I uploaded this art video today to YouTube and I was thinking about how this fun little guy comes to life in 2 minutes. How many other things are fun in 2 minutes? Eating a chocolate truffle? Pausing to say hello to a neighbor before continuing on our way? Stopping to look up at the stars or observing a sunrise?
Two minutes is a short time, yet we often need a reminder to invest two minutes into something that makes us happy. Don’t wait for the world to get better, your schedule to get easier, or for life to give you permission. Two minutes goes by fast. If you don’t grab it now, it’s gone.
Challenge: be mindful this weekend of how long two minutes is, and make a willful choice to spend at least two minutes absorbed in a simple joy.
I finally finished my leftover project from before Christmas! Now you see why I was comparing having this painting on my easel in late January to taking down the Christmas tree late. It literally is a Christmas tree that, in canvas form, was sitting on my easel- which is in the kitchen of this small house- and staring at me every day! So, I thought by the time I got this done, I’d no longer care about it and neither would you, but the video is surprisingly cathartic to watch.
As I see the painting come alive in the magical time lapse fashion, it feels like a story. The music was rather random, but fit the emotion of the art perfectly- at least from the perspective I have at the moment. At first the music and the painting starts off as a pretty little thing, without much story to it. But then the music gets kind of odd and chaotic at the same time my video does too! What was happening during that part is that I was trying out my new tripod and my first attempt was a shambles. My head blocked a lot of the session. So, only parts of that session were usable (not a big deal, it wasn’t that important to skip ahead).
But it feels like the parts of Christmas that don’t live up to expectations, don’t go as planned, or maybe are a total disaster and are completely cut from the holiday. This year, we had plans to cook Cornish hens for Christmas dinner, but the refrigerator in the house we’re renting broke- completely dead. We had no refrigeration for weeks, as the process of getting management to send someone out, then having the repair guys say that it’s dead, and then getting approval for a new refrigerator, and then waiting for delivery people to bring it- well, it all takes time.
So for the entire Christmas week and all the way up to New Year’s, we had no place to thaw out the Cornish hens that were in our personally owned chest freezer we bought the LAST time the refrigerator went out (they repaired it that time but I knew it would simply die again later and I didn’t want to lose all our food again when it did!). The investment in the chest freezer was looking pretty wise, I must say! I froze everything I could, even raw eggs in baggies. Our food loss was very minimal.
We did buy a small refrigerator to get through this ordeal, otherwise we’d have had no refrigeration for the holidays (just the freezer). The mini fridge is too small for thawing Cornish hens, so that carefully laid plan for Christmas dinner fell apart. Because of this, I came up with Plan B, which was better than Plan A and will now be a regular thing, a new family tradition. I went with a Christmas morning breakfast that becomes a brunch as the morning turns into afternoon.
I had purchased a warming server to use over Thanksgiving and I realized it would be perfect for using on Christmas. So, here we have an example of how everything fell into place, but only after the frustration and stress of the broken refrigerator, which brought unpleasant emotions forward. I’m weary of living in a small rental house, but our life circumstances will keep us here for at least another Christmas, probably two.
I’ve had much worse cancellations of Christmas. It would take much more than a broken refrigerator to stop me from celebrating. There was the Christmas when Dad was terminally ill from cancer and I was dropped off at another family’s Christmas gathering while my parents were in the hospital for Dad’s chemo treatment.
I was fifteen years old and I remember feeling such awkwardness and humiliation to be the unexpected guest, sitting there while the family was exchanging presents (a large extended family gathering, most didn’t know who I was). The hosts (the only people I knew, friends of my parents) apparently felt compelled to wrap something up for me, and this was worse than if they didn’t. Or maybe not. That would have been horrible too, if sitting there overlooked and ignored. There was really no way to make things better. While strangers smiled at me while their eyes were filled with pity, I fumbled to unwrap whatever it is that they gave me as a token present. I don’t remember what it was.
Dad was hairless then and vomiting during meals. Mom wanted us to pretend we didn’t notice, so I was expected to eat normally even though vomiting noises were only a few feet away, as Dad was hurling into the kitchen sink while we ate. Nerves of steel, that’s what I had. Sometimes it makes me appear cold and detached, but that’s only how I get through a crisis.
We can never guarantee how we’d act in a situation, but in my own family- the one I’ve built as an adult- we are open and honest. I cannot imagine the dysfunction of expecting my children to eat normally while something that traumatic is happening. That’s just a snippet of course of what it was like to grow up while Dad was dying. Mom’s gone now. Otherwise I’d not feel comfortable saying even this much.
So, that’s Christmas for some of us. There are seasons of grief, dysfunction, anxiety, stress, and feeling alone even around others. I am always mindful of this when Christmas rolls around, and I try to help others see the beauty that I do- Christmas is a time marker. We are only asked to “be”. When we do this, we greet Christmas with the hope of the new year to come, regardless of whether or not the current year was good, bad, or in-between.
Back to the video… the music then changes to a calm, sentimental rhythm. And that’s how I feel about Christmas. As it unfolds, whatever stress and expectations we had start to ease up. When it does, we may feel depleted, depressed, tired, or simply relieved. We may feel content. The pace has shifted. The world is no longer running full speed ahead, pushing us to feel something, pushing us to honor our traditions, pushing us to take time off from our regular routine. Everything’s getting back to normal. It will soon be a new year, and an ordinary day.
It may be then that we truly feel Christmas for the first time, when we see it as a pretty picture, cozy and warm with memories of the past- comforted that the past is behind us and the present is here. There is a moment of reflection, and perhaps a recommitment to our faith . We want to be safe, protected, successful, and loved. We want the same for our loved ones. And that’s what we try to express with our Christmas trees and dessert coffees. The desire for Christmas doesn’t go away when Christmas ends.
It may be hard to feel like this today, a joyful prayerful state of praise. But when we don’t feel joy, be thankful anyway. “Be”, as in the verb, the willful, mindful choice “to be”, an action. We may not feel thankful emotionally, but we can choose to BE thankful. We can choose the intentional act of gratitude. Sometimes that’s the best we can do. It may be impossible to feel thankful when we are struggling with hardships, anxiety, worry, grief, anger, or fear.
But if we commit to the action of thankfulness, we may be surprised at how our action affects us. Even when our hearts are weary and our minds are stubbornly clinging to depressing thoughts, picking at all of the worst case scenarios until we’ve convinced ourselves that this world is dark and hopeless, standing in gratitude can lift our spirits despite our emotions and our circumstances. Being blessed with one more day on this planet is a gift that so many others didn’t have today. Why us?
We are here for a reason. We have a destiny to fulfill. We are chosen for this time, we are special, and we are loved by God. When we believe these things, it is easier to feel thankful even if we can’t quite reach “prayerful praise” in the moment. Gratitude for what we do have, for our loved ones, for the life we’ve lived, and for our very breath can outlast any hardship, loss, or fear. And one day, we will stand before the spiritual ocean once again, feel the salty breeze upon our skin, and the sun on our face, and we shall feel joy. Until that day, may we be thankful even when we don’t think we can be.