I can’t speak for all of you, but I suspect many of you are feeling the need for a cruise, a day at Disneyland or just some happy talk. I can’t take us all on a cruise, I would love a trip to Disneyland with a new body, but happy talk, I can manage. There is always a bit of a letdown feeling after the holidays. I’m not sure why that is the case; perhaps it is fatigue, the wretched weather this year, or some personal, disappointing experience. We often expect far too much joy, stuff and happiness than others can provide. We may have to find our own.
Like children, many of us adults build the whole experience of being with others up in our minds, work too hard to clean and decorate or simply bake our little culinary hearts out. Half of what we create goes into the freezer after we’ve all stuffed ourselves with “snoball” cookies shedding powdered sugar, Mom’s special Christmas cake, enough chocolate or peanut butter fudge to bring on a diabetic coma.
I love all of the special preparations and try to, each year, make something special for someone. For the last few years I’ve been helping my two youngest and local grandchildren make something special for their parent/ or parents. This year the three of us spent hours making a large picture collage of their Mom, my daughter, before she married their father. We tried to include our family, her pets, her friends and all the homes she lived in growing up and as a young single working gal. When she picked up the children a couple of days before Christmas, I whispered to them, “Shall we put her single name on it?” They whispered back, “Yes, but if you don’t have enough letters, just put Little Beth.”
We had spent all day cutting to fit pics in the frame, pasting and choosing; the hardest part of all. When we ran out of time, I was the designated elf to place her name on the glass at the top of the frame with some pre-cut sticky, colorful letters. I said a little Christmas prayer, hoping I would have enough letters. Her first name, middle name and last all came together except for one missing “A”. The only “I” I had was in bright yellow and stood out a bit lonely. All the other letters blended in primary colors and it looked so dear but there was a missing “A”. I confess I whispered a selfish little prayer to find a capital A. Looking through the craft drawer I kept uttering, “Please Lord…after all, it’s Christmas.” I could see no letters, loose or on the plastic sheets. I kept rummaging, uttering, hoping when I saw a letter turned over at the bottom of the drawer. It was a yellow “A.” It fit in perfectly and that little answer to a Christmas prayer brought me so much joy filled thanksgiving. When I told a dear friend about it the next day, she said, “But you were expecting to find it.”
She was right; I was looking, seeking and expecting to find that “A.” It reminded me of that old cheer, “Gimme an A.” I was given my “A,” and it was yellow. It looked lovely. As I said a word of thanks, loudly to the ether knowing it would be heard, I was reminded how important it is to be expectant.
Many folks make New Year’s resolutions, but I haven’t nor do I think I ever will. When one lives with chronic illness, the wisest lesson we learn is to live this life we have been given, one day at a time. We’ve learned living yesterday over and over again is fruitless and wasteful. Living for tomorrow and the future may be wise if you’re putting money in the bank but for just plain living, it’s too far away. Today is really all we are truly given or promised. We need to make today count.
I know, you and I have stories to tell about how we got into this health fix but it is done. We live with the consequences of disease or injury today. We may have big plans for tomorrow but it isn’t here yet, so how can we live it? That pretty much leaves us with today. I know many of you are struggling with intense and extreme weather problems this year. Others of you are awash with worry and heartache over your own or someone else’s physical problems. Life is never certain. Funny, isn’t it how the simple word “surprise” can have so many connotations? We can give and attend surprise parties, be surprised by joy and be surprised in an instant by accident or catastrophe.
To be truthful with you, and I always try to be, I love change. I am not always overjoyed with the painful surprises as they drop into my lap, but they do bring change. Without change we become terribly stagnant, static, self-centered and yes, boring. I don’t even like static in clothing or that zap you get from the carpet and also believe those who settle into routines are often some of the most boring folks around.
I realize many of you are saying, “Boy, she should have my life…nothing is ever the same from one day to another.” However, I also know many of you have the sincere desire to break out, go out or shout out. Perhaps, it would be more accurate to say you want up…as in attitude needing to go up in positivity, throw up, toss your hands up or just give up.
I am having a “stay in day” today because I did too much yesterday while out in the pouring rain. Hauling in cold groceries (leaving the heaviest things for Jim), grabbing a few sale items at a shop that is closing and a trip by the video store; that’s it and today, I’m here, and I’m up and down. A whole day spent upright or even sitting would do me in. A full day of lying down makes me feel unproductive, sad and useless; therefore I color each day with a dash of rest and a handful of “that.” That today is continuing to take batteries out of a talking, walking Santa, remove them from imitation greenery swags with bright red bows and wreaths. I have learned too often the folly of leaving batteries stashed into items to corrode from year to year. It’s very damp in most Northwestern basements and ours is no exception. I have discovered paper clips rust here in our beautiful state. Take the green and beauty and you also accept the rust, slime, mildew and lichen moss hanging from trees.
I made a decision after Christmas to leave up our nine-foot fake but beautiful Christmas tree. That decision saved me a lot of work but also brought me an abundance of joy and also brought much pleasure to my two young grandchildren. I decided to decorate a Valentine tree. I removed all the ornaments that were too seasonal for the Christmas holidays, such as Santa, elves and reindeer. I left all things red upon the tree such as red ribbons, red and pink ornaments, any lace and picked up some cute wooden valentines all set to hang. I added more sparking ribbon strands looped around the tree because I love garland. I added more red berries on strings which are in reality colored strands of beads. I needed to replace the angel on the top of the tree and looked around the house for the perfect Valentine angel. On their last trip to Disneyland my family brought home an adorable Minnie Mouse potholder (muff style) that stands alone. I always thought she was too cute to get soiled so she sat on my kitchen cupboard. Now, since she sits perfectly atop the tree, she appears to be smiling more brightly than ever with her red dress flowing around her. I don’t believe Mickey ever made an honest woman of her so maybe she’s just enjoying a bit of rustling beneath her skirts. Who knows?
The grandchildren were delighted with the tree, especially Ms. Mouse. Thanks to Minnie and me, they have been able to brighten up a wet, cold and very soggy Oregon winter. Darkness descends so early these days and light is needed everywhere. I already have large Valentine lights from previous years to hang in windows in both directions since we live on a corner and I hope they bring not only brightness but joy to all who drive by.
Don’t forget to include happy talk in your day, in spite of whatever is happening in your life and remember, be expectant.