I took Baby Jesus from his manger, wrapped him up in a plastic grocery bag and kissed him before putting him to bed in the plastic tub for most of 2019. He will live in the cold spot underneath our slate roof with the flying squirrels for the next eleven months. I expect to pull him out again next year along with the tubs of Christmas decorations that have been handed down from my mother after she died over thirty years ago.
My dad had an artist hand paint and fire this Nativity Scene for my mom as a present many years ago. I had this weird passing thought that my daughter will be doing these same things years from now, after I have passed- unwrapping the nativity scene and special decorations like the hand painted, ceramic Christmas tree with the colored lights that my sister made for her decades ago and thinking of me, that she misses me. Creepy. Morbid. I’m not planning on dying any time soon but who does.
This past month alone, I saw multiple friends of mine pass on, or their loved ones, including the 25-year old vibrant, young daughter of a friend who experienced a sudden brain aneurysm. Who knows. When friends pass like this I am reminded to try to live with the intent that this could be my last days, my last car ride, the last time I see my kids or husband, that all we have is now, for it is startling true. But we live as if we have unlimited time.
I do not relish the idea of dismantling Christmas. I so enjoy my log home being transformed into a fairyland of lights during the holiday season. As soon as I return from being out, I flick on the tree lights, the icicle lights dripping down over the upstairs balcony, the candles in the window, and every other holiday light around the house. The season is over so quickly, why not maximize the joy while the season is upon us.
Maximize the joy. I have been feeling lately that my life does not contain enough joy, at least in comparison to how much it held these last decades. What is different and missing are my kids, which is a natural life occurrence- your children must move on with their own lives. Of course, you want them to, but we parents who loved our children’s constant company have to go through an adjustment period as we learn to navigate life without their daily joy.
My husband sits in his red upholstered chair after dinner and dishes, and looks at photos of carvings and through photo books of actual animals and birds, doing research for his chainsaw carvings. Before long, his head bows and the book droops and he’s fast asleep. You can’t blame him, working outdoors in all types of weather on his sculptures is fatiguing. The warmth and sudden lack of motion puts him right to sleep. But it makes for a boring night life. I quietly whine, “are we ready to get out a card table and lay out 1,000-piece puzzles for evening entertainment?”
And then there’s the radio ,which we tend to turn on whenever we are in the kitchen- NPR’s news is enough to do the opposite of creating more joy, but illustrate more reasons to feel hopeless, distressed, angry, and sad over our what is happening in our country and the world. I much prefer listening to a rousing Irish jig or some badass hip hop dance tune.
When the kids were home, I worked daily to create experiences, build in variety, learn, have moments. It could be just packing up a dinner stew and taking it down to the banks of the Little Schuylkill River for a riverside picnic. Just a brief step outside of our daily lives, a change of scenery, as I created more variety, more joy. Or, having an impromptu dance party on the kitchen’s tile floor after sitting and working too long. Simple, easy, free experiences but ones that still had to be initiated. Nowadays, I watch my kids, Sierra and Eben, grab each other and dance around our house when they are visiting: salsa, swing, slow dance. They beam as they look at one another and dance.
Dancing is an easy, no brainer source of joy. Since we went to Cuba and had a dance lesson there as well as with our son-in-law prior to going, salsa dancing is something that I feel I can access fairly easy to create more joy in our lives. Dancing keeps you young as you navigate steps, it certainly connects you to your partner like few other activities, and it creates joy. There are salsa dance clubs within an hour away. For Christmas, Todd received salsa music CD’s as well as a DVD on Salsa Dancing for Beginners. We need to utilize them in the coming winter sedentary months. Crow-barring Todd out of his red chair will be challenging and I’ll have to turn a deaf ear to his bitching that he just wants to sit down after working all day, but I must ignore him.
I am determined to make more of an effort to create more joy in our lives. I already help others with my non-profit, have a massive group of loving friends, get outdoors everyday to exercise, so…. How about forming a new club: MOJO- short for “More Joy.” I long to do the things we did with our kids or as kids: sledding, ice skating, roller skating, skinny dipping on hot summer nights, inner tubing down the river, moonlight walks, evening paddles, saunas, cookouts over the campfire. Why do kids get to do all of these fun things and we have to stop as adults? I never wanted to stop and now feel as if it was forced upon me and I miss them. That’s probably my problem now- premature adulthood. I much prefer kid activities. So why not bring back the activities that brought us the most joy.
An Adult Club- “MOJO”- More Joy, with monthly outings. Random dates, a multitude of activities depending on the season, the weather, the moon phases. I announce the experience and whoever can join in, joins in. Covered dishes ensures there is always good food involved.
The end of Christmas does not have to be a sad time for the New Year comes right afterwards along with the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, turn the page, start anew, make changes, create more joy. I KNOW I am in charge of creating any type of life I desire, it is within my power. I must fight the tendency to just accept mediocrity and allow the despairs of the world to consume my mind, pushing out any remaining space for joy.
Why even bother to create more joy as a mature adult? It takes a lot of energy to create experiences and the red upholstered chair is tempting. Joy truly does invigorate and recharge us to continue doing our important work in the world- making the world a better, more beautiful place. You can’t continue to produce if the well runs dry. Joyful experiences replenish the coffers. So bring it on. More Joy is not a frivolous state to strive for, it is a New Year necessary.
Posted in: Uncategorized