This is a sweet, simple piece that might resonate this time of year; it’s another old draft, this one from December 20, 2015.
When I was younger, I routinely sent out cards, letters, and other thoughtful representations of my affection. I enjoyed it very much. I still do, but now it’s a rare luxury from beneath the reality of raising children and learning to prioritize the time that’s left over.
Though every day holds the same potential, the end of the year is prime time for sending little acts of love all about. Each year, I sit down and complete as many as I can between holiday festivities. A handful of extra love gets flung out to friends and family, and it’s never able to reach everyone I’d like it to.
When my daughter was seven, she asked me if she could do our Christmas cards. I kept my oppressive parenting skills out of her space, and she had a great time. Again, a handful of love was carefully spent.
Aside from the year end holidays, I nod to birthdays. I have not sent out birthday sentiments for many, many years. Here’s what I have done, though–I’ve picked up my date book from time to time and smiled, looking down at the pages in my hands and feeling the warmth of all the people I’ve loved. Then, I close the book and step back onto the conveyor belt of human life.
I’ve wished for more time and more of myself to manage these simple activities, which feels somewhat childish. Some people I know have moved past this ritual, believing it an unnecessary holdover from archaic social norms, and that’s ok too.
I’ve blamed Facebook and other social media tools for shunting away time that, for many of us, equates in some way to a good enough alternative to connection. Mostly, I’ve just watched my relationship with media and time and priorities, and now I’m in my forties.
I’ve stepped away from Facebook, and now there is a little more time. Precious.
Adding to those reclaimed minutes, my children are growing up. Their steps toward independence have left me occasional pockets of extra minutes each day.
Before I unconsciously allow the inevitable flow of chaos to fill these moments, I’m enforcing a hard pause. First, some respite. Then, there are years of clutter to resolve…the remnants of my small family’s grueling sprint through early childhood. Our heavy lifting years are coming to a close. It’s time to make some space before the next haul.
Right now, there are a million reasons I am lousy at maintaining connection. We all have similar constraints. How many times have you uttered the words, I hope to see you more in the new year, or Let’s get lunch soon, only to have time lapse without following through?
That distant look we both get, as we stand on the grass simultaneously imagining when that might be able to happen, before parting ways a bit overwhelmed…familiar? Me too.
The simple truth is that we all make these promises from a place of right intention. We desire these connections, and we are all sprinting through too-full lives.
In the moment before overwhelm drives us to a disconnected default, we must get our calendars out and commit right away. And when the calendar is too tight, we must be prepared to love one another even in that absence. Without regret.
I am learning too, that I must understand when a loved one cannot commit and especially when that loved one is me. We are all working against too much, to shape the experience of community that we want. Last year, I missed one of my dearest rock star friend’s weddings in the wake of my father’s death.
I could feel the promise of joy and festivity on the other side of something opaque, that I couldn’t find my way through. Sometimes it is like that, and while we can’t get those moments back, we can look to the horizon for the next blessed adventure. And we can focus on our healing and hope that heavy opaque curtain has lifted by then.
Before I go, one more invitation; when it comes to the everyday kindling of community, we have to work to dismantle our pride and the judgments we carry against ourselves most. It seems that connection and pride are mutually exclusive.
Speaking directly, we must overcome the ideology that a home must be readied for guests and start to celebrate our fragile connections in the spaces we inhabit, as they are. We must afford ourselves grace, as well as our friends, and we must model this bravely for our children now, while they are forming their earliest ideas about companionship.
This year has been heavy with grief and the medical manifestations of a life lived fearlessly, albeit a little carelessly. It’s also been a solid year of growth and defining moments. The house is good enough to hold some laughter, no matter its condition, and that’s my only thought going into 2019.