proof that it can be done?

But I’ve had better than a magazine spread. I’ve had the real thing, in all its chaos and glory, deliciousness and kitchen failures, to tell me, and those gathered with me: this is the good stuff.

 “The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.”   ~ C.S. Lewis

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What does your body need today?

Today is Saturday, my one free and clear day of the week. Some weeks, I can be productive in a steady rhythm throughout the day, accomplishing more than I had on my list, and go to bed at night feeling tired, satisfied, pleased.

Other Saturdays are a study in coziness and relaxation. Even if I have a lengthy to do list, some weekends I am not able to move. I have good intentions, but I putter. I putz. I distract myself from doing chores and errands. I linger over coffee, sidetrack myself with a magazine or cooking show, I indulge in a nap late morning.

The question is why? Why am I an engine some days, and others, I can’t even turn the key in the ignition?

I used to feel guilty when I had an “off” day. Aren’t Saturdays at home supposed to be about catching up from the week, or getting ready for Monday? If you schedule a Saturday outing, a day of recreation, that’s different…that’s on your list. But just whiling away your day? Not on the program!

I finally realized that when your brain doesn’t give your body permission to take a day off, eventually, your body doesn’t ask for permission. It just takes what it needs. In extreme cases, this could result in actual illness, although I’m not talking about that scenario here. Why do we (I) think it is heroic and a good thing to be “productive” every day? Yes, I know Martha Stewart never misses a beat. But I am not Martha, nor do I aspire to be. (No offense intended…but I have to acknowledge reality.)

My reality is that I am generally a busy woman who loves to put a check mark beside items on my list. But balance is important, and time to relax, to restore, to just be, is as important…no, more important…than my busy-ness. Putting this need on the back burner doesn’t make me a super woman, it makes me inattentive to self-maintenance. There are many analogies to this: sharpening the saw (Stephen Covey); maintaining a vehicle, or putting my oxygen mask on before assisting others (my life coach). It feels counter intuitive. But taking time for myself, even if it is not scheduled, actually improves my productivity and my ability to give to others.

I may be slow, but light is breaking through.