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We all know that Christmas is a special time of year. Family, friends, wining, dining, and gifts. Yeah, it’s special, no doubt. There’s the flip side to consider, as well. Stress and all that mumbo jumbo….so-busy-bad-weather-unexpected-expenses-hard-to-buy-for-too-much-to-drink-to-eat-to-wrap….yadda. Yadda. Blah blah.

Bah.

My advice? Start watching the chaos and find humour. Just give yourself a little extra time and sit back and watch the insanity ensue. You can’t change the crazies that come out of the wood work and emerge in droves at your local shopping venues. Instead of getting annoyed at the person who takes eight minutes and a nine-point turn in order to back into a parking spot, give these people a break. Everyone shops this time of year (with exception of those overly down-to-earth types who have found the true meaning and all that..or the really crafty types that are so prevalent here on the west coast). So it falls to reason that unskilled shoppers come out at this time of year. This makes it that much more adventurous for the rest of us!

Actually, I think I’ve over simplified these characters. They aren’t unskilled at shopping – they are more-or-less unskilled at basic social interactions and sometimes even logic in general.

Watch the person in front of you try to explain a specific book to the lady at the cash register – while not knowing the title, the author, or even the genre of book they’re in such dire need of. Take note as she get more animated and frustrated, starting to lash out …. “nobody in this bloody store knows anything about literature!” She storms off feeling vindicated knowing she is better-read than anyone else in the shop and also that it’s run by illiterate morons. Now instead of letting their negativity rub off on you and your retail experience, just take a moment – realize you’re just very lucky not to be that person. Smile at the cashier. A knowing glance can do wonders. Now you can feel vindicated in your own right – and the camaraderie of like-minded, socially-adjusted people is exactly what this season is about.

Love thy neighbour… and your local customer service associate.

In all seriousness, I’ve really had to embrace being back in the real world for this time of year. My battle is not with the general public, but with my memories. I thought I had it all figured out – I got a job at the ski resort in order to fully wrap myself up in winter. Being up on the heavily snow-covered hill, surrounded by people who love being outside – it’s the perfect way to get through the long dark winter. Yes…all figured out – I knew this sort of job would ensure I worked through Christmas and I could slog through this very emotional holiday by working hard and feeling exhausted enough to sleep through the night. I could avoid Christmas… again! What luck.

Luck comes in oh, so many forms. I truly believe that each one of us is lucky, it’s just a matter of perspective.

So I guess I was one of the lucky ones – my schedule gave me both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. As I was about to volunteer to take my coworkers’ shifts, I held my tongue and thought about the opportunity at hand. This could be exactly what I need. I’ve stated before: some of the best outcomes have been from situations that are difficult and way, way, way easier to avoid. It dawned on me that I need to face the holidays; the traditions, the ups and downs that come hand in hand with this time of year.

It’s been pretty sweet so far, and even with a few tears there is some sense of accomplishment.

I can’t even begin to count the ways in which I’ve been lucky. Life happens, sh*t happens, some of it’s heavy and bad and life-altering, but we do our best to pick ourselves up, and when we do – whether it’s luck, or determination or sheer grit, we, hopefully, can look around and begin to see the love surrounding us.

My love and thanks to everyone who has been part of my life these last few years. I have met so many special people. I have travelled with each and everyone of you whether it’s through airports and foreign countries, written word, or shared memories.

We’ve arrived here …right now. It’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Keep each other laughing. Share music. Hug to stay warm.

Merry Christmas.

If I felt the early stages of freedom yesterday, today I just feel exhausted. I am realizing I can’t keep up this pace forever. My intent was to stay as busy as possible before I go, but I’m feeling the effects of very little sleep and an extraordinarily long list of things to get done.

I have loaded my plate to the point of brimming.

Take a left at Mitchel's Farm in Saanich and you come across this beautiful view

There are things that HAVE to be done: empty the house by Saturday, clean, pack, so on, so forth, blah blah blah. But the things that are keeping me really busy are the things I WANT to get done. Visiting and reconnecting with friends, taking pictures of everyone and everything, getting outside to appreciate the local beauty (who doesn’t start to take our surroundings for granted?), reading, writing, ‘rithmatic (ha, kidding), getting excited about where I’ll be headed in –wow- just eight days! – these are the ‘to dos’ that take me away from the former, more redundant activities. Who can blame me, hey?

The tough thing about getting over-tired is that my coping skills decline exponentially with every few hours of missed sleep. The emptiness creeps in…it’s like a vapor – a fine mist just enveloping me very subtly. It wraps around my back and moves through my chest, up the back of my neck. It’s not crushing, just a little stifling. It makes things harder.

Luckily, so far, I haven’t had these ‘vapor-bouts’ all that often, or for very long at once. Just an hour or two and then I get distracted enough to keep going. Actually, I think maybe I get bogged down by the big stuff I have to get done, and then I remember that I have a lot of fun stuff to get done too. This helps!

To pull a quote from an email I recently wrote to a friend: “One thing that seems to be getting me through the tough times is knowing that there is this huge web of inter-connected people; people that care for me…in SOME way.  Saying this, at times I also feel alone – even when I’m surrounded by close friends and family.  It’s very surreal and indescribable…?

Now that I read this back, I think I also find solace in knowing how much that inter-connected web of people not only care for me, they also care for each other. There are so many beautiful relationships out there, so complicated and simple and different. This is family. We are all family.

Theme songs for the day:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton, from the album Concert for George (*note: It’s live, and the best version of the song, by far)

Fresh Feeling – The Eels, from the album Souljacker

Phantom Limb – The Shins, from the album Wincing the Night Away

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

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