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In this busy, busy holiday season, with worship services and family gatherings, traditions and shopping, and–well, EVERYTHING, I have been rethinking the season. I posted before about how to stay sane by using organizational tips.
Today, I was to think about how to pause and let go and enjoy the moment. Here are Ten Ways to Slow Down and enjoy the moment. Enjoy this time right now!
1. Turn your phone off and close your email, Facebook and Twitter (and Pinterest and whatever else you may have open on your browser). If you have a CD player or other device, turn off your computer or at least go to Pandora and put on “Classical Christmas” or Hanukkah or just piano music. For fifteen minutes, listen to music. Light a candle. Close your eyes. Savor the wonder of the season in music, silence from the rest of the world.
2. Let go of what you can’t control. You can’t solve the conflict in Israel and Palestine, you can’t change the addict in your family, you can’t change how others rush to shop and spend, you can’t change how politicians act towards the “fiscal cliff.” Let it go. What you can change is your attitude, your reactions. You can think about the things you have done, and if you want to seek reconciliation and forgiveness, but you can’t change how others act. Offer the things you cannot change up to God in prayer, and pray for peace in your heart, and how your witness of love might be an example to others. But that’s about it. The rest, you need to let go of.
3. This is actually part 2 of 2, but let go of being perfect. You can’t be perfect. You don’t have the perfect holiday. You may not get all of your shopping and wrapping done that you planned. Let it go. I know some people who send out New Years or even Valentine’s Day cards instead of Christmas cards. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, you just have to skip a year, too. I’ve done that in the past. You can’t be all things to all people, so let go of the tasks that seem to be stopping you in your tracks, that are blocking you from enjoying the season.
4. Give up negativity. It is easy to get negative about the season and the commercialization. While consumerism has become a dominate theme, we often spend a lot of negative energy rallying against it. Instead, maybe you can shift to reflecting on the positives of the season: time with family, singing, traditions that remind us of the spirit of the season. Give up not only the negatives of the season, but the looking down upon the practices you disapprove of. Instead, cling to the joy and peace and wonder of the season.
5. Take one day to eat a long lunch (or breakfast). Go to a small cafe or coffee shop or bakery. Order comfort food, and eat it slowly. Bring a book you have been longing to read, or some poetry. Take at least an hour or more. You can even schedule it as a “lunch meeting,” a lunch meeting with yourself. I find that when I do this now and then, I am much more relaxed, easy going, and less irritated when something disrupts the rest of the day or the week.
6. Go for a walk. I live in Seattle, so whenever there is a break in the rain, I take advantage of it. I’m a jogger, but walking is good, too. Get in some light physical activity in which you also have time to reflect and think. As a minister, this is where my best reflective time before writing a sermon comes into play. It’s also a time when I can focus on something that may have been in the back of my mind. But yesterday, as I jogged in the dusky late afternoon, I gazed at all the Christmas lights in the neighborhoods, the beauty (and sometimes hilarity) of the season that comes by being in contact with our neighbors.
7. Smile at strangers. People may find this awkward, but don’t worry about other’s reactions. You will find that by smiling at strangers, you are engaging in the peace and joy of the season, rather than worrying about going from one place to the next. Enjoy the moment as you walk the streets.
8. Pay attention at stoplights. Don’t forget you are in a car and need to obey traffic laws, but last week when I was in downtown Seattle after having done a hospital visitation and then running an errand, at a stoplight I looked out my window and had a beautiful view of the Space Needle. Quickly I took a picture with my cell phone, and it reminded me that there is beauty all around us, even when we are in the car going from one place to another.
9. “Forever is composed of nows.” ~Emily Dickinson. Remember that these moments to take time out are important for your life. You may not remember how busy you were six months for now when you are planning next year’s holiday season, or how rushed you feel, but you might remember walking slowly to look at Christmas lights, the book you got to read over a long lunch, the relationships you forged by smiling and saying hello and getting to know someone else. Savor the moments of time out.
10. Go easy on yourself. If you find one day you are completely rushing, try to take it a little easier the next. If you find you are rushed right up through Christmas Eve, be sure to take the week after Christmas off (honestly, in the churches I have served and been a part of, except for extreme emergencies nothing usually happens that week. It’s ok to take a break!) But forgive yourself when you snap, when you get angry, when you get frustrated–this is all normal, and it happens all the year–it just is intensified by the busyness of this time of year. But remember you are a human being, created by God–offer yourself forgiveness and love.