Sunday was Christmas. We gave gifts. We received gifts.
This is the week after Christmas: we return gifts.
We exchange. We’ll take store credit. We politely and graciously tell you that what you bought us is the wrong size or exactly like something we already own or possibly hideous. It’s OK. No harm done. Everyone wants you to have something you like, even if it means you spend your Aunt Mary’s hard-earned money on three pairs of thong underwear at the Gap, rather than the nice argyle ankle socks she bought for you.
Fine. Return the classic argyle in favor of tarty underwear that doesn’t even cover your bum.
But, there are some holiday gifts we shouldn’t return, lessons of the season that could endure beyond the lifespan of a Christmas tree if we nurtured them a little. They’re not gifts of monetary value, as much as life lessons of emotional currency, and the best part is they take up less space, year-round, than a pair of socks.
Schedule cheer. Even without the religious underpinnings, it’s nice to have time built in to the calendar that’s reserved for acting merry and bright. Everyone finds cheer in his/her own way. One gal’s ugly sweater party is another guy’s bowl of egg nog. For instance, I found great joy in attending the holiday fete of an om athlete friend this season and wearing her race medals all night. It’s a shame they don’t get out more I reasoned. Some guests thought this was entertaining and offered to time me if I could race to the dessert table and fetch them some biscotti. Others thought I was an idiot. Alas, we all need our sources of spirit—long after the holiday season is over. Put a few cheery dates in your calendar now, to avoid any future deficits of joy.
Don’t be afraid to sparkle. If you can’t wear sequins during the holidays, when can you? Dangly earrings? Yes, please! Sparkly statement necklaces? The blingy-er, the better. It’s the season to shine; any fashion magazine headline will tell you. However, all the sequins in the world doesn’t hold a Hanukah candle to the type of sparkle someone has when they’re living up to their potential. Dress yourself in that after the holidays. Quit shrinking to make others feel more comfortable. Stop being snarky and apathetic because it sounded cool in a blog you read three years ago. Be your best self, and you will glow (like this section of Comm. Ave., my favorite running street in Boston).
Make personal traditions. My friend, Abigail, is an inspiring English teacher in Brookline, MA. Scratch that. She’s an inspiring person. Period. She’s one of those women who stop at nothing to improve her corner of the universe in ways that don’t occur to mere mortals. And she’s extraordinary at celebrating people and events, down to the smallest detail. For example, as a personal tradition, she wears these amazing, emerald green, printed pants from the 70s every year at Christmas. The students in her school look forward to them, as do I. (I also secretly want to steal them because I have a thing for 70s fashion). It sounds small, this tiny tradition of one woman’s holiday wardrobe, but it shows character, creativity, and consistency. Rituals small and large, give us something to which we can look forward. Choose your own. Share them with others. Put a little extra into the ordinary all year.
Gaze at trees. When we spend more time admiring nature, we’re less stressed. Think about how pleasant and relaxing the smell of one Christmas tree is. Now, multiply that by a walk in the woods. Now, plan a walk in the woods . . . Soon. (Below, Om Mama opted for a simple acorn motif for our tree this year).
Lose the scale; just fit down a chimney. Being health conscious, you might expect me to recommend that Santa lose weight, but I like him round and jolly. Plus, his approach to staying svelte (relatively speaking) suits him. His goal? Fit down a chimney. Rather than getting wrapped up in the whirlwind of impending weight loss gimmicks in the New Year, take a cue from Claus, and find your chimney. Maybe it’s a pair of jeans or little black dress, but gauge your wellness success by how you feel rather than getting too focused on a certain number on the scale. This is one crucial way of maintaining long-term weight loss.
Sing. I am a terrible singer. Wretched. Painful to the ears. So, I try to keep my choral pursuits to a minimum. However, if I’m alone in a car, I have no qualms about pretending I’m Adele. Why? Because singing is fun! Even if you’re awful. The holidays honor this idea, hence all the caroling. Singing more after the holidays will be a gift to the inner Adele in each of us. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Celebrate humble beginnings. Jesus was born in a manger. No room at the inn. We all know the tale. To some it’s a quaint story; to others it’s the bedrock of their faith. Either way, you have to love any epic with humble beginnings. You have to run a mile before a marathon, write a page before publishing a novel, and stop smoking a single cigarette before quitting all cigarettes. Businesses start in basements. Cocktail napkins can contain the blueprints of which dreams are made. Embrace humble beginnings. They become our greatest gifts, and even the most successful people among us would never exchange their modest starts for something bigger.