A challenging search for the spirit of this festive season…

This Christmas Eve…began with a series of unexpected events that threatened my vision and hopes for a calm, peaceful day with family that I hoped would be touched by joyful spirits, some quiet reflection, and opportunity for fellowship.

Deep in sleep early this morning, I vaguely heard pounding on our front door. Did you hear that, I said to my husband…receiving no answer from him. Then the pounding was even louder and I could hear my cat begin to growl. Grabbing my robe, looking out the window to discover flashing yellow lights, I raced down the stairs and opened the door only to discover no one there.

But…there was a blue sign hanging from our mailbox – one which I have seen far too many times this year.

Water works – Repair service – the dreaded blue information pamphlet dropped off to let you know that your water would be shut off for the day while the city repaired another water main break.

I run back up the stairs to wake my husband and get him to help me fill containers, when the pounding on the front door began again. Rushing back down the stairs to open the door, I came face to face with a city employee who told me that the water main would be repaired today and there would be no water service for the day starting in about 30 minutes. Oh and could you please move our vehicle off the street.

Oh and by the way, have a Merry Christmas!

More rushing around to have an incredibly quick shower, fill containers with water, move the vehicle off the street, and avoid stepping on the cat who by this point was very hungry and wanted someone to pay attention to that. Now.

So with shower finished, containers filled, cat fed, vehicle moved to another street we thought we were done. I turned on a tap just to check but our water was still on? Large trucks hauling what was needed to dig up the street and the other trucks with equipment began leaving our street. The barricade to close the street had been removed. What was going on?

Frustrated with the frantic rushing and preparations for a day without water, we decided to leave and go out to have breakfast. Breakfast complete, starting to feel more relaxed, we stopped at our bank. Parked and then watched in amazement as a parking ticket person was walking along the street ticketing cars. Seemed a bit spiteful on this particular day.

Finished our tasks at the bank, and headed off to a big box store to clarify delivery of an item that was not to be shipped to our home until after the new year but we had just been notified it was on it’s way. After standing in line for customer service and then being treated in a spectacularly rude and dismissive fashion with the issue still unresolved, we decided to head for home. Enough.

I decided that a walk in our neighbourhood park was in order, and set out along the path close to our home. Along the way, I tried to push aside the strong feelings of frustration that had emerged unexpectedly from the events of the morning. About half way along, I thought I should pick up the pace and see if that might help to dissipate what was becoming a negative mood.

After walking at a much faster pace, I came upon the small valley that our community uses for tobogganing. I could hear children laughing, screaming with glee as they flew down the small hills. Parents were chatting, enjoying the mild December morning, and the mood here was definitely upbeat and positive. Certainly more so than the one in my head. I decided to stand off to the side of the hills and watch the fun for awhile.

After a short period of time, a small child, dressed in purple snow pants, a parka with splashy colourful flowers on it, and a bright purple tongue walked right up and stood beside me. This tiny child, a girl, looking up at me, smiled, the kind of smile that made her eyes sparkle, and simply said, Merry Christmas. And walked away to join her family.

I realized in that moment that I had finally found the spirit of this festive season that had been out of my reach for most of this day. In a much better frame of mind, I finished my walk and returned home.

I hope that the spirit of this season touches you and those you care about.

Merry Christmas!

The Magic of the Mundane

“mundane, adj. – 1. ordinary, everyday, humdrum 2. of this world, not of heaven.”

Canadian Collins Gage Dictionary

During this festive season we may find ourselves frantically searching for the perfect gift or attending yet another social event. We may be anxiously planning and preparing for our family and friends to sit down and celebrate by having a spectacular holiday meal. It can be a welcome relief to step back out of the fray.

Driven by the forces of crass consumerism, managing our expectations for this festive season becomes truly challenging. Finding parking spots and braving crowds of Christmas shoppers, can induce panic and overwhelm. Being able to remember what you learned in a mindfulness course and actually apply those skills can be beyond our capabilities in the moment.

Taking the time to appreciate what we already do have and the routines that we engage in on a daily basis can be like applying a healing salve to our souls. True reflection on what we often miss by being too busy, too overwhelmed, or too anxious, can take a back seat to what happens in our daily lives.

Take a moment to reflect on the last 24 hours, what did you see, what did you hear, what did you feel, and what were you able to connect with?

Did you notice the rich aroma when your coffee was brewing? Savour and enjoy that first delicious sip?

Catch a glimpse of purple and pink streaks lining the sky at sunrise through frost covered glass?

Hear the neighbourhood children playfully teasing each other while walking to catch the school bus?

Watching the dish soap bubbles pop and move while doing the dishes?

Being amazed by your cat’s ability to contort into yoga poses while preparing to settle into an easy chair and go to sleep?

Finding a new wrinkle on your loved one’s face, reminding you of how long and deep your love for them truly is?

All of these things which may happen in our moment to moment lives, are easily taken for granted. They are just the ordinary aspects of life, the background noise, what always happens, and we often consider them to be just mundane. With the pressure and emphasis to create and manage many expectations during this festive season, we might just miss the magic of the mundane which fills our daily lives.

Let’s take the time in our busy lives to step back and appreciate the magic of the mundane.

Best wishes for a Happy Holiday season!!

Writing exercise for reinvention

As I end this year, I continue my reflection on my progress along this reinvention journey that I have been travelling on. My writing practice, which I typically find energizes both mind and spirit, has slowed and deepened. I find that I have been generating lists. Reflecting on them. Writing more lists. Lists and more lists.

Lists of things I tried and did not work out.

Lists of things I tried and did work out.

Lists of things I tried and did work out and now I no longer want to do.

Lists of things that I haven’t tried but want to.

Lists of things I haven’t tried but am afraid to.

Lists of things I don’t know how to even get started at.

So…I listened to a podcast featuring a woman named Meryl Cook who is a journal writer, artist, and creativity consultant. She described an ongoing exercise she does as part of her reinvention process that she called writing your What If’s. The exercise is to dream wildly and write What If you actually did that thing you have been thinking and dreaming of. What If you had the money, the time, the freedom to actually do that thing?

Use a What If exercise if you need to reframe things that are not going well in your life. What If you could actually do what you need skills and knowledge for but don’t yet have? What If you could actually do what you really want to but fear or busyness or something else gets in the way.

What If by writing down these wild dreams my reinvention journey is strengthened? What if some of the dreams I write down actually come true? My list writing to evaluate how my year has gone has now been replaced by What If exercises. What If the What If writing for reinvention exercise is actually helpful? I look forward to the upcoming year and using this What If writing exercise.

Time for Reflection on Writing, Blogging, and Life

December has traditionally been a busy month, filled with long to do lists, and expectations that we have of ourselves as well as of others. This all gets layered onto our lives in addition to all of the regular routines and responsibilities that we have. Sometimes it is all too easy to focus on the stresses of the upcoming festive season without taking the much needed opportunity to step back and reflect on the past year.

Typically, that comes in January for many of us.

This year I intend to use this last month of the year for mindful review, and as an opportunity to get grounded by reflecting on my writing practice, this blogging adventure, and assessing my reinvention efforts over this past year.

Reflective writing can provide an opportunity to reframe and re-write the times during this past year that were challenging or stressful. It is powerful to realize that we can re-create our narrative and move forward without having to stay stuck in a negative story. This can help us counter-act rumination, worries, and negative thoughts that may cause us to spiral out of emotional control.

Blogging about this has elevated my own personal agency and accountability as a writer. I am realizing how important the habits of writing, story telling, and blogging have become in my life. The energy and excitement I feel when I read the blogs of other writers has served a purpose in my life that I didn’t expect. Writing, and connecting with other story tellers, reminds me that our shared human experience, although at times seems similar, is often different and therefore illuminating.

We can stay stuck in stories of stress or we can move forward to embrace stories of gratitude and resilience. Reflection through the act of writing allows us to witness both our own lives as well as to have glimpses into the lives of others which elevates our potential for positive growth and transformation.

During the times that I have been thinking about this post, I have realized that contemplative time through writing and blogging should become a positive habit and not an occasional luxury. Becoming mindful of the stressors that build within us during this time of the year allows us to slow down, touch the positives in life when events seem overwhelming and unmanageable.

The process of writing and blogging seems to have informed me about the choices that I am making in life and by taking time for reflection, I have this amazing opportunity to get grounded and ready for all that may come in the new year. Stepping back, I also realize that reflection through writing is a skill that requires practice and effort.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

Carl Jung

How do you use writing as a reflective practice? What other strategies have you used or learned about to remain grounded during this busy time of the year? Please share your thoughts about this, I would appreciate hearing them.