|Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash|
It's November 1, and you can't go into any store without seeing evidence that as far as marketers are concerned, the Christmas season is here. There might be a little corner devoted to Thanksgiving, but since that holiday has been celebrated by retailers since Labor Day, it's already getting old, even though, by the calendar, it's still nearly four weeks away.
I don't know about you, but the continued pushing forward of every season (bikinis on sale in January, for example) and every holiday kills the anticipation for me. Change is a natural part of life, and it's good to plan and prepare for it, but it's also good to pay attention to what's happening right now, and to find ways to savor what today has to offer.
We tend to focus on the big events and the big accomplishments.
Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, promotions, and trips command our attention. As we finish one big project, we're immediately planning for the next one. If I look at my family's photo albums, I see evidence of all of those special times. But some of my favorite photos and memories are ones I took on "nothing special" days:
- my kids playing with autumn leaves in the back yard
- my dad sitting on a park bench holding my daughter's doll because she's gone to play
- my two kids holding hands as they walk away from me on a trail through the woods near their grandparents' house
No fanfare, just normal events of a normal life. But they bring a smile to my face.
Most of life doesn't happen on the high points.
Think of how much time you will spend planning and shopping for the big Thanksgiving meal, how much care you will take making the table look festive and figuring out where everyone will sit. Think of how many once-a-year dishes you will cook, and how early you'll rise to put the turkey in the oven. Think of how long it will take to clear the table after everyone's eaten, how long to squeeze the leftovers into the refrigerator, how long to wash the dishes and scrub the roasting pan. Now think of the actual time spent eating at the table, especially if everyone is hurrying so they can go watch football. The actual feast is a small part of all of that time and effort, isn't it?
No holiday is special if you can't enjoy the days of planning and preparation, if the tasks are rushed and stressful rather than rewarding, if you don't talk and listen and have fun with your guests while you clean up. If you can't find joy in those rather mundane tasks, you're going to have a hard time manufacturing any kind of holiday spirit.
And if you find no pleasure in your day-to-day chores and projects, you're going to be "just surviving" an awful lot of time. Just plodding through all of that ordinary stuff trying to make it to the next celebration.
That's just sad!
So I challenge you: just for a while, stop thinking about the next birthday party, or your next big trip, and think about today. Think about the jobs you will do today, and be glad you have jobs to do. Enjoy your abilities and your competence as you do them. Find ways to improve your skills if you can. Appreciate the people you will encounter, and as much as it depends on you, make those encounters positive. Savor the beauty you can see and hear and taste and touch and smell. Don't miss any of it while thinking about something else.
Life is in the everyday.
- Life is in how well you listen to your kids talk about their school and friends and interests (or in how you ignore them or complain as you drive them from one activity to the next).
- Life is in how you talk about plans and hopes with your spouse while cooking dinner together (or in how you yell at each other or stay glued to your phones while eating yet another take-out meal).
- Life is in the bike rides you take or the games you play as a family (or in the time you spend in front of the TV or out shopping).
No perfectly decorated home or expensive gift or Disney cruise changes a cruddy everyday life. As Gretchen Rubin, author of Outer Order, Inner Calm, reminds us, "What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while."
Life isn't whatever retailers are currently pushing. Life is in the moments, in daily choices and habits. What are you choosing today?