|Posted by christinkeck on November 25, 2013 at 7:40 PM|
Well, another November is almost finished--and that means another Nanowrimo victory! I'm very proud of my accomplishments--it seems like once November begins, I get the novel-writing bug--and then go all out until it's done. In th past five years, I've only missed once--and that was because I'd just gotten another book finished not long before.
This year, I managed to pump out 63,500 words in 16 days. It's still largely unedited--there will probably be a couple months of that in my near future. But it's not the only book I'm writing this year. I'm also compiling and editing a cookbook for our church. That one is far less pressure and a lot more fun to do than writing novels--but it's also in many ways more tedious. Recipes can't be "banged out"--they have to be carefully proofread prior to including them. That means going over each one at least three times before hitting the "paste" key. But it's still a satisfying project.
And November also begins my official transformation into "elf." The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. I love Carols, I love decorations, I love the glitter and the kitsch and the baking and the preparation. I decorate, I make cookies, I even make sure I get my shopping done, wrapped and shipped on time; and I send out cards. Year after year I face down all the grinches who want to complain about how Yuletide is "too commercial" or "too greedy" for them. I'm sorry they feel that way. To me, there's nothing more satisfying than putting your best foot forward at this time. I'm not really a big spender, and I don't suffer grouchy people easily--but I see nothing wrong with spreading around the joy and warmth, even when I come up against those people who hate this time of year, or think that if they have to listen to one more rendition of "Feliz Navidad" they will scream. It's one month a year--it's not all year. It's a few bucks here or there to let your friends know you do care about them. It's church, receiving cards in the mail from those you forgot about or even businesses that you didn't think remembered you--it's cookies and hot chocolate and a fire int he fireplace, and snow falling outside the windows. It's the marathon showing of A Christmas Story on TBS. It's my yearly ritual of watching and reading A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens--the best story ever told. It's dragging out all those plastic containers of ornaments and pine-scented candles. And it's my yearly anchor to all the past traditions, all the present joys and all the anticipation of waking up on The Day and finding wrapped presents you didn't know you were going to get, and watching the faces light up when they unwrap the ones I got them. I don't see a down-side here. I'm not lonely, I'm not depressed, I'm not grouchy or cranky. I love Yule. And there's a good reason I do.
A long time ago I made a decision. It was a conscious decision--and a firm one--and I've never betrayed it. I decided that the holidays were MINE. Not someone else's--not my family's, not my friends', and not some merchant's. They belonged to me and I could make them anything I wanted them to be. If that meant staying up late to hand-paint 50 pieces of slate with the same little Santa Claus scene, or hand-tying and dressing a hundred yarn dolls, or wrapping 80 one-dollar gifts to give away at my church on Christmas Eve to anyone who attended, then that's what I did. If I wanted to bake 500 cookies, I did. If I wanted to bake SIX cookies I did. If I wanted to make someone a dollhouse, or can some grape jelly, or visit 18 different stores in one day to find the perfect blue headband, I did. It was whatever I wanted--not what other people wanted. It also meant that if I found the family dinner too stressful or argumentative, I didn't go. If I saw no reason to participate in a work gift-exchange and buy a gift for someone I didn't even know, I said "no thanks." If I didn't want to tip the mailman I didn't tip. If I wanted to eat chili and salsa instead of ham and mashed potatoes, I did. I did not force myself to do a single thing I didn't want to do--and that gave me all the time in the world to do exactly what I DID WANT TO DO. It was simple. It was liberating. And I have never looked back.
But mostly what I did was claim my own holidays. It's been a big, important decision in my life I've never regretted. And it's so easy! All you do is keep what you love, and toss what you don't! That meant those glass ornaments I've never liked went into the trash. The cheesy movies that I hate don't get watched. The ugly wrapping paper I used to save because it seemed wasteful to throw out? It got thrown OUT. I bought paper I did like to replace it. This time of year is not for letting other people or other traditions pressure me into doing what I don't want to do. The words "we have to! It's a tradition!" don't mean a thing to me. Tradition is what you make it. Not what someone else tells you it is.
So for the upcoming month ahead--relax. Take some time out and think--am I doing this because i actually like doing it? Or am I doing it out of some misguided idea that I have to? Pick out what you really love and hang on. Toss out what you hate or what makes you feel oppressed. Put your feet up--whether or not they are clad in stinky tube socks, or glittery-buckled Santa slippers--and sip your hot chocolate, or your Budweiser, or your glass of Chambord. Eat a few of those taco chips--or several of those carefully iced cookies. Whether it's 70 and sunny, or 25 and blizzardy, think about what makes you happy and only do that. Don't do anything else. This is not about obligations--it's about JOY. Remember the joy. And keep it in your heart. And this time of year won't have any power to make you sad, depressed or cranky.
Merry Christmas. Blessed Yule. Happy Hannukah. Kwanzaa blessings. Happy Thanksgiving, Happy New Year, Happy Valentine's Day, Happy President's Day, Happy Hallowe'en, Blessed Samhain, Imbolc, Lughnasaidh, Mabon, Litha, Beltain, and happy every other holiday you can celebrate. Keep that joy. It's all that counts.