Saturday, January 4, 2014

Undecorating Provides a Transition to 2014

We spent about four hours today undecorating our holiday-filled house. We still have another four hours to do another day when we tackle the tree. It is both exhausting and freeing. I'm counting it as my exercise for the day. I certainly have the aches to prove the bending and stretching used muscles I forgot existed.

I'm usually pretty good about transitions, and this year is no exception. In fact, as far as I'm concerned 2013 is already forgotten--mostly. There were some great times and many challenges met. But I'm happy to have it behind me. I've always been a future-thinker instead of falling in love with the past. It's not that my past has been horrible, it's just that I know all about it and it can always be improved. For me the future is unknown, filled with wonder and hope and all kinds of possibilities. I have never feared it. In fact, probably more than most people, I run toward it.

Though I tend to run toward the future, saying goodbye to the last week of the year is always bitter sweet. During the holidays I take time to slow down, to contemplate life, to reconnect with cherished relationships, and to bask in the warmth of love. Like watching an exquisite sunset, I have moments of let's-not-move-or-change-this-moment feelings, and of I-wish-I-could-stay-here-forever feelings every holiday season. It is soothing to live in those moments and not be running anywhere. Alas, that is not possible. The next year always comes anyway, and I have to wake from my dream.

As we put away the garlands and ornaments and twinkling lights, it is a physical reminder of change--of returning to the "normal" instead of living in that dreamy state of golden lights, Christmas cheer, and holiday sweetness.  This year our undecorating represents further change in our lives. We've decided not to do any more Christmas trees and to only maintain a very minimal holiday display in our home in future years. This means we will be giving away most of a 40 year collection of garlands and ornaments and lights and pictures and animals and santas and candles and all kinds of chotchkes we've collected in travels and from friends and family. In other words, we will probably give up a small Christmas store's worth of stuff. Truly, it is an embarassment of riches how much stuff we've collected over the years.

Like many people, we continue to decrease the number of possessions we have so that we can easily move to smaller spaces.  In the past, with moves to subsequently smaller houses, we've given away books and toys and furniture. This year it is the Christmas items that are going.

We've each selected two or three special items we will keep for future Christmases. There are a few things that will be given to our sons. Unbelievably, they don't want most of our collected stuff. :) And a few family heirlooms that will be sent to siblings who want them. The majority of the decorations will be donated to our church in a multi-family Christmas decoration sale with all proceeds going to the operating budget. At least donating them to a good cause makes parting with these physical memories a little easier.

Will I miss them? Probably some. But as we've undergone this minimizing several times now, I'm always pleasantly surprised how much I don't miss the things we give away. In many ways having fewer possessions is quite freeing to feel less constrained by having things to carry with me from place to place. Most important it is all part of a grand plan for our future together. A plan that will eventually allow us to move to a smaller, less expensive place.  A place that is comfortable and inviting,and is central to most of our community involvement. A place where we can grow old together, but does not represent the entirety of our lives. I'm looking forward to that too, especially if we can easily walk to most places we want to go.

There is one last vestige of the season still hanging on the front door. A live wreath made by a good friend. It's showing a little wear and tear. The cherry garland is drooping off center, and some pine boughs have fared better than others. I think it has at least another week to welcome visitors. But then I will recycle the pine into the yard mulch and return the frame and ribbons and decorations to her for next year's wreath.  She uses them again when she makes new wreaths each holiday season. Definitely recycling at its finest.

The future is grand!  I'm stepping into 2014 with a huge smile. How about you?