Sylvia, somewhat preoccupied by deadlines and preparations for the upcoming week, asks, “Two weeks? Til what?”
“Christmas! Honestly, where are you these days? You’ve got me a little worried.”
Sylvia, with pen and another to-do list in hand, chuckles at the thought of Santa, Christmas, elves, and all the rest that overwhelms the actual spirit of the holiday. She knows all too well that it was her mother (and other women in her life) who made the magic. She decides to make one list to get her through the next fourteen days: Naughty & Nice. Don’t make her choose, Santa. She knows exactly what she deserves!
Her life is not yours to judge. Only Mrs. Claus knows what every woman faces and overcomes during this most joyous season, and sadly, it’s not all joy!
“Still in many 21st century homes, there is ‘the taken-for-granted notion that a mother is in charge of the tracking and the knowing and the thinking and the planning and the feeding and the caring and the checking and the doing unless she has worked to make other arrangements (which then entail more knowing and more thinking and more tracking and more doing),’ Darcy Lockman writes in “All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership.” (https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/06/opinions/holiday-labor-toll-on-women-alaimo/index.html)
Sylvia hangs up the phone; her early morning chat with Erma leaves her motivated but strangely empty. The plan was to get a lot done today, perhaps even to move at lightning speed to complete the remaining items on her to-do holiday list. Plans change, though.
As she gulps the last from her late-morning cup of courage, she takes in her surroundings. The tree in the great room is done. The small tree in the foyer, which she adorns each year with a thoughtfully curated collection of hummingbirds, sits atop a round entryway table. It waits to greet holiday visitors. And as if those decorations were not enough, Sylvia’s collection of Santas – many gifted to her from Erma over the last three decades –carefully situated in open nooks, crannies, and shelves throughout the rooms on the first floor, affords her a feeling of mild accomplishment. So, completely in the moment, Sylvia sits on the ottoman and reflects. She purposely decides to practice the nobler art for the remainder of the day. Self-care entails leaving some things undone.
Some days demand the noble art. Today is one of them.
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”― Lin Yutang
“Are you looking for trouble, Sylvia?” Erma, hoping for a juicy reply, asks her friend.
“No, I don’t think so. Well, perhaps – maybe a little,” Sylvia admits.
“Good, get out there, and do it for the team!” Erma adamantly encourages. **************** Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. [Commencement Address, Wellesley College, 1996] ~Nora Ephron ****************
“I see you. I know you are here,” Erma assures Sylvia.
“I appreciate that, Erma, but you cannot make me see my own reflection. Only I can do that. And I’m beginning to look for myself which I realize is more important than being seen by anyone else.” ************** When you finally become visible to your own eye, you will not allow yourself to be made to feel invisible by anyone else. *****************
“She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop windows as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist.” ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia spent most of the day purging. Dresser drawers of mismatched socks and threadbare pjs. Closets of dresses and outfits that no longer aligned with her body or attitude or both. And shoes. Ah, yes, more than a dozen pairs of shoes that were gently worn, overworked, or had never made it onto her feet. She made room in her physical space; and at the end of the day, she felt her mind might actually have some room for fresh thoughts and ideas, too.
Erma rejoiced at the news and praised her friend for finally shedding some weight. “Now that you’ve scaled back on things, scale back and free yourself from people. Reduce your tribe to those who feed your soul, those who accept you without condition, and those who don’t run from your tears and sorrow. You need to be more discerning when it comes to who knows your secrets,” Erma cautions.
Sylvia, priding herself on the headway she made today, sighs. She knows that Erma is right. She has allowed those with no true interest in who she is becoming to stay and weigh in. “Tomorrow. It begins tomorrow. A smaller inner circle and more attention to the person who deserves my attention the most. Me!” **************
Solitude and loneliness are not related. The former celebrates the peace and contentment she gains from her own company. The latter reaps strength and rears its ugly head when she makes herself smaller for others. **************** “Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people—it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” ~ Parker Palmer
Although the house is still in darkness and the coffee has yet to brew, Sylvia, unable to tolerate her restlessness a moment longer, rises well before the sun. The early hour necessitates illumination of the Christmas tree much to Sylvia’s delight. Coffee by the tree in total silence amidst the twinkling lights sounds like a perfect way to start the first week of the year. And yes, the tree is still up (until the sixth at least) as was her mother’s custom. The only thing lacking this morning is a generously powdered, raspberry-jelly-filled donut.
Sylvia, bypassing the automatic setting on the coffeemaker, awaits her daily tonic with a favorite mug at the ready. Unlike most mornings when she rushes to consume that first cup to jumpstart her, today she purposely and patiently delays because she wants this feeling that is washing over her to linger as long as possible.
Hearing the three beeps signifying the end of brewing, Sylvia picks up her pace. After pouring that first cup, she shuffles from the kitchen across the dark hickory floor to claim her presence and this day by the tree. Being careful not to spill a drop, Sylvia facing the tree slowly squats, smiles satisfyingly, and raises her mug. “Cheers to the ultimate purveyors of jelly donut love! How lucky I have been to live this life as your daughter!
Today would have been their sixty-third, and I’ll repeat that which I have posted in recent years and have felt every year since my mother’s physical absence here in the world because it still and always rings true. (I’ve edited a bit now that Dad has passed and has been reunited with the love of his life.)
I feel my mother’s presence more than ever. She continues to give me strength. He continues to teach me even in his absence that all that matters is right now and what is in your heart. Their example – their devotion to each other, to me and their other children, to their grandchildren, and to extended family, friends, and community– allows me to get through each day and find something to smile about in the face of all of life’s chaos. I’ll celebrate them today in their way, going about the business of life.
While she taught me to keep going no matter what, he showed me in the end the importance of resting quietly in the moment. Like hummingbirds, she soared and flitted, and he perched and rested. One was left behind to face the world alone without the other, but the bond between them was never broken. It grew. It provided strength to the other. Her soulful and spiritual energy fueled him. The love, the friendship, and the mutual respect endured. I saw that each time in his eyes when I mentioned her name and in those moments when he thought I was his wife. Now, he has her back in his arms again. I believe that because I will forever subscribe to the power of jelly donut love.
Happy anniversary to the two people who modeled what true love, partnership, friendship and respect are. I’ve been pulled and pelted and torn, and it is only because of your love for me and the love you showed each other that I remain hopeful and able to get up again. Thank you for teaching me how to love, how to parent, and how to live. **************************
Sylvia, entranced by the dancing flickers and soothed by the warm morning elixir, has not even noticed that the day has dawned. Almost jolted, she finally hears the neighborhood coming to life; everyone readies for this new day as if it is any ordinary day. How lovely it is for Sylvia to carry deep within her the knowledge of how special this day truly is.
Indeed, there is solace knowing that the best days can be lived forever in the feelings that such memories have embedded on the soul. Happy heavenly anniversary, Mom and Dad. You always celebrated on this date, and no matter what else comes to pass on the tenth day of Christmas, I’ll smile and dream that those ten lords-a-leaping were hopping and dancing about reveling in the obvious joy you shared and showed the world.
Just a friendly urging that in the process of going about your life, you hang on to who matters most and make sure you leave nothing left unsaid.
“Love knows no reason, no boundaries, no distance. It has a sole intention of bringing people together to a time called forever.” – Unknown
Sylvia is feeling vulnerable, emotional, and overwhelmed this weekend as she considers all that has to be accomplished before Christmas and the new year, much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays. Erma, in her infinite wisdom after years of agonizing to produce the perfect celebration and realizing there is no such thing, shares a newly acquired tidbit that leaves Sylvia feeling more empowered, not like with the force or toughness of a superwoman or wonder woman but perhaps with the mightiness of one of Santa’s reindeer.
Did you know that male reindeer lose their antlers after the fall mating season? Female reindeer keep theirs.
“All of those guiding the sleigh, Syl? A group of badass women with a sense of purpose and direction!”
Sylvia, amused and enchanted, thanks her friend and knows now that “she’s got this” whatever this may be. 🌲🎄❄🎄🌲❄🎄🌲❄🌲🎄❄ Male reindeer lose their antlers in winter and females don’t. Therefore Santa’s sleigh is actually pulled by a team of strong, powerful, underrated women!!!!! YOU GO, GIRLS!! I SEE YOU!!! (@catreynoldsnyc)
Erma, with furrowed brow, looks at her friend, and rejects the idea unequivocally. “God, never. You know better than to even think that I’d adulterate my first brew of the day in such a way.”
“It’s National Pumpkin Day though. You’ve got to celebrate the famous fruit of the season! Come on. Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cheesecake? Pumpkin ale? There is a plethora of the orange autumn fruit’s offerings out there. Choose something.”
Erma, with her hands wrapped around her stoneware mug of choice, puts forward her intention of the day, “I’ll fete the fruit in my favorite way – with memories I’ve made and shared in patches over the years.” **************** What’s not to love about autumn in full bloom? The sounds, the fragrances, the colors… Oh, the glory of it all.
How will you celebrate National Pumpkin Day? Do what makes your heart happy and your soul dance. ~k.morgan 🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁 Come said the wind to the leaves one day, Come o’re the meadows and we will play. Put on your dresses scarlet and gold, For summer is gone and the days grow cold.” – A Children’s Song of the 1880’s
Hazelnut eyes. Cherry lips. Milky complexion. A bit of a muffin top. A few spoonfuls of cottage cheese (in places that only she can see). Our body parts and appearance are often compared to food, from all types of the required food groups to even some of the more forbidden and indulgent. We move through life allowing ourselves to be both pictures of a veritable feast for the eyes and a shameful smorgasbord of gluttony and a lack of self- control.
Today, after Sylvia and Erma exchange pointed comments about their own diets, they force each other to see the beauty and wonder of their midlife bodies.
Yep, a feast. A smorgasbord. Delicacies and deliciousness resulting from lives well-lived and survived. Joys celebrated with cakes and muffins; disappointments swallowed with milkshakes or wine; dilemmas pondered and cracked like nuts.
A well-balanced diet looks different on each of us, so feed your soul – mind, body, and spirit – in your own way.
“All of you shows and is multiplied in everything you do, so know yourself and take care of yourself first, so you can live on purpose and contribute from a place of abundance and overflow.” ~Anton Uhl, FEEDING BODY, MIND AND SOUL: How What Goes In Changes Everything