Peace and Joy

Peace and Joy

by Denise Caudill Irons, NHI Parent and Board Member

As I started to design this year’s holiday card, which was later than usual, I was already feeling overwhelmed and anxious. As I scrolled through the possible card templates, I audibly sighed when I saw the designs that said “Peace and Joy.” I may as well have said “Bah hum bug!” as the sentiment was the same. When I have an unusual reaction to something so mundane, I know to pause and reflect on what caused that emotion to bubble up. It is always deeper than the superficial and obvious explanation. I finally realized that for Christmas, my daughter simply wants peace and joy; and I am not giving it to her. Nor was I aware of my mistake.

I am a slow learner, and she is a patient teacher. I have to say that I am proud to have realized this revelation two weeks before Christmas. Of course, she just turned 12-years-old, so I am still a little late in catching up. I find myself trying to create the perfect Christmas based on what I think it should be – over the top decorations, a variety of meaningful gifts, sentimental activities, delicious food, etc. Every year, I am disappointed when I don’t live up to the expectations that I set for myself.

So, as I read the card design, “Peace and Joy,” I realized that I have not been paying attention; and I have not been present. I have been completely wrapped up in my own narcissism. My daughter will tell you that she wants Santa to bring her books and horses for Christmas. Every time you ask her, those are always her top choices. When pressed, she will say other things, but always with less enthusiasm. If I want to relieve the stress of finding perfect gifts, then I need to give her what brings her joy – books and horses. So this year, my focus is helping Santa find the books that she will love and horse figurines that she will cherish. I can use the other 364 days to broaden her horizons, provide intellectually stimulating games and puzzles, and buy her clothes that she never wants to open as gifts.

Although my daughter likes to be on the go, she also enjoys her down time. She enjoys a quiet house without the radio or television broadcasting in the background. She can spend hours in her room sitting in front of her electric fireplace heater looking at her books or iPad. She has a hectic schedule with school, therapies and other activities, so a little peace and quiet helps to rejuvenate her.

I expect that she would prefer that I find some peace too. Angst, worry, and anxiety are constantly swirling around me. It would be impossible for everyone living in our house not to be affected by the madness. Living in that energy is not very conducive to enjoying the magic of Christmas. Recognizing the problem is the first step, and now I am working to find my peace and joy.

I am grateful for the seeds that my daughter plants to help me become a better person. I only have so much energy to give, so I need to take her direction. Rather than reading the numerous generic lists of what to do to make Christmas special, it’s time to streamline. If it doesn’t bring anyone peace or joy, I am crossing it off the list without guilt or hesitation. It may be baby steps, but they are steps in the right direction.

May you all have a joyous and peaceful holiday season.

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