I had a gentle reminder last night that it is important to celebrate the little things in life. Sitting here in my fourth decade of life, I think of things like birthdays as something that come and go. Do I make a big deal out of my kids’ birthdays? Yes, of course. Would I consider doing the same for my own? Absolutely not.
Last night, we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday. It was not a hallmark birthday, just a birthday. He invited a few of his closest friends and families, and we went bowling. The kids had a blast, and so did the adults! Afterwards, we went back to his place for cake and wine, and played couple games.
Why do we (or perhaps just I) not consider celebrating our own birthdays? Yes, there are many of them once we get to this stage of our lives, but why not celebrate them with youthful vigour? It certainly is one way to beat winter depression, and it created some fun and lasting memories along the way.
Here we are on Christmas Eve.
In all the bustle of the season, have you forgotten about your own self care? Did you spend more time in the social world than you felt comfortable with, and spent your sleeping hours reeling from the experience, unable to rest? Have you spent hour after hour with cooking, cleaning, shopping and wrapping, giving up the time you needed to be your best self?
Self care is vital for your own mental and physical wellbeing. Yes, the holidays can be overwhelmingly busy, but you still have the power to say no. Say no to the social engagements that do not serve you well. Say no to the purchasing of gifts for people you may only see once or twice a year. Give gifts of experiences that extend beyond the physical gift on that one day of the year. Buy your holiday baking. Seek out a restaurant that you can purchase the holiday meal from, or have guests all bring a dish along and spread the load and the enjoyment.
Take time for you. Go see a movie that you want to see by yourself. Grab a book and sit in a quaint coffeeshop with a tea or a latte and enjoy the alone time while you read or watch people as they go about their own day. Take a bath, paint your nails, meditate or pray. Do whatever feels right for you to recharge your own soul.
Christmas is one day of the year. There are 364 other days that really are all the same, if we as a society hadn’t created such a demand for this particular calendar date.
Take good care of yourself.
This weekend, my youngest son and I went out for a while, just the two of us. There is a local centre that has a few boutiques that was having a family fun day. We decided to go and check it out. We wandered around and looked at the fun garden pieces they had for sale, and looked at the delicious organic candies and cookies. I offered to buy him a cookie so we could sit and enjoy the moment, but he opted not to. He asked instead if we could go and find a present that he could gift to his brother for Christmas. We decided to go to Indigo, but before shopping for his brother, we opted to sit and have a drink at Starbucks. He loves the vanilla bean Frappuccino, so I ordered him one of those, and I bought one of their specialty holiday hot drinks for myself. We sat and talked about the holidays and the excitement. We watched people as they came and went. He sipped from his straw as his feet dangled and swung while he sat in his chair. I watched my youngest son as he showed pure happiness by just having some one on one time with me, his mother.
Families often do things together, but it is so important to give children one on one time with their parent too. My older son gets his one on one time as we share our common passion of photography, but there was something magical about this time with the younger one. He is still so full of holiday excitement, seeing the magic of the season. I love the shimmer in his eyes as he talks about our traditions. And the most wonderful part is that none of it involves receiving gifts. It is all the other stuff: the holiday treats, the music, the friends that we gather with, and the special dinner that we decide collectively on having.
This was one of those moments where my heart swells with pride and love. My son is growing up with love and compassion in his heart. As he grows, he is thinking of others more and more. He is becoming more like his older brother every day. They both make me very proud.
There is a certain sense of accomplishment that comes along with having a clean home. I find there is pleasure not only in the final product, but also in the process. I wouldn’t say I love to clean, but I do love when it is clean; but to get to that point, the action has to be taken.
I devote certain days to cleaning. I do a seasonal deep cleaning, so like spring cleaning four times a year. I love the freshness of this routine. It helps me get to the areas that I may have forgotten or overlooked during my routine cleaning. It is also that sense of accomplishment that rewards me every time I do it. It also helps me to flush out the unwanted clutter that somehow always seems to make its way back into my spaces.
Yesterday was one of those seasonal deep cleaning days. It was the three of us working away at it. Ok, it was mostly me, and my older son was a great help, but the younger one did minimal work because he has been down with a hefty cold and lacking on energy. Still, that feeling when you sit down, sore back and dried out hands from soapy water washes…that feeling is so rewarding. Good, old fashioned manual labor. It still has a place in our technologically driven world.
With a minimalist-style lifestyle, the seasonal cleaning sessions, as well as the weekly and daily I might add, they have become easier and shorter sessions. They no longer take a week, or a weekend. They take an afternoon, give or take. Another reason why I adore this philosophy. Now there is more time to do what I want, and I was able to sleep well last night knowing that the chore of house cleaning was completed.
What does it mean to live a meaningful life? Does it mean success in respect to financial gain? Success in a career? A happy family?
Perhaps the definition is different for everyone. We are all driven by different desires and needs. Some feel the need to have a prominent career and work long hours. This may give a sense of fulfillment to that individual, and if it does, that is great. None of us are made the same.
Growing up, we are conditioned from an early age to think about what we want to be when we grow up. How you will make your living is supposed to be the biggest part of being an adult, and we tend to get lost in this concept. We are defined by our jobs. By our titles. When we meet new people, that is inevitably one question that comes up early in the conversation…so, what do you do…and of course we rattle off what we do to make ends meet.
But we are so much more than that. We are not just our jobs. What is it that you will reflect back on and see that your life had meaning? Will you look back and say wow, I made a lot of money and be happy with that? Or will you say wow, I made a lot of money, but I never had time with my loved ones or to do the things I had always wanted to do?
Millenials coming into the workforce have the idea that their time off is equally as important as the time they spend at work. They appear to value their personal time more than GenXers do. At least here in North America…Europeans have had a different philosophy for many years, one to be admired I believe.
A meaningful life to me means that I have left this world better than I found it. That I have touched the lives and hearts of others in even a small way. I find that I can do that in my career, but I also spend my personal time to do more of that. I enjoy my family time and give myself to my children with all my heart. I enjoy my time with my friends, and do what I can to make their happiness a priority too; because when they are happy, so am I. I volunteer. I have my own groups that I belong to that bring me joy as well.
I don’t want to feel that I have spent all my time at work without putting in at least equal the effort to make the rest of my life matter as well. How do you make your life meaningful? Is there something special that you do? Please comment if you would like to share.
Vacations are wonderful. You plan and prepare for the trip, decide which sights you want to see and when. You plan every day to be a full as possible so you can fit everything in to your limited time, because if you don’t, you won’t have a chance to do all the things you wanted to do.
But during that vacation away, did you think to take a day to just relax? Maybe sleep in a little, or spend a lazy day exploring the forests or the beaches?
These vacation days create a lot of memories too. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe they create more memories than running from the art gallery to the science centre then to the zoo…you get the idea.
We did all of the planning. I had every day scheduled with where to go and what to see. In the end, what my children wanted to do won out. We peeled away one activity for another. We didn’t do all the things we had planned. We spent way more time sitting on the beach watching sunsets and looking for crabs instead of going to the sights that we had on the schedule. We took a morning and strolled through a forest and created a fairy home at the base of a giant redwood tree.
We created memories.
Yes, we did a lot of the scheduled stuff and hit the highlights. But in retrospect, the highlights really were about exploring nature that was new to them. About seeing the glimmer in their eyes as they discovered something they had never seen before. It was about their pure excitement and joy the first time they dipped their toes in the salty ocean water.
These are the things that will create the memories that they will remember for a lifetime.
I value quality time with those I love. Spending time together is worth more than any store bought gift, in my opinion.
This weekend was one of those weekends where we didn’t have anything pressing to do. Being a long weekend on top of it, we decided rather last minute to take a trip to the zoo. Since it is a three hour drive each way, we made sure to get up nice and early. We packed up the cameras, water bottles and music for the drive and away we went. We always stop for coffee and breakfast before leaving town. It’s just what we do. The kids eat while I drive, and I have my caffeine fix. Sometimes they fall asleep on the drive, sometimes we all sing along to whatever song is playing. Sometimes they read. It’s always enjoyable no matter what.
I’ve come to crave these little day trips. The adventure of getting away, of taking a trip unplanned. Just drop everything and go. Sometimes these are solo trips if the kids are not home that week, but I love the ones where they come along the most. It’s good quality time well spent. On top of that, my eldest had a chance to continue developing his photography skills in a different setting. He’s getting very good at it, and I am very proud of him. But there’s something to be said for getting away from home for just a little while. A change of scenery. A little excitement. Spending time outdoors, and believe me, we were out there walking around and enjoying the sun and the setting for a good five hours at least. These are the little things that they will remember as they grow into adults. These are the things I will remember as they grow up and move on to live their own lives. I will know that they will have those happy memories to draw upon. They will have that influence for how they might like to live their lives, and should they have children, to do what they enjoyed as kids for their own.
Quality time. I read somewhere that you have 18 summers with your children before they are grown. This is what I’m doing with my 18.