Holding on and letting go

I didn’t feel like celebrating Advent and Christmas this year. Grief reappeared as the holidays approached. The usual festive celebrations made me feel tired or irritable as I remembered the events a year ago, leading up to my father’s death in early January. I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate either the “secular Christmas” or the “sacred Christmas”.

IMG_20141228_161916953We decided this year to keep the decorations simple so we could focus on spending time with the family. We put a string of lights in the window for a bit of hygge cheer in the December darkness. We chose a few favorite nativities from our collection to place on the mantle as a reminder of our Christian traditions. We replaced the tropical scene hanging above our fireplace with a beautiful winter scene from Yosemite, since there was no snow predicted for the holidays. We looked forward to our boys returning home for the holidays.

Minutes after hanging that picture above the mantel, it came crashing down. Three of the nativities and a beautiful stained glass candle globe were swept off the mantel. They shattered on the wood-stove below, leaving shards of stained glass, broken ceramic pieces and a cracked gourd retablo. The entire nativity set of thorn carvings from Nigeria were completely beheaded as we watched the little heads roll across the floor. My first reaction was tears, then laughter, then a slow realization that nothing would ever be quite the same again, since my father’s death.

Something began to shift inside of me. I realized this incident symbolized a new beginning. A time of letting go of the past, celebrating in the present moment and starting some new traditions in the future.

It was time to let go of the past. The stained glass candle globe and a few nativities were gone. So was my father. I didn’t have to attend every Christmas event like I usually did.

It was time to be present in the moment. We could fix the picture with a secure hanger. We could choose other nativities to be our new favorites. The thorn carving figures could still be salvaged. We could celebrate the lasting legacy my father and other ancestors passed on to our family. My father’s memory and presence was still very much alive in my heart.

It was time to start new traditions. The picture was securely placed back on the wall. We found all the missing heads and glued them back on the little carved bodies. Mary was missing her hair covering, but that was OK. It would serve as a reminder that sometimes we are stripped of the comfortable things in life, like our rituals. Sometimes we are vulnerable and feel uncovered. Sometimes we just have to show up, be present in the moment and keep moving forward.

I added an angel statue beside the nativities as a sign of hope for the future. I breathed a sigh and felt ready to face the rest of the holidays. As I reflected on this incident over the next several days, new insights were gleaned.

Christmas morning I woke to a small lit Christmas tree in the living room. My husband decided that rituals were still important when living with grief. He secretly put up the tree and ornaments as a surprise. He intentionally chose one ornament from every stage of our lives to represent the many Christmas celebrations we had as a family. It was fun seeing all those years represented on the tree. It made me appreciate the gift of celebrating traditions in slightly new ways. We enjoyed a new tradition of tacos for Christmas lunch, made by our young adult sons. Something old, something new, nativities salvaged, traditions reviewed. It was a good day.

A little angel on our tree gives me a sense of Light in the darkness, Joy in the sorrow, Peace in the midst of conflict and Hope for the future. Blessings to each one of you as you navigate the past, present and future.

Angel of hope
Angel of hope

The best holiday gift: Be present

As the holidays approach and we spend extended time with family and friends, remember to take time for yourself every day.  Sleep in and catch up on your rest.   Take a nap in the middle of the day.  Take a spa bath.  Pause to breathe.  Or simply sit and do nothing.

You deserve to take care of yourself before everyone else. Remember the instructions when you fly:  “In case of an emergency drop in air pressure, place your oxygen mask on first, before taking care of small children or traveling companions.”  You deserve to be first.

In this season of “doing”, it is important to simply “be”,   Be present.  Be available to your family.  Be in the moment. Give the person you are visiting your full attention.   Sit and be with the people in your home instead of rushing around preparing food.   Invite guests to help set the table or help with dishes.  Limit electronic devices.  Linger after the meal.  Play a game.  Reminisce about past holidays.  Honor special family members or friends who have died but are still present in the memories, stories and love you share.  These are the gifts that last beyond the wrapping paper and elaborate meals.

What are your favorite ways to take care of yourself during this holiday season?  Choose some balance cards or make a list of things you want to do for yourself.  Now go do some of the things you listed.  Choose to be balanced in mind, body and spirit.

May you have a blessed holiday!

How to take care of a cold

Tonight I pulled a great card from my deck of wellness resources.  “Take a hot bath to boost your immune system and eliminate toxins (through your sweat) at the first sign of a cold.”   It includes a recipe for a combination of Epsom salts, hydrogen peroxide and fresh grated ginger for a twenty minute soak in the tub.  Perfect!  I need this tonight.

I was feeling achy earlier today, which usually means the beginning of a cold.  I did my Cortices tapping and drank some hot lemon, ginger and honey, which helped me feel energized and warm on the inside.   I sometimes drink “Healer Tea” from Nuwati Herbals, when I feel a cold developing.   It is a very powerful blend of herbs that boosts your immune system.   One sniff of the bottle will have you sneezing and clear your sinuses before you even take your first sip!  I add a bit of local honey and am soon feeling better.  Nuwati Herbals also carries a “Sweat Lodge:Sweat out the Toxins” Herbal Bath Bag which is a tea bag for your bath water.  The ingredients are catnip, ginger, peppermint and yarrow.   It has the same detoxification effect as the recipe I mentioned above.  You add the bath bag to your bath water and literally sweat away the toxins in your body, which are contributing to your cold symptoms.  I feel great after using this!

All of these “cold remedies” are helpful to try at the first sign of a cold.   It is important to pay attention to your body and slow down when it gives you the signal that all is not well.  It is probably not which remedy you choose to do at the first sign of a cold, but the fact that you recognize your body’s signals and do something to boost your immune system while you take care of your body, mind and spirit.  Slowing down, resting and pampering yourself may be your best recipe for a cold this winter.  Give yourself permission!  It’s the best gift you can give yourself.

Meanwhile, I’m off to take a detox soak in the tub.  May you be well!  2 self care 4