This week marks a change for many. For some, it’s watching the money in their bank accounts steadily decline as they race to buy the perfect presents for family members and friends. For others, it’s the change in season as marked by the Winter Solstice. I, too, can feel a change coming on – an internal transition as well as an external recalculation.
Part of this change can be chalked up to life transitions. For the past decade, I’ve been in a caregiving role, providing assistance to aging parents. My mother passed away in 2007, leaving an indelible hole in my life. My elderly father is now in the process of slowing down in the most elemental of ways. As his time in this world ebbs, I find myself trying to identify the next direction for my life.
This situation makes this holiday season at times bittersweet, yet still more meaningful than many Yuletides past. I’m not immune to the commercial pressure to “Buy, Buy, Buy!” However, I find myself increasingly questioning whether the latest gadget, bauble or novelty item will really bring me – and my loved ones — long-term happiness. Instead, I think of my parents – both members of the Greatest Generation – who accumulated a tsunami of material possessions. In thinking about the storage locker that was filled with the detritus of my parents’ lives – Dad’s executive desk that nobody now wants, 70-plus tubs of fabric that my mother was going to make “someday” and other odds and ends that seemed important at one time – I am starting to rethink each and every purchase that I make.
I also find that I appreciate the holiday season’s little things so much more than the fancy presents. My list thus far this year includes my second-grade neighbor’s gift of cookies that she baked with her aunt, a holiday dance performed by a group of youngsters that included dancers with Down syndrome, and the effusive hug I got from my teenage friend, Q (who was one of those dancers). I find that I’m especially thankful for loyalty, whether it’s the surprise of a Christmas card from friends and family members, the regular visits made by my uncle to my father, or my brother’s determination to be present with Dad during the holiday season.
These less-material gifts have caused me to continue to reassess. Recalling my parents’ flotsam, I find that I want – and need – to shed many unnecessary possessions and reorganize my home. At a deeper level, I also feel the need to shed some psychological and emotional layers. I want to reevaluate my beliefs, values and thoughts to see if they’re still valid for this next phase of my journey. I’m also trying to explore new ideas, new people and new opportunities – following what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the spark of curiosity.
My hunch is that you may be on a similar journey. Let’s resolve in this new season and the upcoming New Year that we’ll find ways to be the most authentic version of ourselves as possible. I look forward to learning from you and growing alongside you.