Thirty-three years ago, I moved from Canada to Los Angeles for college and while LA has become the place where I have built a business, bought a house, and made a life, “home” to me will always truly be where my heart is. I have never missed an opportunity to spend Christmas with my family since and this year was not going to be any different, or so I thought. My husband and I flew in weeks earlier, tested negative for COVID twice, and still had to wait fourteen days to visit with our parents and anyone over 65.
This marks the 17th year of bringing my husband, the first boy I ever kissed, who I reconnected with online 30 years later, back to his family for the holidays. I chased him around summer camp when I was seven and my mother captured an adorable photo of us on a swing with him in a headlock as I planted a big kiss on him. We never really saw one another again but coincidentally years later he moved down to California and had not been home for the holidays since. As you can imagine, his mother has been eternally grateful that I brought her baby back year after year so they could spend the holidays together.
In August, she moved out of her home of 55 years into a lovely apartment in a senior’s community, and then lockdowns prevented her from coming back. Once safe, we “broke her out of” her community and brought her back to her home to spend time with us, hoping she would be able to catch up and see her friends and family that have not been allowed on the property. As we neared the end of our 14 days of isolation, new restrictions were imposed and two days after breaking her free, Citywide no one is allowed to have visitors from a different address and restaurants have shutter except for take-out, making holiday visits impossible.
There is a part of me that greatly misses the hustle and bustle of what I consider to truly be the most wonderful time of the year but we are enjoying our quiet time, recording videos of her reminiscing as she sorts through years of memories and lets go of decades worth of crafts, books, furniture, and clutter that she accumulated.
It makes me happy to be able to spend this time helping her find closure and helping her things find their way to people who treasure them. There is a far greater joy in finding someone who truly loves or needs items than just getting rid of them. I too have been going back through my memories, or at least the ones posted on FaceBook in years past and one hit me this week as particularly relevant.
Look around at all the “stuff” you have, and WOW does she have a lot of stuff. That stuff used to be money, and the money used to be your time. Take time now to really ask yourself whether the things you are thinking of buying for yourself or as holiday gifts are truly treasures, or if it is just more stuff.
This year I think true connection and reaching out to friends and family that are isolated and feeling sad, depressed, and lonely is a far greater gift than any trinkets you may be thinking of sending and I have been told several times that I "made someone's day" with a simple call or gesture. Now more than ever, we are all looking for connection, seeking kindness, and needing love.
If you are in a city where lockdowns are strict and you are not able to partake in festivities with family, you may have some extra time on your hands to go through some of the things you have accumulated. The day after Christmas in Canada we celebrate "Boxing Day". While in recent years it has become another excuse for retailers to hold sales, the true origin of the holiday was after opening gifts, everyone would box up their gently used items that were no longer needed and donate them to the poor and they would celebrate their Christmas the next day.
The energy that is freed up when you let go of things that no longer serve you is immeasurable and it makes room for something new to come in … and I do not mean more “stuff”. End 2020 with the mantra of letting go of that which no longer serves you, from material possessions to old habits, patterns, programs, and the past. It’s time to let it all go and create something new in 2021.
As I have been working on my goals and aspirations for the New Year, trying to leverage the energy of the end of the year and hoping it will propel me into a better and more prepared space in January, I am finding that what has always been my favorite time of year, is challenging. Maintaining my consistent self-care routine is tough and it's much easier to help my mother-in-law's than work on my projects. For some strange reason, there is greater satisfaction in clearing out a room than crossing a writing project off the list. I am missing the rest of my family too. Other than a few FaceTime chats and dropping groceries off on the porch, there has not really been much of an opportunity to visit and partake in all the regular festivities like our traditional cookie bake, wrapping presents, hand sewing stockings for the new additions to the family and just spending time together.
I have been searching hard for ways to find the Spirit of Christmas in the "Age of Coronavirus" and as an event producer, I am feeling inspired to create ways we can still celebrate and enjoy the holidays. While we may not be able to gather together in person, a fun Zoom conference will allow us to all connect virtually and see one another’s faces. A Santa virtual background where the kids can take selfie screenshots instead of sitting on Santa's knee and virtual trivia games revolving around funny stories from happier holidays past are top of the list.
I have also reached out to the restaurant that normally provides our “feast in a box” and asked whether they can create individual plates to be delivered to multiple residences. The Chinese take out we usually order on Boxing Day when everyone is tired of turkey, I am trying to arrange a drive-through pick up from our garage so that my parents can at least see their great-grandchildren, even if it is masked sitting inside their cars.
With the temperatures dropping well below zero, tighter restrictions, and fewer people leaving their homes, I reach out every time I head to the grocery store to see if my parents need anything. Last week I also reached out to my niece who is at home with three little ones between the ages of two and five. I had already loaded the car when she called and asked if it was too late to ask for getting some milk, bread, and eggs.
I ran back inside and as I was trying to stay out of the lane of traffic by the registers, an elderly woman stood where she thought the line ended before realizing I was tucked against a point of purchase display. I offered for her to go ahead of me since she only had two items, hoping the young man with the cart half full would follow suit. A minute later an elderly gentleman approached and again, I offered to let him and his small basket proceed.
As the cashier abruptly reprimanded the elderly woman for placing her items on the conveyer belt before the young man paid, it hit me ... the Holiday Spirit I had been seeking. I snuck around, grabbed the cashier's attention, and asked her to ring up the next two guests and add them to my total. The young man looked at me stunned and as the elderly woman moved forward and reached for her wallet, the cashier softened then started to beam as she told the woman now in front of her that her bill was taken care of and did not need to pay. Dumfounded and trying to understand she stood still. As the cashier rang up the few items for the gentleman, she looked at them both and said, "You are both good to go. Your groceries have been paid for by the woman behind you."
"Why," they asked. "Why not? You hardly had anything in your basket. Have a Happy Holiday" I replied.
"We will have one now, because of you" the gentleman replied. As I moved towards the till the cashier looked at me with a glisten in her eyes and thanked me for coming to her register and allowing her to be a part of the exchange.
I walked away with lightness in my heart I have not felt much during these dark times. If you are looking for the spirit of the holidays in 2020, it is truly in giving, that we receive. Whether in the form of the time I have given to my mother-in-law and the amazing tales she has shared in return, the small gesture of buying someone's groceries and seeing the ripple effect it had not just on them but the brash cashier and the self-absorbed young man or my two-year-old great-niece who was so excited to have groceries and a treat dropped on her door way that she excitedly told me every story she could think of in the charming way only a two-year-old with a limited vocabulary could. I received so much more than one day than thirty-four years' worth of presents combined.
No matter how challenging 2020 has been for you this year, may you celebrate the end of the year and look for ways to carry the Spirit of the Holidays forward in 2021.
By Stressless Event Producer, Susan Koziak
About the Author
Award-Winning Stress Less Event Producer, Susan Koziak, has over 30 years of experience in the #5 most stressful career right under military, emergency responders, and airline pilots, according to Forbes. She understands the effects of stress and anxiety, and more importantly, knows how to transform it in a way that will leave you empowered. Susan combines principles of high performance and the importance of self-care for a holistic, balanced approach to business, energy, mindset, emotions, and physical health.