Friday, December 25, 2015
A Christmas Photo Finish
It's Christmas day. While some children may be saying, "Finally," I'm just glad I got to the finish line before the clock ticked past the midnight mark. I can remember wrapping those last few packages way after that time, some years.
There's something about a lifestyle so full that we can't squeeze anything else into our schedule—not even Christmas. Never mind that we get plenty of advance notice—we can, after all, plan on next Christmas falling on December 25, 2016—there never seems to be enough time to finish up all those details.
Perhaps it's a time-morphing conspiracy. I always think I'm going to get way more done in a day than actually turns out to be true. I am certain it is the fault of some mad scientist in control of a vast time machine—but I'm afraid to pull back the curtain and face up to just who that conjurer really is.
I have a friend who has lately been bemoaning how her busy-ness has precluded engaging in the stuff she likes to do. "I need some me time," she complained. The solution? She scheduled one day a week to serve that very thing.
"But you're retired," I wanted to point out. "You can do anything you want all the time."
We take our work-week frenzy home with us, on vacation with us, even into retirement. While we may blame it on the boss, peer pressure, expectations from "them," or any host of others, perhaps we've just swallowed a lifestyle whole, and haven't realized it. We do it to ourselves.
Since I am into family history—who all the people were that made me into who I am, what they were like, and how they received the life story that made them who they are—I sometimes wonder how much of life's frenzy had actually been inherited. Is it in our DNA? Is it a gift of an unmet second great grandfather that I have musical inclinations? Who gave me my singing voice? Does that then mean that my ancestors obsessed with study of law and politics have shackled me with the same interests?
Who's the one who made me constantly rush to meet all those deadlines? That's what I want to know!
While wrapping those last minute packages yesterday—including one I bought last June and forgot about until, thankfully, last night—I got to wondering whether it might be my ancestors whom I have to thank for the "just so" holiday compulsions I've inherited. Who was it who had to have every edge of the wrapping paper folded back before finishing off the job with double-sticky tape? I'm fairly certain I can blame my Depression-era ancestors for that "recycling" urge to re-use boxes year after year—meaning, of course, having to put up with storing them away until the next Big Event. I might as well be saving rubber bands. I am a child of my mother. But who did she get this from?
At about that time every year, I yearn for a better way—a less thing-focused Christmas. A time free of frenzy. A moment to spend with family now, instead of being driven by the ghosts of Christmases past—and the relatives who commandeered them.
I hope, by the time you read this, you have had time to settle down from all the frantic rush to get ready. I hope you have found a contemplative moment to share with the ones who make life meaningful for you. And I hope, if you are like me, you find the inspiration to face up to what irks you about the-way-things-always-were, thank your ancestors for their well-meaning genetic input, and meld the best of the past with the tools of the future for a less frenzied approach to life.
Above: Print from 1888 painting by German artist Ludwig Blume-Siebert, "Ein Herzensgeschenk" ("A Heart Gift"); courtesty Wikipedia; in the public domain.