Let There Be Peace on Earth (And Let It Begin With Me)

I’m not a tranquil, easygoing person. Even as a kid I planned for imaginary contingencies. I worried and wondered. I made lists.

I’m convinced this is a bit of a personality defect since I had a wonderful childhood.

It’s still true of me as a 41-year-old wife, mom, and artist. I have a good life, and I’m still a bit of a hurricane on the inside. My emotions are easy to stir up. Hard to quell.

tornado on body of water during golden hour
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

I love this time of year. I’m a Christian, and this season reminds me why I have hope–both in this life and in the one to come. But Christmas stresses me out, too. It ruins my routines. It sinks me under the weight of its happy expectations. It adds items to my to do list and upends my fragile status quo.

If I’m honest, I miss the way we celebrated Christmas when we lived in India. Which is to say, we did Advent readings, watched good movies, lit candles, and opened gifts on Christmas morning.

There were no concerts, no expectations, no parties, no travel, no Christmas cards, no feasts, no detailed gift lists, no endless choices, no school performances, no commercials reminding us that we hadn’t bought enough.

Our Christmas dinners in India were spaghetti and mutton meat balls because that was the fanciest thing we could find in our little hill station market.

concrete house on mountain
Photo by Karen W Lim on Pexels.com

I’m in America, now, not India. Sure, there’s plenty to love about an American Christmas. But peaceful, it ain’t. Not unless I plan for it.

So I’m mostly cutting out social media this month. I’m checking my email once a day. I’m listening to Christmas music I actually enjoy. I’m drinking coffee, slowly, in the wee hours of the morning. I’m putting on my makeup in silence so I can think. I’m reading my Bible before I reach for my phone. I’m working on tricky edits of my manuscript in the morning instead of pushing them off to the afternoon when I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed early. I’m reading novels instead of watching Netflix.

I want to thrive this holiday season, not just survive. And, for me, planning for peace is the only way to go.

 

On Surviving ‘Big Opportunities’

In two days, I’ll attend a writer’s conference at a swanky hotel. My carry-on will contain professional clothes (okay, a few Stitch Fix mix ‘n matches). I will wear poppy-colored lipstick and have too many business cards in my purse. I will try to look bright-eyed and confident, but also cool and not too eager because gross.

I will try not to think about myself and my writing too much, try to remember that this kind of event is about reaching out to others with no strings attached. Let good things just happen, man. Think about how you can be helpful. Be the first to go in for a handshake.

Shudder.

The whir in the back of my head will be: I wonder what’s going to happen. What VIP will I meet that could change my future plans? Do I belong here? I don’t. No, wait, I do. But not really. But, yes. Yes, I do. I will lick my front teeth to make sure none of the poppy-colored lipstick is smeared on them. I will open my eyes extra-wide (but not crazy wide!) behind my glasses when people smile at me because I’m 40, and my eyelids are starting to sag even when I’m not tired. Even when I’m nervous and on sensory overload.

And then I will remember how fortunate I am to be here. I will think about the beggar kids that lived outside my apartment in India for three years, those pink warts on their toast-colored hands, the broken-off front teeth. I will think about the level of privilege this conference represents, and how I did nothing to deserve it.

person woman sitting old
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

And that will set me right for a few minutes out of every hour until I reach my hotel room at the end of the day. There I will let my face sag. I will switch on the television to see what cable looks like after all these years. Then I’ll make decaf in the nasty little pot on the desk. I will text my husband and ask him about our three teenagers–the ones I miss when they’ve been out of my sight for more than eight hours.

I’ll thank God for seeing me this far.

I’ll remember who I am.