It is December 24. It is a day when families and friends gather to begin Christmas celebrations. Growing up, our family would gather on Christmas eve with friends. We would have oyster stew, cheese plates, and other hors d’oeuvres. Sometimes my parents would let me have a glass of wine or coke. Because my father was born on December 24, we also had a birthday cake and gave him presents. At the end of the evening, the kids could open one present before bed. We capped the evening off by opening ONE present. We always chose the gift from Grandma Harris because she ALWAYS bought us pajamas from the JC Penny in Aberdeen.
When my father passed away, Christmas eve became a painful reminder of what was lost when he passed. I didn’t really enjoy it much. However, there were two events that changed my view.
The first was Christmas eve 2001. It was the first Christmas of my marriage. My wife, our oldest son, and mother traveled to our cabin in the Black Hills. There is an incredible church in Lead, South Dakota. It was built in the late 19th/early 20th century. Its Christmas Eve service is amazing. In 2001, the music, the service, the faith, and the fellowship were special. Words can not adequately describe the experience. The church is small, old, and quaint. The pews are wood. The lighting is poor and it was even darker for the late evening service. The sermon gave a great message though I can’t remember what was said. What I do remember is the music. There were two professional musicians with local ties. They shared their gifts with us. Somewhere, I still have the bulletin. To share this experience with my new wife, mother, and oldest son was special. It was the first Christmas Eve after my father’s passing that was not painful. The second was Christmas eve 2018. I’ve written about this before so I won’t bore you with the details. Long story short, I am adopted. On Christmas eve 2018, after a long search, I received the first communication from my birth mother. It was an overwhelming feeling that I continue to process. Christmas eve is a time of new beginnings and connections.
Tonight, our family will gather. We have established our own traditions which include oyster stew and cheese plate. In recent years, I have purchased five different types of cheese at a local establishment. We all taste, critique, and vote for our favorite. We also enjoy each other’s company. Tomorrow, we will open gifts because it is our tradition to open gifts on Christmas day. From my house to yours, Merry Christmas.
This past week was one of corporate Christmas celebrations (i.e. an introvert nightmare). I had four Christmas parties, three work lunches, and big weekend plans.
While my eating (grazing) at the Christmas parties was poor, I continue to make exercise a priority. My morning walk (outside or on the treadmill) has become my sanctuary. During this time, I think, observe, read, listen, or exist for a few moments every day. It frees my mind and gets me ready for the day. The specific way I use this time varies. Sometimes I reflect a n what has happened. Other times plan and/or strategize my day, week, or month. I always spend a portion of the time in gratitude. At the end, I am ready to take on the day.
To be honest, today has already been tumultuous. I wasn’t supposed to get moments on the treadmill today but I did. These moments walking in solitude allow me to refocus so I can attack the day. Today I am ready.
In closing, the experts said it will snow a couple of inches last night. The experts missed the mark. It happens. So today we adapt, adjust, and enjoy the gifts we have been given. Enjoy the weekend.
After 31 days, the 2022 Gratitude Challenge has come to a close. This is the third time I have done this challenge. Each time, I learned more about myself. I am more aware of the importance of gratitude. I find myself complaining less (even during Viking games). I am more appreciative of what is going on around me. I shift my focus on what is and what I can control.
Yesterday, I saw a portion of an interview with Charlie Munger (at 3:30 of the clip). In the interview, Munger asserts that even with all the progress humans have made, we are less happy. Technology, medicine, and other improvements have made our lives easier but we are less happy. Why are we less happy? While some would argue it is greed, Munger argues it is because of envy. Humans often want what others have that they don’t.
I think Munger is on to something. We spend so much time obsessing about what we don’t have. We want the latest gadget. All sorts of lists tell us what the “Hottest Christmas” gift is this year. The anecdote to envy is gratitude. Be grateful for what have. When you focus on what you have, you will find you have an abundance. Have a great weekend.
When doing a challenge like this every day, it is easy to miss gratitude opportunities. If you haven’t figured it out by now, there is much to be grateful for. I know I have not included important people, groups of people, things, or experiences in postings. This challenge could be a year and I would still miss a few things.
Yet, my gratitude challenge is not complete unless I talk about about the two young men who are my sons. I am so grateful for both of my sons. It has been a joy to watch them develop and grow into amazing human beings. My oldest graduated from college and earned a master’s degree in public policy. He is currently working in a job where he has the opportunity to shape the world around him for the better. He is married to an amazing woman. I get to see them in a couple of weeks and can’t wait. My youngest is in college. He is doing great. He has a wonderful group of friends, a vision for the future, and the drive to succeed. While I saw him over Thanksgiving break, it was too short. He will be home for Christmas break and it will be wonderful to have him home. The best will be when they are both home over Christmas.
If you have children (furry kind count), take time to be grateful for them. They grow up quickly and leave the house. Send them a note letting them know you are thinking about them.