I find that last line of “The Night Before Christmas” poem to be so comforting — and so appropriate for this time of year.
You know the feeling: when you’re ready to go to bed and you stop to reflect on the day (unless you’re running tomorrow’s to-do list through your head, or you haven’t hit the “off” button on the TV remote).
I have a sign on my nightstand that says, “Today was a good day.” That’s not always the way it feels, so this is a good tool to tweak my awareness of my blessings. And I realize the line in the poem can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.
Good nights differ
A good night for one person may mean their children or grandchildren are safely tucked in. Or things went smoothly at work that day. Or the tension in a relationship has eased, and a health report turned out favorably. For others, it may mean one more day of sobriety from alcohol or drugs, or a warm bed for the night.
And for many others, it’s a “first.” That first holiday without your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, fur baby or close friend. It may feel like nothing will make it a good night.
And you’re right. Because your feelings are valid. No amount of reassurances by others can change that. And it’s more difficult this time of year because, after all, “‘tis the season to be jolly.”
While I’m all for positive thinking, I also realize the value and necessity in genuinely feeling our feelings. You need to give yourself permission to do just that (whatever it means for you). Maybe it’s seeking the comfort of loved ones. Or having more alone time. And then there’s the request I’ve received to “just hold me while I cry.”
I’m finding myself seeking more “heart space” moments — those internal and external experiences that give meaning to life. And I’m reminded of that quote that serves as an effective email signoff: “It’s not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.”
Of course, I realize we can’t stay in a state of perpetual awe. We’d never get anything done! And it’s the contrasts in our lives that weave the rich tapestry. I’m just reflecting that it would be nice to have these heart space moments a little more often.
You probably have them more than you think — when your dog or cat greets you with unconditional love. Or when you get an unexpected smile — or you are permitted by a fellow motorist to switch lanes.
The point is you may not consider these little things as blessings. It’s the little things that make up our lives, though — especially the quality of our lives. Don’t get me wrong: the peak experiences are great, and I’ll gladly accept those tickets to the Oscars if anyone has a couple of extra ones! It just doesn’t take a steady stream of those peak experiences to equal contentment.
Tidings of comfort and joy
Which reminds me of another theme — the variations on happiness, contentment and joy. Each has its own special sauce. The distinction may come down to duration. To me, joy is more of an episode, while happiness and, particularly, contentment signify ongoing states of well being. (Cue the sound effect of a happy sigh).
I have a sign in my kitchen that says, “Count the really good blessings twice.” And when I stop to count them, there are lots of really good blessings. It’s all about awareness, though — taking the time to stop and focus.
Whatever situation you find yourself in during the holidays, stop to think for a moment or two about those blessings in your life. If it’s one of those “firsts,” it may be hard to find them (understandably so).
Peace on Earth
If you’re enduring another extended family get-together that could be described as “Norman Rockwell Not,” this too shall pass. And your attitude toward it has everything to do with how you feel. After all, we pick our battles. Just stop and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
I made up a little rhyme to serve as a reminder for us: “Peace on Earth is a lofty goal ... but inner peace is within my control.”