Baking, Beauty, Breathe

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Blessed Kwanza – happiness during this season of celebrations for every one!  Last year at this time, I was busy packing and getting ready to close on a new condo.  Sparse Christmas decorations were up but with a busy schedule at work and putting final touches on the sale of old/purchase of new condo, I was not in full celebratory mood.  No cards were sent, only a few cookies were baked – but my boys were there, presents were shared, eggnog enjoyed.  A simple Christmas…

This year as a retiree, shades of Christmas’ past as a stay at home Mom resurfaced!  I still felt an awful anxiety as I prepared for this year’s holiday and I couldn’t explain it.  It didn’t make sense since I had tons of time.  But there it was, in the pit of my stomach, so I decided to just dive into the holiday and hope that a Christmas calm would settle in.

First up, baking.  For the first time in years, I had the freedom to bake like a crazy woman.   I am gluten free so the goal was to find my favorites but in gluten free format. I found Peanut Butter Blossoms, oatmeal, chocolate crackle and even Spritz.   I have baked almost every day which has been exhausting and amazing!  I have stacked containers filled with all the baked goodies!  In between I shopped for presents, (even making a couple), mailed Christmas cards and sent out of town presents.  I’ve watched all the Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies and decorated the house.  Had to downsize the tree which led to donating quite a bit to Goodwill but friends also benefitted by the change – loved spreading my lovelies with people I care about.  Even hung lights outside and made a Christmas wreath for my door!  But the Christmas calm?   Still missing.

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I have tried to experience as much beauty as I can.  I am home with the freedom to come and go, not stuck in an office. My tree is on all the time – I love the lights.  We’ve had snow and since I don’t have to drive in it, I have tried to see the beauty in the fluffy white stuff.  Unfortunately, I still worry about everyone else who must be out in it but with the help of Facebook I can make sure they are all safe.  My outside lights sparkle covered in snow – lots of pictures!   My electric fireplace is on every evening…my stockings are actually hung on the fireplace!!!!  I’ve walked the malls taking in the decorations and the Christmas music even when anxiously looking for last minute presents.  Food shopping finds me singing out loud all the fun Christmas songs being played – a few odd looks, but lots of smiles!  There is such beauty in a smile!  I realized that in the hustle bustle of “real” life, it so easy to not SEE or HEAR anything.  Now I stop to look at clouds, the moon and stars, people’s faces, trying to be aware of life as it explodes around me.  I listen to all the music, the laughs, the tears, the loud noises of life and the silence.    But still no calm – where is the calm?

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Finally I have realized that I have forgotten how to breathe.  I tell my friends to breathe all the time when life gets to be a bit much for them.  We forget to breathe when we exercise, but do you realize we also forget to breathe when we are scared or angry, in tears or anxious, even when joyful?  We hold our breath, our pulse races, our blood pressure may even go up.  All of those emotions are honest and felt deeply, but afterwards we are exhausted, spent and certainly not calm.  I have been so excited about Christmas as a retiree that I have forgotten how to breathe.  Deep breaths in and huge sighs out.  It’s ok for me to hustle around decorating, baking, wrapping, mailing but when do I stop to breathe?  No wonder there is this anxious, overwhelming feeling filling my inner being.  In between all of these wonderful experiences, I forgot to breathe.  Even now as I type, I am holding my breath.  Seriously, I have to consciously sit back and take a breath.  Excuse me while I do that right now…..ahhhhhhh….that feels so good.DSCN0793

One of my favorite new Christmas songs is Where Are You Christmas from The Grinch – “my world is changing, it’s rearranging”.   My world has changed and it’s a good change, a glorious change that should be embraced with that extra breath thrown in for good measure.

Perhaps an additional B word needs to be added – blessed.  I am truly blessed, I just forget sometimes.  I have a home, an income, food, 2 beautiful sons, 2 cats that make me laugh.  There are friends, true friends, who love me as much as I love them.  It’s easy to let life take me for a spin that leaves me feeling lonely, depressed, anxious.  With a deep, cleansing breath, I experience then release those emotions.  I have found the calm, the Christmas calm.  May you be blessed with the Christmas calm also – enjoy the holidays and don’t forget to breathe!

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