I thought it might be good to share one last dose of Christmas cheer before we usher in the new year. On New Year’s Day, my sister gave me her Christmas present. I visited her in Baltimore where she lives and she and my brother-in-law and I set out for a walk at dusk. She said she wanted to show me something. When we were nearby, she had me close my eyes and guided me the rest of the way. When I opened my eyes, this is what I saw:
Apparently, Baltimore’s 34th Street has been lighting up every house on one block since 1947. They even string lights above the street, connecting the houses and creating a canopy of light. I am usually the first to opine that we guzzle too much energy at Christmas, but this street does an amazing public service. This one hardly does it justice: you can check out more pictures here. Thousands of people come each year to see the lights and bask in their glow. These families work with their neighbors to put on a show for the rest of us out of the kindness of their hearts. Not every house needs a light display when a block like this can carry the torch for all of us. It couldn’t be more lovely, or more Slow Christmas.
It was the perfect present. I was feeling a sense of January foreboding, and not ready for the break from routine to end. I was in a decidedly un-magical place. But when I opened my eyes, I forgot all about the foreboding and the to-do-ing. It was freezing out, but I felt surrounded by beauty, cheer, and goodwill. And best of all was the feeling that my sister really “got” me. Even when scheduling got tricky, she didn’t take no for an answer, because she knew I would love it. And she was right. In a sense, it was my very own miracle on 34th Street.
And with that, Happy New Year to all! Let’s keep Slow Christmas in our hearts all year long with these 3 steps:
1. When you notice your mind racing and making lists, stop. Take ten slow breaths in a row, counting all the way to five as you inhale, taking another 5 to exhale. This is almost a cliché at this point, but believe me when I tell you, there’s a reason it’s become one. Deep breaths actually send signals to your brain that trigger an “everything is okay now” response in your body. This gives you an opportunity to slow down and take stock.
2. Ask yourself, is this a situation where my need for speed is legitimate, i.e. am I being pursued by bears? As the original fast American would be the first to tell you, there are some things worth breaking a sweat for:
Paul Revere galloping, 1775
But, if you find that you’re rushing and you feel frantic, you may want to do a spot-check on your priorities. Your friends and loved ones will understand if you can’t make it to every social engagement, be on every committee, or make the perfect meal. There are times when perfect isn’t good enough, and good enough is just great.
3.Take a look at your to-do list. Cross 2 things off. Go on, do it. Then, see if anyone notices that you didn’t do them this year. It’s a hard lesson to swallow for those of us who pay attention to detail, or have a perfectionist streak. But if you’re serious about slowing down your year, you have to prioritize. Frankly, some errands are just more important than others.