For many of us the holidays hold such wonderful memories, such great expectations and a lot of responsibilities. We have cookies to bake, cards to write, envelops to address, presents to buy or make, gifts to wrap, decorations to put up, parties to go to … much of which is joyful and some of which is stressful. Even this time of year, when we are filled with such warm, generous and hopeful feelings, the season can be tempered with feelings of loneliness, regret, and sadness. Recently I received an invitation to a party that said “your presence is present enough.” It struck me as such a wonderful phrase, and one that had so much meaning during the holiday season. With our long lists of things to do, it is so important to remind ourselves, when we can, to be present with ourselves and with our family and friends. At the start of the holiday season, I had a wonderful reminder of “the gift of being present,” and I wanted to share it with you.
It was the Sunday night of the long Thanksgiving weekend. My family and I had returned home the day before from visiting family. Getting the kids to bed had been a struggle, and I still had bags to unpack and laundry and dishes to do. My husband and I were bickering about what picture to use for our holiday card and, at the same time, I accidently deleted the card that we had been trying to design online. It was late, and I was tired and cranky. In addition, the television was on, and I was being sucked into the plot twist of a political thriller. Talk about NOT being present! So as my cranky, exhausted and distracted self retrieved our “deleted” holiday card and then completed the order, I mistakenly entered in the wrong security code for my credit card. My “virtual shopping cart” went suddenly empty.
After I painstakingly retrieved everything for the second time, I quickly pressed “Send Order” with a triumphant sigh of relief. A screen automatically popped up on my computer that said, “Before your order is processed, please make a dedication for the tree that will be planted with this order.” At this point, my behavior was verging on hostile. In a huff (and that’s a generous way of putting it), I tossed my computer to my husband and said, “You do it. I can’t deal anymore.”
My husband calmly put the computer back on my lap and said, “No, I think this is something you should do. You could dedicate it to your Dad.” Something happened in that moment. My husband’s calm voice, the thought of my Dad, or the memories of our family Christmases together got the better of me. It wasn’t some big moment, in fact it could have easily passed me by, and I would have most certainly continued on with my frustration. But I didn’t. I was shaken from my cranky and distracted self and brought smack down into the present moment. My attention and focus became razor sharp, and I wrote two simple sentences in dedication to my Dad – nothing big or fancy, just real and honest.
I had liked the idea that this holiday card company planted a tree with every order. And yet it wasn’t significant or real to me until that moment when my husband encouraged me to write and express a very personal and meaningful message. In that moment, I was given a chance to remember my Dad … miss him, grieve him and celebrate him. For a moment, I was present with his memory, and I was in his presence. That moment came as a surprise to me since it was the last thing I expected to stumble on in the state of mind I was in. And the surprise didn’t end there; the dedication to my Dad was automatically linked to my Facebook page, and the next morning a few warm and kind comments about my Dad were awaiting me. Again, I was gifted a few more wonderful moments of reflection.
Why did I want to share this story? The story is nothing grand or extraordinary. But it is an example of how a single moment in our lives could have two very different outcomes. In that brief moment I was presented with an opportunity to find some connection with myself, with my Dad and with my life. I could have missed the chance all together and continued on to my next busy moment. But something allowed me to take in that moment, and I unexpectedly had a moving and meaningful experience.
I firmly believe these gifts exist every day, where a situation, a problem, a question, a predicament, a frustration may be an opportunity to find some meaning and connection in our lives. Of course, we are not always able to see these opportunities; it is real life and we live real lives and we just don’t have the luxury to be present to all the moments that come upon us. But my hope this holiday season is that we all can have one, or perhaps a few, moments where we are snapped out of the fast pace and rush of the season and that we find a little gift in that moment – a connection with ourselves or with another person or a surprise, meaningful experience.
For me, my gift was spending time once again in the presence of my Dad – in his warmth, his kindness and his love. And in writing this entry, I got to spend even a little more time with him. What a lovely gift!
(This post was originally posted to The Mind-Body Blog in December 2012)
The Mommy Tune-up is a blog solely devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!