Enjoying the Simple Gifts this Holiday Season

Simple Gifts: A Time to Enjoy

It is the season of Thanksgiving and I am listening to the old Shaker song “Simple Gifts” on one of my families favorite CDs Dance on a Moonbeam by Bill Crofut. Although I had every intention of writing about something non-holiday related, I realized I couldn’t focus my attention elsewhere.

This is the time of year when people typically start to feel an impending elevated level of stress creep in; increased obligations for holiday: parties, gatherings, gifts, performances, travel, music.  Even families such as my own, which tries to simplify the holiday, get caught up in the cycle. Each year we insist this will be the year when we are cutting down all the “extras” for the sake of sanity and finding peace. But today I realized perhaps we are simplifying the wrong area of our holidays.

Many writers have articulated it better than I ever could: are the holidays really about the gifts and abundance of food and decorations? I think many of us could easily speak of the importance of spending time with those we care about, but how many of us REALLY take time to do just that?

I think perhaps sometimes we are so busy with life that we forget these are the few days a year we are allowed to have some down time, just to be a family. As I face the holiday season I have decided to employ several efforts to keep what is most important, on my mind: my family, being a mom, being a wife, being me.

For me I decided cutting back will also mean working on the stress I feel as a mom, family member and activist. In the past I have worried about making sure I offered to bring something to gatherings, often bringing something when I was asked not to. Or I would make sure the cutest outfit was clean and ready to go for my daughter.

At gatherings I would rush about asking how I could help or doing things which weren’t asked of (and sometimes the host/ess would ask me not to worry about.) This year I have let go of the need to be so “helpful.” Certainly I will ask to help and if given a task I will do so smiling, but I am not as concerned about not doing enough now.

For me I wouldn’t insist everyone come over to my house every year, if I wasn’t willing to do all the work if I had to. But considering people like me often come, I know a little of the work will be eased.

Certainly to me it is more important I get to see family or friends and if that means you sit at the table and sculpt playdough with your daughter while I scrub dishes, that is better than you bringing 18 pies and me not seeing you. And really it is a win-win situation, you get family time and I get you time.

When people ask what they can bring I let them know of something. I might say “can you do the potatoes” and leave it at that. I let go of my personal expectations of how exactly they should be cooked. Don’t worry if the dish they asked you is make just so or in a really cute platter, after all most often than not, they are just happy to be with you. And if someone forgets the potatoes, oh well. And as fun as it is to pull the china out and the linens, I am ok with them staying in the attic this year.

I am blessed to be a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, family member and friend to some wonderful people. I am even more fortunate that there will not only be food to dirty the dishes that will need to be cleaned, but there will probably be an excess of food.

It is even more difficult for me to get caught up in the stress of it all, as reflect on all those going without right now. A gesture we made this past week was to place an empty plate on the table to help us be grateful for what we have and to help us remember what others do not have.

For the holidays this year, my goal is to bring more mindfulness and awareness to my self and those I visit during these weeks. I plan on relaxing and just enjoying the brief moments we will have, which come not nearly enough

We have to be on the rest of the year with all our other obligations as employees, students, performers, networking, advocacy, ect. I invite you to take this time and really just relax with your family and those you visit during these next few weeks without any pretense of what the expectations are.

I hope you have a wonderful few weeks with your loved ones and you are able to find time to enjoy all the simple gifts.


Alisa J. BlanchardAlisa J. Blanchard

A Berkshire transplant, Alisa is a: tattooed mom of an almost 2yr old girl; a photographer; singer (with her local chapter of Sweet Adelines International); writer; trained Doula (labor and postpartum support); and all around life enthusiast. She supports her family with her “day job” as a bookkeeper and fills her need for artistic expression in many diverse ways. When she is not making a mess with paints and her daughter; playing pranks on her husband; gardening; or hiking with the dogs; Alisa can be found working on her passionate dream of becoming a full-time photographer (Common Moments) and doula. cmoments@earthlink.net

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