Thursday, November 26, 2015

Finding Joy

The holiday season is such a complex time of year. Without fail, it makes me pause, makes me reflect, makes me think more deeply about my life. And my life is pretty damn good. I am married to my best friend, have two precious and spirited daughters, and have the luxury of parents who have been together for nearly 40 years and in-laws who have been together for more than 50. And they they all live here. And they genuinely like each other. And they like me...most of the time.

My children have an aunt and two uncles who adore them, doing their part to undo all of my parenting whenever they see my girls, reminding me that, indeed, some rules are made to be broken. My home is warm and full of love, which I hope will always overshadow our moments of anger and frustration. My friends are my village, giving me the love, support and encouragement I am too often afraid to ask for but need nonetheless.  My life is whole.

In all of that, I know. I know what my family shares is special. Because holidays are stressful, reinforcing more of what we lack rather than what we have. Relationships are strained, budgets are stretched too thin, and so much time and energy is spent on just trying to "get through." The loss of loved ones is felt more deeply this time of year, when someone's boisterous laugh isn't heard at the table, or when you realize you can no longer pick up the phone to get tips on your turkey or how to keep your pie crust from burning.

Several of my dearest friends lost parents this year, and this season will be a struggle to find balance between mourning and celebration. A number of my friends will mark milestones without their spouses, their lives forever shaped by the loss of the person they thought they would grow old with. Because life so rarely works out just like we think it will.

In all of that, I also know. I know there is joy. There is love. There is kindness. If we are willing to pause, reflect, and think for a just a moment, we will find it. Not surprisingly, it is in those tiny, mundane moments that can so easily be overlooked:

  • The woman who hugged my husband at WinCo this week when he paid for the last bit of groceries she couldn't afford. It was just kidney beans and popcorn, but it meant she didn't have to put anything back.
  • The new parents we took dinner to, who spent a large portion of our visit gushing about how perfect their newborn's belly button is.
  • My seven year old, who offered to give my mother some of her Halloween candy after my mom expressed concern that they hadn't bought enough to handle the swarm of trick-or-treaters making their way through the neighborhood.
  • The friend whose husband has started warming her car each morning, making her commute each day a little less chilly.
  • The neighbor who we regular swap flour and eggs with. In a time of convenience stores and 24-hour supermarkets, it's still nice to send your kid next door with an empty measuring cup.
And so today, and for the rest of this holiday season, I will continue to pause, reflect, and think. Because it grounds me and keeps me humble. And because it reminds that we always, always, have much to celebrate. And for that, I am forever thankful.

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