Type your e-mail address here for daily updates in your inbox

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ovations/Different Drummer

It's Sunday - thinking to write this today - all the things that piled up last week undone beg to be worked on tomorrow so best if I can hit the ground running in the AM. And today I'm still digging out from Thanksgiving. That last hour before people came found us zipping around the house, tucking things here and there (piles of magazines under the couch, everything without a home dumped into my beautiful office). An illusion of neatness!  Didn't write on Friday because I was experiencing some ambivalence about the holiday and I didn't want to come off as whiny or complaining. And the truth is, it was an amazing event, went off with nary a hitch.  And yet.....there is stuff to process.

This morning had tea with Mark (downstairs tenant) and he helped me sort through the conflicting feelings. Later talked further with Elizabeth and I've now reached a decision to do something entirely different next year. 'Twas a good exercise to crystallize my thoughts - distill all the noise down to what's really relevant  Mark asked, "What do you get out of throwing a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving?" Thought for a long time - didn't answer right away - just waited for the truth to bubble up. "Three things," I finally answered. "I love an enormous challenge - probably would have enjoyed the job of moving an army from one theater to another - all the challenges and logistics. I enjoy creating a tableau in my head - or an outcome - and then bringing it to life - executing with precision. It's the same with preserving - I envision having hundreds of jars of strawberry preserves to put up for the winter/give as gifts,etc. and then I go about the grueling task of making that happen.  So that's #1 - the epic challenge - pushing myself physically to the limit of endurance. Bringing a possibility to life. Next, is applause - hostessing is a kind of performance art - done well and roses are strewn in your path. I perform then take a bow - I love the ovations! Finally, I truly get pleasure from giving other people pleasure. Creating a venue where people are connecting, laughing, appreciating each other, sharing intimately - creating a space for that to happen gives me great satisfaction.

BUT!!! The downside of being epic is huge! The distraction of putting everything else (important stuff) on hold while conceiving and creating the event. The enormous expense involved with large scale entertaining - the meal was over $500. The toll it takes on the ecosystem that's in place - so much gets discombobulated (healthy protocols are put on the shelf, the house is upheaved, relationships can be stirred up). And exhaustion - bone tired weariness  - Thursday evening found me nursing a very unhappy and inflamed knee. Finally - the mess - I am still cleaning up, washing and ironing linens, putting platters on too-high shelves, restoring order. I'm reminding myself over and over again - "You chose this!"

Decision made with Elizabeth's help. No more MS Thanksgivings until at least a time in the future when our nuclear family is larger to include spouses and grandchildren and, even then, I'm hoping to be a secondary player in making the feast - soon it will be time to pass the baton on to one of the girls and let them host at their house. Until that time, we will find a small exquisite restaurant to feast at.  I will have cooked a few "leftovers" for them to divvy up after the meal out - a small turkey and they each get to request their favorite dish (a pie for Elizabeth, green bean casserole for Madeleine and stuffing for Catherine is my guess). Feeling like this is the end of an era - Sarah's epic Thanksgivings come to a close - maybe I'll even put the pumpkin tureen on Ebay!  I've decided life is too short to get stuck in traditions just for the sake of tradition. And what was once new and exciting over time becomes wearying and less gratifying. Definitely time for a change.

I had to utilize my zoom out lens. Told Mark I believe too often we act in an involuntary way - out of tradition, habit, expectation, path of least resistance, etc. Example is the whole cell phone thing - allowing others to command and control us - slaves to beep beeps - Pavlovian. Sometimes, it's like we're in a field of poppies -  aware that others are pulling our strings but heavy-limbed and unable to rouse ourselves and say, "This is NOT my path! I hear a different drummer!"  Cut the puppeteers strings.

This year, Landmark has me questioning everything.  For me, and lots of others I suspect, Christmas is an unstable time of year - tiny childhood feelings that percolate to the surface, anxiousness about meeting other peoples' needs and expectations, self-indulgence and loss of control - a mindset that this time of year we're allowed to overdo and cast our good intentions to the wind, sights and sounds that overstimulate us, nostalgia and wistfulness - longing for things and people who elude us. Some of us dance and laugh and drink way to much in an effort to distract ourselves from pain. These things - all these things - I think they seduce and delight us while at the same time knock the wind from our sails.  January 1st arrives with predictability and with it, too often, regret and a wish that it had all been more authentic and meaningful. 

And so, the challenge this holiday season - if any of the above resonates with you - is to sit quietly and create a new possibility. You can absolutely wipe the slate clean and start fresh. You don't have to do ANY of it! AND you can make brand new traditions that more closely align with your heart's desires. What would that look like? You decide! I'm getting out my calendar and creating my own advent of things to do each day in December that supports my desire for health and intimacy. I will make time for everyone important and honor them in a modest and meaningful way.  This holiday will not be about food except for a traditional Christmas brunch - no fruitcakes or thousands of cookies. My goal is that, on January 1st, I will feel healthy, have a warm glow from meaningful time spent with loved ones, and feel on top of my infrastructure.

I'll leave you with this. If December is a dread month for you, you're not alone. As wonderful as it can be - and it is - the goodwill that's palpable, the beautiful sights and sounds, the creaturely foods, the time spent with family - it also can slip into a time of scary excess and make you feel like you're losing your way. It's almost December 1st - how about using this next week to get out a paper and pencil and create a personal Christmas mission statement?!



  1. Holiday Hosting in the Future: I may have told you this before. I know a family of five children where the parents had no relatives, so had all the holidays at their home while the kids grew up. However, as each child married, he/she chose the holiday to peel away from the elders and have at their own house. Fast forward many years and four of the offspring are married (with children)--the elders still host Christmas Eve, four married siblings host Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, Easter and July 4th. There is one who is unmarried, but works for a champagne company, so brings all the bubbly to every holiday! It that one were to marry, what Holiday would be left--Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, Columbus Day?

  2. Loved this Carol! It's a happy evolution indeed and a good problem to have - trying to fit more celebrating into the year! I loved it when Kaveh said he and is wife latch onto any reason to celebrate - she is Jewish, he an atheist with a Sunni mother and they live in a Christian country with Christian traditions. Their solution - they celebrate it all and then some - any excuse, he says, to live in the present and enjoy what's there to be enjoyed.

  3. Idea for next year's Thanksgiving--put your amazing organizational and turkey day cooking to wider use, but offering to command Thanksgiving at a family homeless shelter or a soup kitchen or a recent immigrant center. Invite all of your past guests to come help. I think it would be fun, and meaningful, not to mention, such a great meal. And, singing!