A Season for Living Fully – Stuff or No Stuff

A tiny house christmas

By Dee Williams

What are you focusing on this year during the upcoming holiday blitz? In the past I’ve paid a lot of attention to stuff-minimization, but this year, I’m focusing on just trying to be present with the grace that rests inside the holiday craziness.

Dee Williams fatherA couple years ago, I wrote about Holiday Stuffing & Gift Giving with some ideas for re-gifting and simply avoiding buying loads of stuff. At the time, I was living with my dad and slowing going through the mountain of stuff that he and my mom had accumulated throughout their house. I was kind of freaked out by the volume.

I just re-read that post and it still rings mostly true for me, even though my life has significantly changed. The new twist for this holiday: I think I can more clearly and articulate the things that are most important to me. And a new power drill isn’t it. Gulp, did I just admit that?

A Life Fully Lived

This perspective has been brewing in me for a while. Not long ago, I watched a movie called Collateral Beauty. The summary write-up by critics: “…love, time and loss interlock in a life fully lived.” I’m applying this thought to the rush and crazy anxiety that many people feel around the holidays. We get so busy trying to get together with friends and family, to tell them we love them. Sometimes we lose track of time as we try to remain compassionate, especially in the face of political events that can turn bloody and thunderous. We can get depressed remembering important people, animal friends, homes or land that we have lost. But inside that churn, there can be great moments of collateral happiness and beauty – like the movie illustrated.

Dee and polar bearHere’s an example: two years ago, my dad moved into my sister’s farmhouse. My sister’s home was already full with her daughter’s family – husband and three cheeky boys under the age of 5. For each of us, it was hard to watch my dad, Papa to the boys, struggle with leukemia and Parkinson’s disease over the next couple of months. He would sometimes get stormy and scared, and then like a miracle when we’d hold his hand or look deep into his eyes he would soften and smile just a little.

Not long after he died, I had a chance to go to the zoo with the cheeky boys. We were gob-smacked standing in front of the polar bears – these were definitely the biggest and most fierce animals I’ve ever seen. They were also the most graceful, swan-diving and elegantly making turns before us. As we stood there, Noah looked at me and gave me a toothy smile: “They kind of remind me of Papa.” His perspective made me giggle, and I was in awe of his little 5-year old boy insight. There seemed to be so much love wedged alongside time and loss for Noah.

What I’m Noticing This Year (Instead of Stuff)

There are a thousand beautiful things that we see, hear and feel deeply when we allow ourselves into a “life fully lived.” So here are a few suggestions for empowering you to notice the grace that rests inside the Holiday craziness:

  • A week or so ago, Derin Williams of Shelterwise invited me to support an organization called The Water Project in Africa. The idea is to bring potable water to kids, families and communities… and it is working! On a similar plain, I’ve been invited to re-think and support the good work being done to get supplies to our friends who live outside (commonly called “homeless” but I prefer words like ‘displaced,’ ‘working poor,’ or ‘brother, sister, and teacher.’) The epidemic of people searching for asylum from hard times and impossible situations, both local and global, is huge, and I appreciate the holidays as a reminder to me that we are all one family. I can get off my lazy butt cheeks to help.
  • If you have time, take a look into the Wayfinding Academy, which offers an alternative way to view our growth and education, so we can become the changes that we want to see in the world. It’s been a privilege to get to know the folks behind that great organization and dream about what is possible if we put our minds AND hearts into it.
  • Presents for dogs
    A dog can be a present…or get a present!

    Consider hanging out with kids and elders. It doesn’t matter if they’re relatives, friends or family. I took my old dog RooDee to the library for ‘read to a dog’ days where 4 to 8-year old kids could read to her. I’ve also visited folks who don’t have a lot of visitors, when they were stuck in the hospital or other care facility. Both experiences have been so dag-gum inspiring.

  • General advice for me and you: play games. Be a goof-ball. Run naked around the house, even if that means standing in one spot in your teeny tiny house and running in place. And one last thing: call your mother, even if that means shouting to the sky or lighting a simple candle. Here are a couple of good reads that explains my mom and I: The Lanyard by Billy Collins, the entire Monkey with a Tool Belt series by Chris Monroe and If I Wanted a Boat by Mary Oliver. All good short reads that easily remind me of my mom during her big, full life.

There are tons of other cool things to do this holiday to stay sane and generative in this world. And while I don’t want to sound like a cheesy Hallmark card: slow down and notice what is in your heart. I mean, maybe it’s too late and I already sound like a holiday card, but I think this is advice everyone needs – myself included.

Cheers to YOU! Be safe and have fun in the holidays. Thank you for being in my life and a part of PAD,


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