These past two weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least. Last week I finally started to hit my groove. My routine was clicking, I was feeling really productive, and ahead of the game with Christmas preparations. Thanksgiving weekend had been fun and relaxing, yet surprising and stressful all at the same time, and I was ready to get back in the groove. Unfortunately there was one thing I hadn’t yet accomplished: being present.
We had the privilege of hosting my grandma, my mom’s mom, at our house (and by our I mean my parent’s house) for Thanksgiving. This is something that we don’t usually get to do, given that she has 10 children, 27 grandchildren and 52 great-grandchildren. She is in quite high demand with all those family members. We lucked out this year, so my husband and I picked her up on our way to my parent’s house Wednesday evening.
Wednesday evening was spent filling each other in on the recent happenings of our lives, and watching Hallmark Christmas movies. I woke up Thursday morning to the beautiful smell of a Thanksgiving meal being prepared in the kitchen below. When I ventured downstairs, I came upon my mom and grandma getting the meal prepared and ready to cook. Shortly afterwards, we all sat down to watch the parade. My grandma fell asleep, and when my mom woke her up to give her a blanket, she mentioned that her stomach was hurting her.
Later that day, my mom drove my grandma to the hospital as the pain had intensified. She was having her second pancreatitis attack in the past few months, and would need to undergo the same treatment as the previous time. Fast forward through the rest of the weekend, and we returned home Sunday night after a packed few days of family activities, changing plans, and plenty of food. I was ready to recuperate from the events of the past long weekend and get back on track with the start of a new week.
And that’s exactly what I did. Monday finally felt like I was back in the groove and my productivity had sky rocketed. I made plans to Christmas shop with both of my parents later in the week, in hopes of completing my Christmas shopping before December even began.
On Tuesday morning, that all changed. I received a call at 5:45 in the morning telling me that my grandma had passed.
Isn’t it strange how one moment can change your priorities and thoughts entirely?
Tuesday morning the clock stopped. I got out of bed without hesitation and didn’t think about work again. The world was suddenly reminding me of that skill I was no longer practicing – being present. Life had suddenly become much more real and I was reminded how easily those things we take for granted can be taken away. Those moments when we are happy, but never truly slow down to appreciate can be gone within an instant.
This past week has taught me more about life, priorities, and purpose than ever before.
The best word I can use to describe my grandmother is spunky. She lived fully for her 84 years, never slowing down to rest even in her last few days. Giving birth to ten children will keep you busy in itself, but finding time to help others while tending to her massive family is something only the best can manage. She taught me what it looks like to accept everybody, to love without boundaries, and to find the good in the worst of situations. She is the closest thing I’ve met to an angel in real life, and her legacy will live on forever.
These past ten days reminded me of something I should have been doing long ago: being present.
Being present, not just in the moments when your to do list is complete, life has fallen into place, and you can relax. But being present in all moments. Every day. Those moments filled with joy, nervousness, even pain. Moments we are dreading, or moments that are stressful. Truly appreciating what is in front of us sounds so simple, but is one of the hardest skills to acquire.
Time doesn’t stop. Life is for the living, but it is our job to live a life that those who have gone before us would be proud of. As time progresses, I am hearing more and more of tragedies happening to the best of people. Wonderful people leaving this world so suddenly, battling disease, natural disaster, or terrible circumstances. It’s hard not to wonder why people like this have to deal with those sort of situations.
The answer to that is something we will never know in this lifetime. Accepting this fact doesn’t have to make us feel helpless. There is always something we can do. Reach out to those who are struggling, listen silently, share kind words, visit strangers. These horrible situations grant us opportunities to be that angel for others.
And when we are not helping others, we can appreciate – truly appreciate – everything we have in our own lives.
That miserable run we just completed in freezing temperatures? The pain reminds us that our body is able to run. Being present in that pain means feeling grateful that you are able to get out there in the first place. Because one day you may be too old or sick to run. Appreciate it now while you have it.
That job that makes you dread waking up in the morning? Be present in that misery. Listen to what it is telling you, use it to change your life and take yourself in a new direction. And while the misery lasts, be grateful that you have money to pay the bills and insurance to cover you in an emergency.
The mess your spouse leaves when they walk in the door? Appreciate them for who they are. Stop trying to change them and be grateful that they are home with you, each and every night. Compliment them and share joy with them. Spend time together being present.
The holiday season is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the decorations, movies, music, smells, foods, and happiness that comes in December. Hope is more present in the world than any other time of year. But this year, I am not going to count down the days until Christmas. I don’t want to wish away the time I have right now. Activities that bring joy to myself and others are going to become my priority. I’m going to constantly remind myself what this season means, and how lucky I am to experience it.
I want the days spent completing Christmas chores to go by slowly, so I can truly appreciate the activity. Those days spent with family will be just that – days spent with family. Uninterrupted time where I’m not thinking about work in the back of my head, or running through my to do list. Multi tasking will become a thing of the past. Not this time, not this year.
Life can change in the blink of an eye. In fact, at some point – it will. When it does, I don’t want to have any regrets. I want to know that I got the most out of every moment of my life. In those moments where I was truly happy, I want to know that I spread joy with as many people as possible. And in those painful times, I want to be sure that I found happiness in the little things and people each day.
Giving, love and hope are truly the reason for the season. Don’t get so caught up in the stress that the time flies by. Enjoy your loved ones, reach out to those who are hurting, and give your self time to relax.
It’s what my grandma would have wanted.