(Not a good photo by any definition of "good photo," but I still love this for what it captures. I remember this very moment, in fact, the way my grandma's apron was scratchy and smelled like her house, and knowing she was only teasing and would give my doll back to me soon, she just wanted to hold it because she loved babies so much, and the ringlets which I detested and that bathrobe which I loved, and Suzette's glasses and Michele's young face.)
Last year's Christmas was a rough one. There was a lot of conflict, fueled partly by our current stage of life—negotiating what our family will be like as the kids grow up and leave home—and partly by my own need (no, it is more of a drive or maybe even a compulsion) to make Christmas as perfect as possible. That desire for a peaceful, joyful, perfectly perfect Christmas pushes me, but it also creates unnecessary tension.
So this year, I resolved to look at Christmas in a different light. To let myself let go of the idea of perfect and instead to embrace whatever I find. Because even with last year's difficult moments, there were also some fairly magical ones, and most of them just happened. I am letting myself know that while my efforts to make Christmas magical help make it magical, the best moments are the organic ones that spring, fully formed, from whatever force is bigger than me, the one that really makes the magic. I am watching for those. I am taking things slowly and savoring what I love. I am buying fewer gifts for my kids. I am paying attention to how I feel every day, and then changing what I can to help rid myself of anxieties.
I am finding more peace within myself.
And I am remembering that Christmas isn't only about my kids feeling the magic. I can still feel it, too. We moms are so busy at Christmas, so busy making the experience magical for our kids. It's easy to forget that we don't only get to make the magic. We can feel it, too. We deserve to feel it! So I have been surrendering myself to experiences. Taking forever to decorate, for example, because I enjoy it and because so many sweet memories are tied to most of my decorations. I've been worrying less about shopping (although, I really do have to buy some gifts here at some point!) and searching out good deals and finding the. exactly. perfect everything for everyone. The gifts I have bought so far have been things I have found by serendipity and can't wait to give. I have been trying to reconnect, too, with how it felt to be a kid at Christmas, remembering my own childhood experiences and looking at pictures.
And I've been wanting to write down more of those memories.
Eight years ago (how can it be eight years ago?) I wrote a series of eight journaling prompts, designed to help you (and me) get at the heart of some Christmas memories of your own. My original goal was to write twelve prompts, but that year I only wrote eight. So this year, in the spirit of making Christmas magical (but not perfectly magical) I'm going to write four more, so you'll have twelve different possible entry points into your own memories.
Pick one, pick three, pick all of them. Write about it in your journal or blog or on your Facebook page. Or make a scrapbook layout if you want! The point is twofold: put the memory down somewhere permanent, and re-experience the memory as you write about it. It doesn't matter if you have a picture to go with the story. Just write it.
Here's a list of the first eight I wrote (click on any of the items in the list to see the journaling prompt and what I wrote about) :
- A Wished-For Photo
- Your Most Vivid Christmas Memory
- The Guy in the Big Red Suit
- December Activities
- Traditional Gifts
- An Overdue Letter
- Holiday Treats
- Christmas Mornings
And stay tuned for four other journaling prompts before Christmas. (Also, my thoughts about Mary, some new Christmas treat recipes, a few ideas for books to give, and hopefully some wisdom I have gained this holiday season.) If you respond to any of the prompts in a public way, make sure to let me know!
Prompts added in 2015: