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My South of Market neighborhood here in San Francisco gets pretty busy this time of year due to it’s proximity to Union Square and all the surrounding stores and parking lots.  The rush can be exciting and part of the landscape of the holidays but mostly it’s just hectic.  One year I was rushing along, shopping bags in hand , pulling along a 2-year-old because I had to be somewhere and had to get through the crowd to get there when I passed by a store and saw something that made me pause and think.  It was a fancy store, selling cigars from a special smoking chamber, and it was mostly empty except for the staff and a couple of shoppers.  One of the shoppers was sitting on a couch and reading a newspaper as his companion consulted with the sales person.  I must have pressed my nose against the glass and stared to see the sight.  I didn’t want the fancy cigars or any of the other luxuries offered by the boutiques in that neighborhood.  The luxury I coveted was the ability to sit and relax while Christmas shopping.  Was that something only available to the wealthy?  Did it have to be?  How could I get some of that in my life?

The first thing I did was keep that image in mind the rest of the shopping season.  I slowed down my own pace.  I carried fewer things around at once.  I found benches to sit on with my son and relaxed while he played while the rush kept on going past me.  I felt incredibly rich and prosperous as I gave myself the gift of taking time to do things or to not do things.  What did it cost me?  Not much.  I could easily afford buying fewer gifts.  I allowed fewer events on my schedule; where once I would have seen room for 3 events, I decided that one would suffice and then I had to pick and choose which one I wanted to attend.  Instead of making appearances at 5 holiday parties, I carefully selected the one party that would make me feel most festive.  I would just imagine myself to be a connoisseur of the calendar, like the gentleman in the store, enjoying the luxury of time.  It felt decadent by comparison to the rushing around I was used to tolerating.  Now every holiday season when the urge to do more to celebrate better comes upon me and everyone else, I resist.  I remember what I really want and that it is there for the taking, if I can just allow myself the luxury of taking time.

What do you plan to give to yourself for the holidays?  What luxury would you like to allow into your life in the new year?

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Any season is good for making lists, in my opinion.  But the end of the year especially seems to inspire lists.  My son is making a Christmas list and I have a shopping list in addition to a very full To Do list.  I also like to keep a wishlist and am always amazed at how often my wishes, when written down, are granted.  That’s a pretty good reason for keeping a wishlist!

All of these lists tend to look forward to what’s next to do, to get, and to want.  Recently I was reminded that it is just as important to look back on the lists of things that we have done, gotten, or were granted us.  Thanksgiving and the end of the year are an especially great time to make these grateful lists and appreciate that while there may be still far to go, much has been accomplished.

I tried a different kind of list this morning.  Rather than creating a list of what I remember in review from the year, I tried a facebook application (statuscloud 2.0) which generated a cloud of the words I used most frequently over a year of status updates.

I love that the biggest, most frequently used words are morning, enjoyed, and weekend!  That pretty much sums up  2009 as I enjoyed and worked hard every morning online and appreciated my unplugged weekends with my family.

I was especially interested in this status cloud because I had been thinking about making up my own cloud graphic of some of my favorite thoughts and words like gratitude, stillness, lake, peace….  Now I am preferring the simple truth of the cloud included here to the constructed version that I had imagined.

What word or thoughts would appear in your cloud for 2009?