I have to come clean about something. I have spent a chunk of my winter break (six whole weeks) vacillating between despair and gratitude. It’s not that typical for me to be down around the Christmas holiday, but this year, I was feeling pretty low.
With my semester grades due just a handful of days before Christmas Day, I had little time this year to consider the right gift for those whom I love most. I was left feeling rushed and rather empty as I stared at other last-minute gift-finders in Best Buy, watching the sales associates run around in their Santa hats, trying to push one more gift on one more customer. What is this all for, I began to wonder? And why am I not solely giving gifts that are meaningful? I am considering starting a new tradition, where I can only make the gifts I give, even if it’s something as small as an origami flower (or something). Okay, I can’t make origami flowers, but I will work on it.
It’s no secret that the political climate has been hanging heavy over many of us. It feels like it’s a bit too much to bear at times, for me, particularly when added to this impenetrable fog are other woes: friends and family with illnesses and sorrows, work stress, insecurities about a retirement future, climate change. Okay, it’s getting too dark in here. Sorry.
But I found myself having to climb out of a gloomy place after Christmas ended. Now, after many days of joyful family time, a few more runs on my new treadmill (#blessedinthebestwaypossible), several doses of vitamin D, and positive affirmations that have come my way, I am moving on up, as George Jefferson would say.
If anything, watching those I know and/or love struggle with hard things and witnessing the political craptasticness (can this be a word, please?), I am determined to plug more good juju into my life.
For instance, somewhere along the way I signed up for a newsletter from NPR’s On Being (do I put that in italics or quotes, asks the English professor?), and this quote arrived in my inbox today within the clips from recent articles, interviews, and podcasts:
“[I feel] brokenhearted a lot of the time, but when I just do something, there’s something else that happens. It’s not despair. It’s a little bit of hope. It’s that idea of, we cannot keep the fact that we can’t do everything to keep us from doing something. You do that little thing, and then you feel more awake and alive and connected.” – Glennon Doyle
Boy, do I know exactly what she means. How relatable and true. I can’t do everything, or I can’t carry the weight of everyone, or I am only one little ineffectual person, so I am going to curl up on the couch, pour a glass of wine, and turn on Netflix. It happens. (More often than I would like.)
Turning off the world’s problems is real when you are not sure how to deal with your own, or when climate scientists are being discounted by the federal government. Life begins to feel a bit hopeless, does it not?
But we can chip away at the apathy in a myriad of ways. Here are some that are helping me right now:
- Putting on a smile for my son at the dinner table, even when I am feeling exhausted from doing the nighttime routine alone again.
- Looking for the nugget of knowledge or goodness I can pass on to students with each lesson, instead of agonizing over how thorough the information is or how in-depth (or not) my background knowledge on William Blake truly is.
- Concentrating on the things of beauty in my home, like the lovely glass bowl on the dining table, that actually has a quote from Emerson encircling the top (something I overlooked for a while).
- Buying the expensive face cream (if possible) and relishing the feeling that follows after gently smoothing it into my cheekbones.
- Loving something about my son and husband each and every day, like my son’s long fingers (how did they grow so fast?) or my husband’s patient smile (how does he put up with a woman approaching menopause?).
I am going to end with a final thought. I have always beaten myself up over vacillating, as if running on a totally even keel emotionally is a realistic expectation for anyone. Being okay with the back and forth – and loving myself anyway – has got to be numbers 6 through infinity.
Signing off for now, friends.