Earlier today I stopped in to visit my mom. The assisted living where she lives is beautifully decorated for the holiday- twinkly lights on the trees lining the walkway to the door, large pine wreaths on the double glass doors leading in to the community. There is a beautiful tree in the living room, nestled next to the fireplace, which is festooned with pine garlands and large red and gold ornaments. My mom has been a little under the weather this week, which is something to watch due to her history with asthma. At one point earlier in the week her physician wanted her to go to the hospital but thanks to me not getting that message in a timely manner she never made it there, choosing instead to stay in her apartment and wait out whatever illness was lurking inside her. Today she is much better, so I can let go of the guilt of not hearing the phone ring at 4am on Tuesday.
When I arrived at her home today it was 15 minutes before the dining room opened for lunch. The usual crowd had gathered in the living room, right outside the closed dining room doors. I swear they put crack in the coffee there- everyone is always in such a hurry to get in that they pile up outside the doors! I scanned the room quickly and didn't see Mom so I headed to her apartment. Where she was not. Hmmmm.
When I headed back to the living room I saw her sitting in a wing backed chair by the fireplace, listening to a gentleman wearing a Santa hat play Christmas carols on the piano. I had completely missed her the first time I scanned the room. When I think of my mother I picture a short spry black haired woman. That is who I look for when I visit her community. I never find that woman though. Who I found today is who I always find these days; a gray haired, slightly hunched over older woman. She just blends in with all the other nicely dressed gray haired ladies sitting in the living room listening to a gentleman in a Santa hat play carols on the piano.
I realized today during my short visit with Mom that she is having a better holiday season at her assisted living home than she ever would have had home alone. Even though my family will be heading to Cleveland on Christmas day and she will be alone, she has had a steady parade church visitors, carolers, music programs, day care visitors, and cookie baking activities. She has been surrounded by beautifully decorated rooms and the constant notes of Christmas music. She will see the community associates she has come to know and like, and sometimes, rely on. She will not be alone on Christmas day, save for the few hours we manage to spend with her as we split our time between two sets of in-laws. Another guilt I need to let go of. My mother will be fine on Christmas.
I receive a daily email from Whole Living magazine sharing a daily action plan. Short, simple ways to live more simply, more greenly, (OK, I am pretty sure that is not a word, but just go with it.) Today's plan: shifting holiday expectations and learning to appreciate the little things. This is a great action item for me because I have spent the past year working on this. Adding balance and peace to my family's life has been a goal of mine since last year, and I feel as though my efforts have been successful. But this little bit of advice couldn't have come at a better time. In my usual fashion I had planned out this entire holiday season. Our "family fun" list was completed, our weekly calendars with schedules and meal planning were done. I knew what day I was addressing the Christmas cards and what day we would be visiting Santa. I wedged a family trip to New York City into our plans, thankfully planned and successfully carried out by my husband. And now, three days before Christmas here I am with all the gifts purchased, cards in the mail, great memories of our trip and the sweetest photo of my little guy and Santa. The only thing left on my "to do" list is wrapping those presents and making a salad for Christmas dinner at my mother-in-law's home. So I am feeling pretty good. Our church is holding an "Eve Before You Leave" service tonight for all those people who find themselves traveling and unable to attend a service on Christmas Eve. We will be home on Friday but that will be our Christmas celebration so I am looking forward to attending the candle light service tonight. I am feeling very peaceful. (I know,can't you just picture the angels singing above my head?) But the reason I am feeling so serene is because I have been totally doing all month what that action plan asked me to do today. I stopped sweating the small stuff. I let go of the guilt of not being with my mother on Christmas. I bought smaller gifts for family and friends.I changed up the way we normally do our holiday open house to accommodate our new friends and everyone's growing families. I brought home bakery Christmas cookies instead of dealing with the mess and hard work of making them myself. I let go of expectations, and so far, it has been an amazing holiday season!