816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Amid the hubbub, we can stay happy in the still of the moments

I needed a map. Not the kind on my GPS or a never-to-be-refolded-properly paper one. I needed a To Do Map. Color-coded, please.

Doctor’s visit, holiday school programs, athletic practices and games, Church activities, parties — everything mapped in colors that quickly point me, and whomever and whatever I need to bring, to the next location.

Regular Life plus Holiday Life equals a family calendar bulging at the seams, and the events are mixing together into a toxic sauce. Even my phone calendar ringtone is dinging so much it hurts like a cacophonic “Carol of the Bells.”

If our normal speed of life is Pedal to the Metal, then December is Overdrive, Maximum Overdrive. I don’t think that feeling is limited to my family, either.

I’m not a stalky creeper (I promise), but I see you when I’m out and about. Some of you look a little frazzled. Are you getting into a panic over what to get your in-laws that they would like, don’t already have and you can afford?

Mentally adding up your expenditures with the shopping, crafting and baking ahead?

Wondering if you are going to have to pull an all-nighter (again) to get the kids’ gifts assembled and wrapped?

Trying to decide which parent goes to the 4th Grade Holiday Music Program, and which goes to basketball practice?

Forget where you hid the gifts you bought early in the summer hoping that this Christmas, you could get it all done early and wouldn’t be rushing from Thanksgiving until 2015?

Then I see others. They’re pushing full shopping carts at the grocery store, flipping through the racks at the department store — but they don’t look panicked. They look…happ

What? Happy holidays is a real thing?

Even discounting a certain percentage as non-holiday celebrators, there are many people who aren’t freaking out right now. How are they doing this holiday rush so calmly? Do they not have the same packed calendar as the rest of us?

Of course, they do.

I wanted to do the holidays as they do, so I came up with a plan:

Focus on the still moments.

I’ve learned that they are there, maybe not every day, but often. Since I’ve been on the lookout for them, they’ve appeared like magic, tucked into even the busiest of days. I know that more still moments are coming.

The still of gazing at tree lights from underneath, like a kid — with a kid. The still of admiring neighbors’ home displays at the speed of feet.

The still of my kids’ faces when they sleep and I see a shadow of them as babies.

The still moment when I cross something off my list as completed. When I appreciate where I am, not thinking of where I could be.

The soft and muffled sound of falling snow.

The still of realizing that I’m not at war about the meaning of the holiday. The peaceful still of imagining people that I care about embracing their own unique celebrations without apology or explanation.

The still of the moment when I accept that preparation time is up. What is done is what is. That moment when the holiday isn’t a date coming up on the calendar. It’s today.

I know I can’t keep the feeling of those moments alive all year. I can’t even keep them alive all day. But appreciate them fully when they happen like the gifts they are?

I can do that. No color-coded map required.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.