Personal Traditions—A Gift To Yourself

Yesterday I took a day off from writing to consider the previous post, and the significance of my Charlie Brown Christmas tradition. Realizing the depth of the story, the characters, and their value to me, I decided to write a series about these enduring and endearing characters.

A New Tradition Begins

A great deal of thought has gone into the history of my Charlie Brown Christmas tradition. The memories are deeply personal, and rooted in my life as a newly single adult. No one else shares those memories; therefore, the tradition just can’t mean the same thing to them. For many years all we did was just watch the show without setting the stage or going through the ritual. Soon it was obvious to me that my daughter and then grandchildren didn’t love the Charlie Brown gang as I did. My “other people focused” way of living leaves little room for self. I can’t enjoy doing something with people who are doing it for me, but are not really enjoying it. I’d rather not do the thing at all than know I am putting those I care about through some kind of torture. For me, there is no joy in that experience; Christmas should be about joy.

Last night was the beginning of a new annual tradition for me. Before then it never dawned on me to do it for me, and do it by myself. One night every year I will schedule an evening alone to set the mood and spend twenty five minutes immersed in the world of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang.

Setting The Mood

Last night, I was alone for the evening so I decided the time was perfect to recreate my Charlie Brown Christmas watch party for one. It is unseasonably warm in Texas this month, so I did what any self respecting Texan does to get in the Christmas spirit: turn thermostat down to mimic a chilly December evening. I then gathered the all accoutrements to make the experience complete. In the future I will plan this a little more in advance so that I can have a signature cocktail and season appropriate hors d’oeuvres. I may even throw pillows and a blanket on the floor for an authentic childhood experience. Well, maybe not. My knees aren’t what they used to be…I’ll probably stick with the recliner.

Being too lazy to cook then clean up the mess, I warmed up leftovers, poured myself a tall glass of homemade sweet tea, grabbed the blanket and settled into my recliner. My current set up is much more luxurious and lovely than when this tradition first began. Though the event has little to do with luxury or comfort, my lovely living room is a definite plus.

The room is dark, illuminated only by the two trees strategically placed in opposite ends of my open concept living room space. The ambience is warm and cozy.

Music

The soundtrack to Charlie Brown Christmas is iconic and playing in the background as I write. I love the West Coast jazz made famous by artists such as Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and Stan Getz. Vince Guarldi, composer and arranger of the soundtrack for Charlie Brown Christmas, falls into this category. I have strong ties to the Southern California of the 1960s and this music is just a part of what reminds me of that time in my life. I can still remember coming home from elementary school, to our little house on La Reina Street in Anaheim, California, being greeted by Ray Charles’ voice singing “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Music is such a powerful trigger for me. Nothing can make me melancholy, reflective, worshipful, or joyful quite like music.

So, it is no surprise, that as soon as the music began, I was ushered into a place filled with memories, childlike anticipation and the aching loneliness of the woman I was in 1985. Those are powerful emotions and they set the stage for what was to come.

What Lies Beneath

Because of this series, and just where I am in life, I wanted to watch with eyes that see deeper than the action on the screen. There is much to unwrap here. I must watch it again. Maybe watch it several times in order to unpack the characters and the deeper meaning Charles Schultz wrote into his funny little band of childhood friends.

I know I am not alone in thinking about Charlie Brown on a deeper, more psychological level. Funny thing is, for my lifelong passion for the Peanuts gang, I have never done the deep dive. I have simply floated on the surface of the stories; content to enjoy the superficial humor. Call it age or just nothing better to do, that is not enough for me anymore.

That’s All Folks

I end the week with this glimpse into the rest of the Christmas season. I’m going to take the weekend to research. Watch the show a few more times and ponder all that Charlie Brown and his gang have to offer.

I hope that the weekend brings you all that you need: rest, peace, health, and laughter. Consider watching Charlie Brown Christmas again, or for the first time, then come back Monday and let’s have a dose of Christmas joy together.

K.I.S.S. Day 5

Modern life is complicated. We have too many options, too much information and still only twenty four hours in a day. Choices must be made; priorities set.

In my effort to simplify my life I have removed the extraneous, evaluated the remainder, and still find room for further paring down of clutter—physical and mental. I am choosing activities that require active participation rather than passive entertainment (I do still indulge in an hour of General Hospital everyday and will schedule in my favorite sitcoms once they return). But even with the passive entertainment I am being cautious with what I pour into my brain. Will this content inspire and enliven me or cause stress over things for which I have no control? This is just one of the questions I ask myself these days. Therefore, as the simplified version of my life moves forward the following items will play a prominent role in my daily life.

Books

I loved reading as a child and have only been a sporadic reader in adulthood. There is a discipline to reading. An investment of precious time where there is almost certainly a guarantee that in the end emotions and point of view will be altered. As much as I love movies, they do not do to me what a really good book does; my soul is not touched in the same way and the characters don’t live with me in quite the same way. For a while I rejected reading on a Kindle as I prefer old school books. I still prefer them; however, I have discovered that I can read and stay awake when I use the Kindle. Being awake certainly helps the process of finishing books.

As I moved my focus from passive screen time to reading (the Kindle screen doesn’t have the same affect as a phone or computer—different lights or something) I feel a part of me has come back to life. I have read two books in the past week. Parts one and two of the ‘Me Before You’ trilogy by British author Jojo Moyes. Prior to last week I had never heard of her and now I am anxiously waiting for book three to become available through the digital library system. I believe I know how the story ends, but it is the journey that is so fun. Isn’t this whole point of life? We all know where the story ends, but it is the story of our journey that defines the life we led.

Making

During the past three years I have wasted a ridiculous amount of time on Instagram, Pinterest and general web browsing. All of it, I told myself, was business research and development. I spent money on websites, URLs, products, and for what? Only to get disillusioned and quit. Along the way I finally determined that I love the excitement of business development but I detest the actual work of running an online business. All my creative energy went to the business ideas but not actually making things that give me pleasure.

Social Commentary

For fourteen years I was in the yarn business. I believed that everything I did must connect to yarn for me to be authentic. Being a yarn shop owner was what I did every day and that became my identity. If I’m not a part of that world anymore, who am I? So I held on, reinventing myself into yet one more version in the hopes that this one felt right. It didn’t.

That is over. I am letting myself try different things, am discovering a joy in hand stitching and dyeing small amounts of fabric then creating art that is beautiful to the eye and tells a story. If I want to explore other mediums, I free to do so because my identity is no longer connected to what I make. What I make is simply an outward reflection of where I am in that moment.

Music

I am one of those people for whom music is a soul moving experience. I seem to be using words like ‘soul moving’ a great deal today. I love most all kinds of music, but without a doubt my favorite is classical. I can close my eyes and get lost in the beauty, the movement, the imagery. I have felt this connection for as long as I remember; it is simply one of those things that got lost in the businessof life. I now make time and space for beautiful music in my day.

Art

I have become zealous about who I follow on Instagram. I am removing accounts that don’t inspire me. I am primarily following creative people whose hand work and life shown on the grid, brightens my day or inspires me to look at the world through new eyes. I am no longer following accounts that merely want to sell me something, preach politics, lecture me about anything, or with whom I just no longer resonate. If I have unfollowed anyone reading this, I am sorry. Nothing personal; I am just exercising some self care in what I ingest.

I follow many artists whose work I love, and whose creative practice teaches me a new way of working out my own art life. I have no formal art training and I am learning there is a process. My habit of expecting immediate perfection is completely incongruous with the artistic life. I am learning to play. To try. To step out of the safe and into the unknown. It is exhilarating.

I not only follow artists, I buy from them whenever possible. It is the one thing I can do that is mutually beneficial. I have limited funds. These are not big purchases. But they bring so much joy to my little world and I know that by buying from them more art will come. It is the happiest part of my world right now.

My most recent acquisition. “Moon River” by Elizabeth Bunsen

Simple Living

I don’t require much to be happy. I’ve always teased my husband that he won the lottery with such a low maintenance wife. But for those few things I do need, I need them daily. I have learned that my mental and physical health depend upon a steady diet of all the above things blended with a regular dose of family, friends, my dogs, good coffee, food and bourbon…and an occasional road trip to keep the juices flowing.

Next week I get back on track with posts about the things I am making as well as any house updates. It is my hope and prayer that something I have said this week moves you to examine the role of technology in your life and how even small changes can reap big rewards for you and those you love.

Have a great weekend and make some memories.

~Sheryl