Friday, December 28, 2007

Making Christmas Work

In recent years, Christmas has become a trial for my family - well, at least for me to be with my family. We've been going through the motions but there wasn't much of the spirit of Christmas left in it for me.

My father died just before Christmas 17 years ago. I know it sounds a long time but when you miss someone it isn't long at all. Five years ago my nephew died just a couple of days before Christmas. In fact, that year my daughter and I lost three who were very close to us, just before Christmas. And Christmas still isn't what I think it's supposed to be. The pain of grief revisits each time and the sparkle has gone.

This year I decided I wanted to get away from the family completely, just to see if I could enjoy that time of year at all. There was one restriction: I didn't want to spend the time away from my daughter. That lead to another restriction: she didn't want to spend the time away from the extended family! You guessed it. We all went away - at least the ones who could make it.

I didn't get my wish to get away from the family but at least we got away from familiar surroundings. We went to a resort and walked on the beach, kayaked and sailed on the lake, 'played' tennis (what we do with a tennis racquet and ball isn't recognisable as any game) and generally ate far too much. We did the Christmas gift thing, watched Christmas DVDs and played board games. We didn't spend the whole three days in each others' pockets; there was space and time to do our own thing. Having said that, I think we spent more time together in those three days than we have in recent years combined.

It was good. Going away allowed me to connect with my family again for a significant period of time. It allowed me to leave the sad memories behind for a while and enjoy the moment for what it was. I'd like to do it again and will start negotiations early in the new year. At this point I have no expectations. It might not come off the way it did this year, but I'll float the idea and see what everyone else thinks.

A cruise sounds fun.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The rat race

I've always tried to avoid the classical 'rat race'. I can't see the point in spending an entire life time rushing from one meeting to another and only having enough time at home to eat, shower and sleep - and sometimes not even eat. But I've found that living in the city engenders it's own kind of race.

Everything here is FAST. Decisions have to be made quickly, arrangements have to be made early, lots of things have to be done in a short amount of time. I always feel busy, and those times I'm not busy I look for something to do that keeps me busy until the next series of processes are put in place. I'm afraid I'm losing my ability to relax. And I'm afraid that loss will mean a loss of something inside me. I won't be the same person anymore.

Not all of this is a bad thing. I love the way my mind is stretched when I'm working on three or four projects at once. I love juggling things when it's busy like that.

But I also love just sitting and watching the world go by. I can sit at a window and watch the trees on the mountain sway with the breezes for hours and never feel bored. I can close my eyes and listen to the magpies welcome the morning and the kookaburras warn others from their territory and breathe the peace of the world into my soul. Unfortunately those moments are getting shorter and a longer time passes between them.

I remember reading Henry David Thoreau years ago. I found his writing style stilted and boring but the images he created and the passion he felt for nature have stayed with me. The older I get the more I think about it.
I long to move to a simpler time. Don't get me wrong: I still want electricity, internet and reliable plumbing, but I yearn for a closer connection to nature. I want to be somewhere that I can't hear traffic noises 24 hours a day, somewhere my neighbours are far enough away that they can have visitors and I can't hear every word of their conversation. I could calm my mind and let it wander where it will. I could nurture my imagination and forget the demands of everyday living, just for a little while.