Outside of autumn, Christmas is my favourite time of year. Last week I was riding a Christmas high. Baking, present wrapping, and the constant loop of holiday carols all culminated in a glorious evening of cheer and merriment at a pioneer village just outside Detroit, Michigan. Greenfield Villages’ Holiday Nights event will catapult any Ebenezer Scrooge into the festive spirit. The village is decorated as it would have been during the 18th and 19th century. The main street is filled with carolers and old-fashioned market stands and most of the houses have roaring fires aglow, setting the ambiance of this jovial affair to near perfection. My friend and I have a standing engagement to attend this event each December. It has become the pinnacle of the festive season for us and allows us the chance to stop our busy lives for a few hours and relish in the simplicity of days gone by. On this particular visit we spent a good hour sitting outside a little church built in the 1860’s, eating chestnuts and drinking hot chocolate while catching up on each other’s lives. The evening was the calmest and most relaxed I’ve been for quite some time – one of the best Christmas presents I ever gave myself – permission to live in the moment and enjoy every precious second.
The next day (the Friday before Christmas) I made the extremely poor decision to do some non-holiday related errands. Still riding my Christmas high from the night before, I set out to “just run out and do a couple of things”. Easy peasy. Not. By the time I got to my second of five stops I was ready to hurt someone. Literally. The Christmassy glow I had acquired the night before had been replaced by scowls of frustration and vehement dislike for the human population. People everywhere had appeared to adopt the ideology that the ruder you were the more likely you were to get what you wanted. Sadly this seemed to work in most cases based on the interactions I witnessed/overheard. Forgoing my last two stops I made the much wiser decision to head home. Desperately trying to reclaim my feelings of merriment I did the only thing I knew that would bring me back to a place of peace – I took my dog for a walk.
The walk initially started off well. The air was cool with very little wind. Dora (my dog) was her usual overexcited self at the prospect of exploring the world one sniff at a time. As I rounded the corner near my house it was then I heard the distant sound of…screaming. I couldn’t make out at first where it was coming from but it was clearly the sound of a male and female yelling at each other. As I passed the house at the end of the street, it was then the yelling hit its greatest volume and I noticed an open kitchen window. The couple was clearly in the midst of a most unpleasant row. They either didn’t know the entire street could hear them or just didn’t care. From what I could piece together, the male had made some questionable advances towards another lady via Facebook, of which the argumentative female’s eyes had been privy to. Not the best of ways to come together days before Christmas I would say. Passing by this private/not-so-private argument, I again felt more deflated of holiday cheer. Dora and I continued on our walk while I did my best to remind myself that I could choose to let the overwhelming encounters of the day affect me or I could choose not. Needless to say I chose the latter – I guess I’m getting wiser in my middle age.
It was the look on Dora’s face that, believe it or not, salvaged my day and my ultimate return to the enjoyment of the season. In the nearby school yard I let her off her leash so she could stretch her, albeit little, legs. Rarely does she take off running, but on this day she did. She looked so happy and overjoyed, I couldn’t help but smile. People sometimes make fun of how much I love my dog. No lie, she is the centre of my world, for many reasons – some probably more legitimate then others. But it’s in moments like this that I am so grateful to have a little fur-buddy in my life. When it seems like there’s nothing but negativity and dislike in the world it only takes the innocent eyes of an animal – or the pure words of a child – to launch you back into the reminder of what your heart holds most sacred.
Needless to say, I came back from that walk rejuvenated and much happier then when it began. The fresh air, open spaces, and a twenty-pound fur ball were all it took for the universe to send that gentle reminder of what is most important – both this time of year and all the year through. Sometimes all we need to do is stop, watch, and listen – not to others, but to ourselves.
I leave you with these words from life coach extraordinaire, Martha Beck:
“The holidays are about renewal, kindness, and joy. Judgment and oppression are the enemy of these sentiments. Just see how much more genuine holiday spirit you’ll generate when you follow your own bliss, rather than someone else’s holiday traditions.”
Wishing you the merriest of Christmases!