Christmas Traditions…

I picked up my sister and brother in law from the airport on Friday night (a couple hours later than planned due to a lost bag incident).  They are in town from Montreal area to celebrate Christmas with us.

I picked them up, as I have done so many times before, well after 10 pm.  We loaded into the car and headed for “home” knowing that there would be a spread on the table of crackers and cheeses and pickles and sausages (from the hole-in-the-wall with the good kielbasa) and cider/beer chilling in a cooler in the garage.  We had our drinks, our snack, and all retired for the evening.

Christmas-eve-morning we sat and drank coffee (with Bailey’s) then headed out for some last minute shopping.  We did a long walk in Fort Langley and hit a brewery we hadn’t yet tried.  We had our traditional seafood feast for Christmas Eve dinner.  Christmas morning was coffee (with Bailey’s), impossible bacon pie, the slow unwrapping of gifts, a snack that matched Friday night (now with the welcome addition of Christmas baking), and a huge turkey dinner.  I skedaddled for a few hours to visit my boyfriend’s family in Richmond where they were doing much of the same things.

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My point is that Christmas is seeped in tradition with my family.  Our Christmas day looks much the same now as it did 25 years ago.  The same foods, the same rhythms.  Christmas is a rhythm for me.  A familiar pattern that repeats itself each year.

And I love it.

At Christmas I do not want the unique.  I want to feel my loved ones all around me.  I want to sit and chat and laugh (and eat).  There is magic in this time of year.  A magic that comes from love, and family, and repeated patterns.  It is in the lights of the tree as the reflect on the wall.  It is in the friends that gather.  It is in the games that we play and the music we sing.

My boyfriend convinced my sister and I to head to midnight mass with him on Christmas Eve.  We three are all agnostic’s but we wanted to hear the Christmas story, take a moment of peace to reflect.  We sang hymns and carols and the mass ended with a candlelit walk out of the church as a hundred people raised their voices, singing Silent Night.  It was a powerful moment.

Christmas will change over the years.  It will grow and shift.  I hope that sometime soon we (my sister, me, one of us, or both) will have little ones running around, making the quiet morning of coffee and chatter infinitely more chaotic.  I don’t expect that every year we will be together – but I hope that, for many, we are.

I am sitting this morning, watching the snow fall, my Christmas jammies still on, the Anne of Green Gables scarf my Dad gave me wound around my neck.  I am reflecting on these past few days of peace, these upcoming days of crazy fun, and I am hoping that all of you have some of the same moments this magical season.

Love you all,

M.

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The One Thing You Can’t Escape…

A question for you…

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I haven’t been in the best state of mind for a while now.  Work was hard, December was hard, Christmas vacation was great, then I was back to work being hard, a longer commute than I’ve had in a few years and too much time on my own.

I haven’t liked myself very much lately.  I’ve been eating like crap, watching too much TV, exercising: not at all.  I’ve been stressing about money and wondering how I will pay for all my wonderful summer plans as well as the new roof my building is putting on.  I’ve put out an ad for a roommate even though not having one for the month of January has been absolutely freeing.  I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.  I hate looking in the mirror.

I’m frustrated and I’m berating myself for not somehow being “better”.

Sometimes it feels like no matter how far we come we aren’t far enough.  Sometimes we realize that the one person we’d like to escape (ourselves) is the one person we can’t run away from.

I spilled coffee on myself this morning.  Not just on myself… I dumped my cup of coffee onto the leather seat of my car and it puddled under my butt and I drove to work sitting in the warm puddle because I was already running late.  My pants were soggy and cold and I smelled like stale coffee all day.

A few years ago this probably would have made me cry.  It probably would have ruined my mood for the rest of the day.  I would still have been pouting several hours later about how bad my luck had been.

Today I sent J a quick little text and had a giggle about the whole situation.  I decided that if I was still feeling gross at lunch I’d go to the mall and pick up a new pair of leggings (I’ve been trying to find time to do this for awhile now).

That’s the difference between who I am now and who I was then.

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A few years ago I was constantly stressed.  So stressed that the slightest thing out of place had the potential to send me over the edge.  I was in constant physical pain.  I was deeply unhappy and I wasn’t doing anything about it.

All of that is on me.  I didn’t make a change.  I couldn’t even see a change.

Right now I can see that I’m in some of the pitfalls that signal my mind isn’t in a great place.  I’m obsessing about plans and timelines and budgets.  I’m ignoring my body.  I’m actively not looking after it.

I’m comparing my life to the lives of those around me and I keep thinking that somehow I’m coming up short.  I should have a family, a home, whatever the next “step” is, I should be there.

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I’m not seeing that I’m exactly where I should be because it is exactly where I’ve worked to be.  I’m not recognizing how far I’ve come.  All I can see is how far I have to go.

I’m struggling.

But at least I recognize that I am struggling.  At least I know that I can make a change, make this better.

I’m going to meditate more.  Organize my house so that my space (and therefore mind) is less cluttered.  I volunteered to help with a kids running program so I’ll be forced off my ass.

There isn’t really a quick fix for where I am currently.  But at least I can see a path to a better state.

How do you get out of a funk?  How do you recognize that you are in one?

“Most Likely You Died While Hating Me”… And Other Thought Patterns I’ve Let Go Of…

I had this moment of clarity recently.  It doesn’t really matter when or why it happened.  But it was this moment where the following thought popped into my head, fully formed and unbidden: Whatever else happens my life is better for this moment, this one right here, this exact moment that I am currently living.

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The same kind of calm came over me as does when I am meditating and I can finally, and briefly, get my mind to settle.

I’ve never been good at being in the moment.  My mind is a busy place.  Most times if you ask me what I’m thinking about I’ll give you a list of several items. Usually I’m writing something that gets stored away in a part of my brain until I can get to a computer.  I am thinking of what’s for dinner, of my budget, of chores waiting at home, of marking that needs to be done, of a lesson that I’d like to try tomorrow, of a student I am worried about, of another that I am proud of, of my loved ones.  I’m looking back at the past and I’m looking forward to the future and I’m probably a bit worried about all of these things.

And I’m writing something.

All inside of my head, unseen to the outside world.

At.  All.  Times.

Everything can kind of get stuck up there, busy, and can choke me up so that I have trouble getting out words when I need to.  Or want to.

I analyze everything that I say before and after I say it.

If you know me well you know that I say a lot.

The thing is that I’ve really been working on this and I’ve been getting better about it.  I’m finding myself in the moment more and more often.

A friend posted this article today which talks about the things that only “over thinkers” will understand.  It totally described the person that I used to be.

If you didn’t answer my call or text?  For sure you were dead.  Or you’d decided that you hated me.  Most likely it was that you’d died while hating me.  

Mindfulness has shut this off for me.  I know that many people will think that this sounds a bit too new-age, fluffy, or something.  I’ll send you some science if you think this.  This stuff works.

It has literally changed my brain.

I saw this guy a couple of years ago at a mindfulness conference at UBC.  I’m not gonna lie, I kinda fell in love with him then and there.  Too damn bad I was married at the time, eh?  If you have 12 minutes I recommend that you watch this… and try what he recommends.

(Seriously adorable, right?!)

How we can move the entire average up.

When we are talking about our happiness… how can moving the average up not be the goal if it is possible?!

I used to live life like this…

Every time your brain has a success you just change the goalpost of what success looks like.

I don’t anymore.  I did the 3 daily gratitudes for 21 days.  Then I did the journaling.  The meditation I’d been doing for awhile already.  I kept it up for months, trying everyday to filter things through the positive lens.

(Exercise is my weak point, haha.)

I’m telling you, everything changed.  My brain did begin to scan the world for the positive instead of the negative.  I defaulted to happy rather than stressed.

I don’t know how I would have gotten through this year without these skills.

It doesn’t solve everything.  Nothing solves it all.

But it’s really nice to have moments like I had the other day.  Moments where you know your life is better for having lived them.  Moments that you are fully engaged in without any of that other stuff playing in the background.