“Trying to live all the time in rising or fullness is exhausting,” says Christine Valters Paintner, one of my favorite spiritual writers, in her end-of-year meditation.
I thought about this in relation to the post-holiday “blues,” which most of us, I imagine, try to avoid. Or at least I do.
While my parents were still living, we drove to Pennsylvania on Christmas Day, arriving in time for a light supper and Christmas carol singing with my Aunt Esther. Going to Pennsylvania, I could let go of the pre-Christmas busyness of the Provident Bookstore or the congregation I was serving and enjoy the anticipation of spending time with my Pa. family.
But the drive home five days later felt very different. I felt just plain sad. I knew I wouldn’t see my family again for 4 or 6 months, and let’s face it, Ontario in January is pretty dull for people like me who don’t enjoy winter sports. I also thought of the major hosting my sister-in-law did, and how exhausted she must be afterwards.
Our travel pattern changed when my mother died in 2003. We stayed in Ontario in December, heading for Stratford on Boxing Day for a couple overnights. It was a way to decompress after a lot of holiday activity – and to try to avoid the post-Christmas blues. But I still “came down” when we arrived home from Stratford.
This year, we ate Christmas dinner with friends and planned mostly low-key holiday activity. We decided not to go to Stratford.
So I scheduled some things at home to nourish my spirit, wondering – in what state will be my spirit be after the holidays this year?
Here are some nourishing things I planned for the last days of December and into January:
The day Sam watched three football games on TV, I arranged with a friend to go to an organ concert by 19-year-old Joshua Ehlebracht at St. Peters Lutheran Church in downtown Kitchener. Beginning with the Nutcracker Suite and ending with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, with lots of Bach in between, Ehlebracht stunned us with his talent and confidence. The large church was nearly full. Ehlebracht can be a bit of a showman who projects fun at the organ. He wore a black tee shirt which sparkled when he moved. Two-tone green and silver shoes completed his otherwise black outfit.I felt wonderful when I came home – and sorry for Sam, since the “wrong team” won in all three football games he watched!
- We competed with each other for a turn with the puzzle Kittens in the Basket, and completed it on New Years’ Eve day.
- I enjoyed browsing at Wordsworth Books a couple times, savouring a gift certificate. I bought (and enjoyed) a book I would call an “entertainment” – The Colors of all the Cattle, the latest in Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana lady detective series.Over Christmas, I read more heady tomes, including Michelle Obama’s very well-written memoir, Becoming. She’s clearly a self-aware woman, talking about her journey with an amazing lack of invective. More difficult but also a worthwhile read was Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. The author expertly reveals what the Wilder books hide. Laura and her daughter Rose created and added to myths about western settlement and the pioneer life which, in her opinion, have negatively contributed to U.S. self-understandings.
- Of course we managed a drive north of Waterloo, visiting Martin’s Family Fruit and Stemmler’s Meats on New Year’s Eve day.
And yes, we built in lots of reflection time.
….There’s really nothing wrong with “coming down” after Christmas. It’s a time to savour the joys and acknowledge the disappointments of extended family time, to step back from hosting, to read a book or take a drive or watch football on TV or listen to music or hope for snow or to simply be.
Christine Valters Painter notes that “when we turn to the natural world we find with each new day, each moon cycle, and each season a rhythm of rise and fall, fullness and emptiness.”
She’s helping me understand that we humans too are made to flow with the rise and fall of each day and with the changing seasons.
Questions for Reflection:
- Do you tend to “come down” after the Christmas/New Year holidays?
- If so, how is your spirit nourished during these “down times”?
Next week: TBA