Is anyone else as happy Christmas is over as they were for it to begin? I hope so, then I won't feel so alone! Do not take this as me complaining. I had nothing but JOY crammed into a few short days. But man am I exhausted!
In summary, my Christmas holiday looked a little like this: Salvation Army bell ringing, Christmas Eve church, cherry moscow mules, games, food, laughter, more games, more food, more laughter - with some gifts sprinkled in here and there.
On Friday, Joel and I kicked off the holiday weekend by bell ringing for the Salvation Army. This is the third year we've participated and we have such a great time. It was very rewarding to ring bells just before Christmas. The Red Kettle Campaign goal hadn't been met yet, but due to Christmas being right around the corner, people were in a very generous mood. We hope that our efforts helped get them a little bit closer to their goal so they can continue "doing the most good."
On Saturday, the Christmas festivities began.
As you know, I'm not huge on material things, but I did get two items that I really, really love. Both from my mom. I've been researching the Amazon Echo for awhile, she read my mind. The necklace is beyond perfect. Eleanor is one of my ultimate heroes. What a great reminder to wear around my neck, especially when I need some extra encouragement.
Overall, the number of gifts we received was low, which was so appreciated. The gifts we did receive were practical, thoughtful and appreciated. My parents stocked us up on enough household items, paper products and personal care items to last us through 2017 (we look forward to this every year). Joel's dad and stepmom gifted all of us a two night family vacation to Hickory Hills in the summer. Joel's mom chose some special items she knew we'd love and hold onto. Other family members spoiled us with items for our new home and lots of yummy looking sauces and spices to add some excitement to our cooking routine.
We had such great time. But like I mentioned earlier, we are both a bit tired from all of the fesivities. I shared some of my favorite moments from the weekend below. I hope you all had an equally wonderful holiday, are feeling surrounded by love and inspired for the new year!
I took the day off from work before my 32nd birthday (which fell on a Saturday this year). I normally take my birthday (and sometimes the day before or after) off every year. For a number of reasons. To celebrate how far I've come and who I've become, to reflect, to be kind to myself. Savoring at least one day of self love among 364 other days where I'm normally focused on everything and everyone outside around me.
On my pre-birthday day off, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was very normal - coffee shop, errands, tasks, bad for my brain TV - but I was so happy, each moment felt special.
I utilized the driving time in between errands to ponder what I wanted to see from myself in the next year. A reoccurring theme that I have thought about off and on over the past few years came prominantly to the forefront of my mind. Leaving space. In particular, this:
Just because you have the space, doesn't mean you have to fill it. It's ok to leave some spaces empty.
Leaving Physical Spaces Empty
Joel and I have been working really hard to "declutter" our lives. Getting rid of stuff we don't use or need. Emptying spaces stacked with "things." Unused things, old things, pointless things. We live in such a buy, buy, buy society where wants are mistaken for needs. We gift things to others as an expression of love, gratitude, apology. We see others' things and think we need to keep up. We outgrow physical spaces, not because they're to small for us to survive and thrive in as people, but because we fill all of the available spaces with so many things, we trick ourselves into thinking we need something bigger. So we can fill more spaces with more things.
If you can't tell, I'm over things. If I don't truly need it, I don't want it. If the thing does not serve a necessary functional purpose, I don't want it. And when I do want for something that seems like unnessary "fluff" - I'll try to make it myself out of things I already have.
I'm aiming to disconnect myself even more from the things that surround me and empty out, versus fill up, the physical spaces that Joel and I inhabit. The things I have don't make me better, kinder, happier, or more fulfilled. They actually make me feel overwhelmed.
My focus will be less on acquiring things and more on having experiences.
Mantra: It's OK to leave physical spaces empty. Less clutter, less maintenance, more freedom.
Leaving Personal Spaces Empty
I also think about the personal, mental and emotional, spaces we aim to keep filled at all times. We never want to feel "empty." So we develop habits, find love, buy things (leading to the issues noted above), change jobs, turn to religion, mend broken bridges...or burn them.
When we have empty personal space, we get anxious and try to fix the emptiness (sadness, loneliness, grief). When we have overfilled personal space, we get anxious and try to fix the overflow (stress, anger, anxiety).
What if we maintained a mix between the two? Or at least changed the way we look at "emptiness?" Looking instead at the empty spaces within ourselves as a place for emotions to go when we are on track to feeling overwhelmed instead of reacting as if something is wrong. Or maybe looking at empty spaces as a place to go in order to reflect? An internal zen zone? A space to listen to our intuition? I think the echoes in our perceived empty spaces could tell us some really powerful stuff.
I also think about the thoughts and experiences we hold onto that we could empty out. Our love of cluttering our lives with things is equal to our love of cluttering our minds with thoughts that don't serve us. The thoughts that are taking up space without our permission. I have a lot of those. I feel like they're locked in a corner of my brain and expose themselves at the worst possible times. I'm ready to let those thoughts go to free up space for internal dialogue and content that serves me in a positive way.
My focus will be embracing the personal spaces I choose to leave empty, and clearing out some spaces that are full of mental garbage.
Mantra: It's OK to leave personal spaces empty. Less clutter, less maintenance, more freedom.