If I ever won a lottery – unlikely since I never buy a ticket – my dream would be to do the following every single year:
I’d travel to New England, and find a perfect house to rent every year at Christmastime, one with plenty of bedrooms and a warm, open living space, complete with fireplace and snuggly furniture. A view out toward a winter landscape would complete the setting, and make it all Currier and Ives-ey.
But this isn’t just for me. In the days leading up to Christmas and then beyond into the brand new year, I’d want everyone I loved gathered there, in this perfectly suited place, preferably with snow on the ground around us. As I said, there would be room for everyone, and the house would be beautifully appointed with holiday touches.
If working people didn’t have the vacation time coming to them to enable them to join the group, I’d ask them to take the time unpaid and then give them the money. (I’m a lottery winner, remember?)
Gifts would not only be purchased, they’d be wrapped and ready to place under a picture-perfect tree long before December 24. I’d stock the house with delicious treats and great food. Some of the best moments of our holiday together will be the memorable meals we linger over around the table.
We’d have time to welcome the day with a quiet conversation over a hot mug of coffee in the morning; time to take winter walks through the gorgeous woods, time to play a game, listen to music, read a book, watch a movie together. Time to have all the conversations that get cut off throughout the year with phrases like this: “I have a meeting in one minute – have to jump off and dial a conference line.” Or this: “Call home when you get a chance, honey. Just want to hear from you; see how you’re doing.” Or this: “Can I call you back? This is a really, really bad time…” and then, somehow, you never do.
We’d have time to listen to each other, to ask the questions that need space and thought; that need contemplation and discussion. We’d give each other time to answer.
We’d sometimes do little more than sit around together and do almost nothing except enjoy the downtime together. We’d share great tea or delicious wine together as the dark surrounded us.
Conspicuously absent in my lottery dream are anxiety and sadness. Stress is strictly forbidden as are tension and anger. There is no room for these in my Christmas house and anyone who packs them along with their winter woolens will be discouraged from making the trip.
The thing is, I haven’t won the lottery and I don’t have a rustic but spectacular Christmas house to escape to for the perfect holiday. Instead, I have found myself weighed down by stress, and anxiety and some sadness from time to time. I have felt tension and anger as well, and at this time of year, it just feels harder to bear, doesn’t it?
Maybe it’s a universal truth that has no easy resolution. We get seduced by the pictures we conjure up of a post-lottery life but then we check our ticket and find we’re not a penny richer. And if that’s not enough, we look around on December 22 and find that the cards haven’t been addressed, the cookies haven’t been baked, the last few presents still need to be purchased, and the others need wrapping. But even with all that you know one thing for certain: not one bit of it matters. Not really.
Charles Dickens knew it. (I have a semi-obsession with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.) Tonight I keep thinking about these words, which Fred expresses to his Uncle Ebenezer: “…I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut up hearts freely…and therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
Maybe I just need to open up a shut up heart; maybe that will do me good.