It’s a chaotic morning. I’m at my “desk,” aka the kitchen table, trying to write, but family members, both the human and furry variety, constantly stream in and out. Andrew’s in a rush to get to work, which causes a sudden flurry of activity because cars need to be moved so he can get out of the driveway. The Shark Ninja that Tim ordered on Black Friday arrived and is zooming around the house, much to the chagrin of the dogs. The girls want to put googly eyes on Bruce (get it? from Finding Nemo?), which I support, but I have to stop what I’m doing—again—to go dig them out of the craft supplies. I’m starting to feel Grinchy because Christmas is coming and I have Things To Do and these distractions aren’t helping. All may be bright, but calm is evading me.
As I was writing about peace the other day, I wondered, briefly, what the difference is between peace and calm. I didn’t have an answer, so I just kept writing about peace. Today, though, I’m thinking maybe the difference is that peace is more of a state of mind. A general sense of “God’s in His heaven—All’s right with the world,” as Robert Browning wrote. And perhaps calm is more of an active verb. We calm a baby, calm our nerves, calm down.
If peace focuses on filling our lives with what’s important and meaningful to us, then I wonder if calm comes from doing the opposite and asking, “What can I get rid of?” Clutter, definitely. But we can also simplify by saying “no” to things that don’t really matter. In the midst of my chaotic morning, I removed three fairly significant work-related things from my to-do list because I decided they just weren’t worth the stress. I felt calmer right away. We can also get rid of expectations, or at least lower them. So when, for example, your toddler refuses to take off her pink snow pants for the family Christmas photo you’re taking at the new baby’s baptism because everyone’s dressed up and relatively clean, you accept it’s important to her to keep them on and, anyway, these moments end up being the best and sometimes funniest memories later on.
The biggest thing I’ve learned, though, when it comes to creating calmer Christmases, is to ask everyone what they really want. Including myself. Baking is at the top of my list, but I don’t have to go crazy and bake every single family recipe that’s been passed down. I can just bake a few of our favorites. Same with decorating. I don’t have to hang every single ornament or put out every decoration we own to make the house look festive. And, happy discovery, Lexie’s been more than willing to take over the Christmas shopping this year. She loves to shop and has a knack for picking out the best gifts.
I believe that rituals and traditions are important, especially in a year like this, but I can show my kids that it’s okay to enjoy scaled-down versions of those rituals if they allow us more time to relax and truly enjoy ourselves.
(Illustration by Lexie Taylor)