“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful with they are few.”
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
December 22, 2014, I woke up early ready to attack the day, the week, my to-do list. I stepped out of bed, and my foot landed on something that crunched. I turned on the lamp next to my bed to examine what was now a pool of crumbs. A seashell. On my bedroom floor. In Wisconsin. On December 22. This was clearly a message. It was the latest in a series of them. It is said that sea shells symbolize the quality of life that purifies and sustains. I let out an appreciative chuckle.
You see, a year earlier on the last day of December, 2013 as I sat feeling frustrated, stressed and depressed, I vowed that it would not happen again. I had spent the month rushing, panicking, stressing, trying to create the perfect Christmas experience for my family when in fact, it was there all the time. I just needed to stop. I simply needed to be present for it. In the pursuit of perfection, I had lost sight of what was most precious. The next year would be different.
The Universe supports our intentions
Fast forward to December 22, 2014, the day of seashell. The past 10 days had been about nursing very sick children back to health. They’re now in high school, and this reminded me of those early parenthood years. I spent time comforting and nurturing them. I had easily abandoned my schedule and to-do’s to sit with them and simply try to make them more comfortable. No errands accomplished as the Christmas Countdown clock ticked on. Today was the day to make up lost time, until the seashell reminded me that those lists and errands were unimportant. I could let them go. Little by little, the universe is nudging me to fulfill my vow. The holidays are about treasuring time spent together.
October, 2015, I see the first holiday displays in retail establishments eager to make a buck off of the nostalgia and traditions they evoke. These early reminders send a shudder down my spine, and stir up a rather unpleasant tightening in the pit of my stomach, like the ghost of Christmases past. They are now my signal to remember the seashell. It’s time to strategize. Right now, before I get swept away in the onslaught that is The Holidays.
Plan for less stress, more joy this Holiday Season
Here’s my two-fold seashell-honoring plan. I make a date with myself to journal. I write about what I want for the rest of the year. I record my priorities so that they are uppermost in my mind. I schedule the things that are most important, dates with the people I care most about. I have let go of many of the trappings of tradition. I generally don’t accept invitations to events unless they fill my heart with joy. I keep my calendar as free as possible so there’s room for spontaneous celebration. I’m not yet great at shopping early, but now the list is very small. The focus is on more being and less doing.
The important piece of the equation is self-care practice. I make sure my diet is filled with the foods that will give me energy and uplift my moods. One that’s heavy on vegetables, fruits and healthy fats and lean on the sugar and refined carbs that are so prevalent this time of year. Sugar can tank your moods and hijack your health very quickly. I make time for exercise and other acts of self-love. In years past, this would be pushed aside to make room for the to-do list. I make dates to play in the snow, ice-skate, dance and laugh with friends rather than baking cookies or drinking too many cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, try swapping a bit of bubbly for elderberry syrup and a twist of lime in sparkling water. It will give your immune system a boost.
Although I am still prone to overdoing, setting the intention early and having a plan firmly rooted in my life priorities helps to ensure I’m making treasured memories and savoring the season. Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season filled with less stress and more joy, and perhaps a few beautiful seashells.