This advent, I received this advice:
Consider the things that bring you joy. Then do those things.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Of course, it’s not new advice. “Do what makes you happy” is a common refrain in our society. But there’s another side of the coin that makes fully adopting this mantra a little challenging: I live with other people.
As much as I would love to fill my days with the things that bring me joy, these are not necessarily the same things that bring my family members joy. And, so there need to be some concessions made.
During those crazy ‘Martha Stewart’ years when I was baking all the cookies and buying all the presents and wrapping all the boxes and writing all the Christmas letters and mailing all the cards and preparing all the food—those years when my expectations and pace had me spiralling downward at warp speed—my husband would show up to Christmas on the 24th and exclaim how much he loved everything about it.
How magical it was!
‘Perfect,’ in fact.
It was perfect! (Except for the fact that, deep down, I wanted to shove all that magic down his happy little throat.) I resented his joy because it came at the expense of my sanity.
These days, if I truly had free reign to consider the things that bring me joy and do just those things, Christmas would probably look radically different than it does. (Think palm trees, beaches and blue skies.)
But, the truth is, right now I don’t have that luxury. In fact, I may never have that luxury because I live with a bunch of sentimental people who appear to love tradition more than anything.
And, that’s ok.
The truth is, I wouldn’t trade my family for anything (not even palm trees) and serving them—doing things for them—does bring me joy. (Most days.)
As much as I would love to theme my Christmas with all white twinkle lights and simple, uncluttered décor, (you know I would lose the red and green in an instant!) my family loves all the coloured lights and the homemade pre-school ornaments.
The kids jostle to set up the folk art nativity my mom made for us ages ago and draw straws to see who’ll give our small nutcracker collection their marching orders.
“Holding the reins loosely” has given me new perspective this year. I can choose to do things that make my season a little simpler and still allow my family to fully embrace all the rituals and traditions that define Christmas for them. The two are not mutually exclusive.
And good relationships involve some give and take, am I right?
Thankfully, my children are open to trying new things, including jumping on my “less is more” bandwagon. We’re not completely caught up with our daily Advent readings, but after two weeks, it’s now part of their morning and they’re engaging with it in a way that looks less like “hostage” and more like “resigned participant.” Baby steps.
And, in return, we’re still doing many of the things that they love and honouring the rituals that mean so much to them during this time of year. If I can swing it, we do it in a way that helps me to stay sane.
There is no law that says tradition and ritual need to be set in stone, despite what my husband may tell you. Making new traditions, developing new rituals, creating new memories…there’s room for it all.
I learned a lot of good life lessons coming out of my first marriage, but one of the hardest and best was that holidays are holidays because of what they represent, not because they fall on a certain day.
After my divorce, I didn’t always have my kids on Christmas Day, or Easter Sunday, or even on their birthdays. Sometimes Christmas came on the 23rd or the 27th of December. From time to time, Easter dinner was the following Sunday. The specific date didn’t matter. What mattered was that we gathered. We shared. We gave thanks.
Many years, our holidays were far from ‘perfect,’ but they always held the opportunity to experience joy. They still do. Because our joy isn’t dependent on the way the house looks, or the gifts we receive, or the day we celebrate or the way we celebrate.
Joy is completely an inside job.
I love the way writer, Shannan Martin puts it.
“…Not because ‘perfect’ even exists, but because opening ourselves up to everyday surprise invites a dash of whimsy. So often, the JOY is in the journey itself.”
My Advent journey this year has looked a little different than it has in past years. And I feel it.
Experiencing the anticipation of Advent. Savouring the slow and steady journey toward the manger. Uncluttering my life just a little bit to make room for the things that fix my mind on the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Resting in the beauty of the season. Holding the reins loosely as I remember that ‘living in peace isn’t living problem-free, it’s living my messy, full life in the presence of the living God.”(Arlene Pellicane)
Knowing that an abundant life and a heart full of joy are mine for the taking, no matter what my Christmas looks like.
“I have said these things so that you will be filled with my joy.
Yes, your joy will overflow.”
If you’ve enjoyed this little musing, it would mean the world to me if you subscribe to receive future blog posts. (Scroll down to the bottom of my Home page to where it says “Subscribe.”)
I’m doing my best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. I’d be so honoured to share the journey with you. Putting one foot in front of the other, and—hopefully—not in my mouth. (I’m not sure you fully appreciate how difficult this is for me.)
Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent, but I’ll try for amusing. At the very least, I hope you’ll come away feeling a little better about yourself.
Thanks for visiting!