After Christmas, The Epiphany

In December we do a lot of things to distract ourselves from the cold dark days that are upon us.  We fill our house with shiny decorations and the scent of cakes and cookies baking. We bring greenery into the living room.  We put bright sparkly lights all over, inside and out.  For a few weeks, this works.  It keeps our mind off of the cold.  It distracts us from the lack of sunlight.

And then when Christmas is over, we are left to clean up the mess, and clear out the clutter.     There are new toys everywhere.  Boxes of new clothes.  The kitchen is filled with cookies from neighbors and friends, there are fruit baskets in the dining room.  Every single surface is covered with either a gift, a confection, or a decoration.

One of the living room walls is completely covered with holiday photo cards from friends. A mad collage of faces looking at me. An army of Nutcrackers watches my every move.   And there is a giant tree in my living room!  A tree! In my living room, for Pete’s sake!

When we put the tree up and decorated it, it was an event.  We rearranged the furniture to accommodate it, got the dust bunnies out of that corner, made a nice home for it.    It was absolutely beautiful.  The kids were so excited to put the star on top.  I captured the moment on film!   The house was suddenly festive, and we were all in the spirit.

But now, Christmas is over. This tree in the living room is no longer festive.  The decorations, the pillows, the cookies; nothing but clutter and empty calories.  They served us well for a while, but not any more.

It’s time to pack it all up and put it back in the attic.  Time to take down that tree and reclaim that space for my end table.   Time to vacuum up the tinsel and cookie crumbs and get back to some sense of order and calm.   Time to de-clutter and get rid of all of the things that don’t belong here right now.

The room will be the way it was just a month ago, but it will feel emptier and freer.  There will be more space to breathe, space to relax, space to just be.

And we don’t really have to get rid of any things.  We just pack them up and put them away.  Until we need them again.  I could keep the Christmas tree up all year long. I could keep the decorations all over the house.  I could bake as if it were a holiday every weekend.  But would that really make any sense? Would those things really serve me?

As we get ready to celebrate the coming of a New Year, and we sit down to make our New Year’s resolutions, maybe we can think about the Christmas decorations.  We don’t have to pressure ourselves with ideas of permanent change.   We can simply put away the things that don’t serve us right now. We can get rid of all of the decorations, the layers of adornments that we have used to cover ourselves.   Get back to our original state.

We’re not giving things up forever.   We’re just packing them up and putting them aside until we need them again.  And when we need them, when we really need them, we can always take them out.

Resolve to ask, in everything:  How does this serve me?    This habit, this behavior, this person?  Are they helping me to grow? Helping me to move towards being the best me I can be?  Or can I put them away in the attic, just for now?   Can I tie up my excuses in a brown paper package? Can I pack up my sadness and move on with my life?  Can I box up my emotional eating for a while? Can I stash this pack of cigarettes out in the garage?  Can I put my quick temper in a cookie tin for a time?

What can we clear out, even if only for a while, so we can find some room to breathe? Some space to grow?

We’ve been distracted by the baubles and bells long enough.  They served their purpose. They brought us this far. Our darkest days are over now.   It is time move on.

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