The sun sets early, we light the lamps and scatter candles. The trees is shimmering with reflected light, the fire crackles. There’s hot soup in bowls and fresh bread on the cutting board. Kids nestle together in front of the fire reading and laughing together. Yuletide evenings are full of good things and cozy memories.
It’s funny, the picture sounds so ideal, so hygge, so intentional. But too often, while the outer picture is as perfect as it looks, the interior image is otherwise. I’m looking at the soup pot, the bowls, the spoons, and wondering if I have enough water melted to wash them tonight. The fire is crackling because the wood is damp and the fire is frustratingly smoky. Seth is updating his page, but I have an article due soon and the phone’s battery is only at 50%. Luba just stole a slice of bread.
The beauty of everyday is imperfect. There will always be dishes and imperfect fires. Family life requires the sort of annoying generosity of spirit that allows us to share with each other – even when we don’t want to; and in return, family life gives us these picture perfect memories, these little icons of joy.
Last night, I was so tired,chilly, crabby, and uninspired. I curled back into bed after Mass while Seth made breakfast and brought me coffee, but I was still a bundle of exhaustion and overwhelmed nerves. In the evening though, I made pizzas for dinner, the house warmed up and my soul warmed with it. I ate standing, serving slice after slice of fresh, wood-fired pizzas to my hungry family. I laughed, I read aloud about Arthur and his knights, and my joy was restored. Afterwards, I threw in some rummy currant muffins for today’s breakfast.
Self care is all well and good: quiet times, naps, gym memberships, and novels can restore us in some ways; but nothing heals the spirit like lavishing love on our beloveds. Nothing brings joy like dying a bit to the wants we hoard within us. At least, that’s what I learn anew each winter when darkness and cold, and Christmas cheer pile us together into our little yurt for long evenings of intimacy.