Sunday, 6 December 2009

Going placidly

It is already the second Sunday in Advent, Sarah's little Christmas tree is counting down relentlessly, and everywhere I see and hear the sights and sounds of mounting panic in the face of Christmas almost present.


But dearest Tif has sent me this embroidered traycloth to fortify me in my resolve, and I have taken her advice to heart - I am going to remain calm, and carry on calmly towards the holidays, looking forward to some holiday, some celebrating, some good food ... but I am determined to avoid excess, especially on the shopping and the anxiety front.



And Floss has been encouraging us all to Pause in Advent, with which I heartily agree, especially if that pause involves a little quiet time on the sofa.



And then I thought of the words of Max Ehrmann's 'Desiderata', found on a million posters in the 1970s, but still valid and relevant and full of wisdom.

It begins with the words: 'Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.' So perhaps you may find time to take your own little pause and indulge yourself in a little silence, so that you may continue your journey towards the festivities quite placidly.



I think that it is important to remember that it is only one day amongst many, and sometimes we aim for too much in the way of perfection. And ask yourself, too, what you are really worrying about - and if your worries came to pass, would it really be so very bad?

If you are on good terms with your guests (and I do believe that it is a useful principle in life to determine on being on the most amiable terms with all guests, bearing in mind that, by definition, the presence of a guest is always temporary), then look upon it as a chance to get together and have a nice chat. And if you tell yourself it is not a banquet nor a competition, but merely a glorified Sunday lunch, then the prospect of cooking doesn't seem nearly so daunting. And if the numbers are more than you feel you can manage, ask them to help by bringing a pudding or their pinny. I also make it a point of principle not to cook (or, rather, not to instruct the Head Chef to cook) anything that will not be eaten or is disliked by the majority, regardless of invented tradition.



If the recipients don't like their presents, I hope they are polite enough not to show it, and if they do, well they can always give them to someone else who will appreciate them more, I won't mind at all. As I discussed here, I think the important thing is to give out blessings without thought of return, and that way you won't be disappointed in what you might receive. Unwanted presents can always be given to a charity shop, and that way they can do some good in the world.



And if the guests are apt to be disagreeable, why, just smile at them and make empathetic noises, and feel sorry for them in their self-induced unhappiness with life; after all, we are all the architects of our own misery or joy, and I know that my own wish in life is to spread joy, not sadness or anger.

And I am sure that the way that you can make your children happy is to be happy yourself, and teach them that satisfaction does not come from desiring what you do not have, but from contentment with what you already possess. That is the most valuable gift you can give them.


As Ehrmann writes, 'With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.'

So there ends my little homily, I hope I don't sound too hectoring: I am not really telling you how to live your life, but telling myself - I find that the more I repeat these things (yes, I do sit in a corner muttering to myself rather a lot), the more that they come true. And, yes, Pollyanna is still my heroine, as I mentioned here. And I am getting so old and wise that I feel impelled to share my philosophies (although perhaps not quite as old as Alice, for my children don't yet prepare food for me, but she gives me hope that such an occasion is imminent.)

And tomorrow or the next day I will be back to tell you about pesky squirrels, the most wonderful two dollar earrings, and the joy of buying yourself a present. I know I have mentioned this before, but it can't be recommended too much as an antidote to the stress of buying presents for other people - remember I gave you some handy shopping advice here, so you don't even have to move from your chair to do it!

42 comments:

andamento said...

Lovely thoughts, you don't sound hectoring at all!
I like the Ehrmann quote, thank you!

Cally's Cottage said...

What wise words you speak! May we all enter into the festive season with love and forgiveness in our hearts and plenty of wine in the pantry!!
Thank you for sharing,
Keep Muttering....
Warm Wishes,
Cally x

jennyflower said...

I shall do my best to take a pause and focus on being a good guest, for that is my role this Christmas.

alice c said...

Alas - such a shocking fate will be yours all too soon - and then you can come and join me in the travelling circus or whereever else I have run away to.

Grumpy Old Woman said...

Thank you for sharing these wise words. I shall endeavour to remember them in the coming days.
~{:O})=

dottycookie said...

Thank you for this wise and timely post. We've just come back from the school Christmas Fayre and I am looking forward to a quiet dinner and a bit of stitching tonight with perhaps a soppy DVD for company. I'm all for slowing down where we can - the upcoming week at school promises to be hectic in the extreme!

Floss said...

Good stuff! I have the sampler I embroidered at the age of 15 up here not far from the computer - it contains another quote from the Desiderata: 'You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars', so I embroidered trees from our garden and stars on the sampler. It seemed such a beautifully peaceful and prioritising sentiment. Thanks, Pomona.

Lucille said...

Placid. Such a good word. Serene and undisturbed. I shall endeavour to be these things. Thank you for a timely reminder.

Julia said...

I love your blog and I love the sweet wisdom you share, I have been thinking much along the same lines as you these last few days as Christmas draws ever nearer. A timely reminder to nurture oneself and not aim too high or too hard...

Sending love, thank you for your comforting words today.

Julia xxx

Tabiboo said...

The Glad Game!

We snuggled up and watched Pollyanna this morning and all three children were enthralled.

Such wonderful words Pomona and ones that should be remembered and repeated when it all gets a bit too much.

take care and warm wishes,

Nina xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, you have transported me back to my youth. A time when the wise words that you quoted were my mantra.
Thank you for reminding me and saving me from the ever increasing madness of a comercial Christmas.
Maud xx.

TheMadHouse said...

Wise, wise words indeed. We all need to take a step back sometimes and take a deep breath.

Lyn said...

I remember a friend giving me a copy of that poem when I was at a very low point in my life. I often remember the words.
Thanks for the lovely post.
Love
Lyn
xxx

Bobo Bun said...

Sound advice and calming too. I must admit as we're both only children and our family consists of my parents and the girls, I don't get stressed about it at all. Would love a big family christmas, but that probably brings its own stresses. So we just try and make as much magic happen with candles, decorations and games as we can.

Thanks for another great post Pomona x

Menopausal musing said...

If you and Alice decide to run off to the Circus, can I help to make you some really wild costumes???????? :O)

Wild Rose said...

A wise post ~ I remember Desiderata being read to us at school as we were preparing to leave and go out into the big, wide world!

Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog ~ I am slow to pay a return visit, as life is too hectic at the moment, but I am working on taking time out to just be still and observe life.

Marie x

sarah said...

very wise words, and a very poignant post for me at the moment...thanks

Sarah

Jennifer said...

Such a great post. You are so right in that we are the architects of our own misery and joy, it is up to us whether whether this season is a joy or a hassle. Thanks so much.

AllyColl said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind words:-)
I get my audio books from play.com as they reduce them quite often and you can pick up a bargain:-)
Take care,
Alison

Sarah said...

Do you think I should cut that jolly tree down yet? I really hate it and that number is quite unreal at present. My energy level is way down when I still have so much to do. I just keep telling myself that it's supposed to be the joyous season and be happy. All will be what it is in the end.

BusyLizzie said...

Wise words. I am so with you on this Christmas frenzy & this year I am not going to be sucked in.....

and thank you for your comment on my blog! Lizzie x

Pipany said...

Yay, a great post Pomona and one I am tempted to put on my fridge door to be read oft by one and all. We are thankfully truly lucky in that our children never ask for much and know that much of their Christmas involves homemade. Thay seem to like this - or perhaps they lie well!! x

Kate said...

What a lot of sense you speak - thank you for your post. I'm sure I shall come back to it again before the big day arrives! Have a lovely week. x

Serenata said...

Going placidly....taking a pause and laughing manically at the moment!

Poshyarns said...

Beautifully phrased good advice.

Florence and Mary said...

Such wise words!

Victoria xx

pebbledash said...

Such wisdom! We would do well to follow your advice.

Felicity said...

oh i like this post! i was getting quite stressed with joshy as he was doing the tree and i wanted to as i wanted it to look perfect in the end i let him do it and he has done such a good job and his little face was beaming! it was much nicer and stress free! thanks for your lovely comment when joshy was ill, we've not seen him like that before he is fine now, back at school this week! fliss xx

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

I'm taking your very good advice! Best wishes. Lesley

Simply H said...

What a lovely post Pomona! You are always full of such wonderful wise words x

Cottage Garden said...

Wise words Pomona, and not hectoring at all!

Jeanne x

cathleen said...

A great post to ponder upon and I am so glad you wrote this. Your words are a wonderful balm to a very hectic season. Thanks, Pomona, you are a sweetheart.

Lola Nova said...

Great post and something I am striving to put into practice.

Barbara said...

As the years have gone by I have left behind the frazzle of Christmas and taken it a day at a time and not epected the perfection that was once my enemy and it still gets done but in a very different atmosphere. What does it matter if something does not get done or something is forgotten.

Whatever I do hope you have a blessed time when it comes.

julia said...

Words of wisdom and quiet I desperately needed tonight. Thank you very much.

Donna said...

Oh you are so right honey, thank you. I can breathe again now :-)

Charlotte, Cottontails said...

Hello! Sorry I haven't been back until now... struggling to find time to breathe let alone much else. So your post was quite apt really.

I love the Max Ehrmann poem (have I spelled that right?) and it reminds me that I have a book of his poetry somewhere - called The Way of Happiness I think. He wrote lots of good things. One lovely one about going to sleep and "leave tomorrow's problems for tomorrow, for only the stars are abroad and they will not bother you", something like that. I used to say it to myself at bedtime. Given that I am typing this on my laptop in bed, it is not a bad idea!

Love Charlotte
xx

Michela said...

Really wise words! I wish my mum could read English..the paragraph about Christmas lunch!
Honestly I'm not worrying too much about Christmas, I'm living in a hurry as usual and I don't have the time to pause and enjoy the festive atmosphere. Just the same repetitive actions every year and unpleasant guests sitting at my table on the Big Day!

Cathy said...

What sensible advice and I agree totally. We make our Christmases hell because we expect too much of ourselves, the day and the mince pies. All we need to do is relax and just think it will all be over in a few hours. I have always loved the words of Desiderata even though they are supposed to be desperately unfashionable. I find them comforting.

Itch2stitch.com said...

Lovely wisedom! suzie. xxx

A Bun Can Dance said...

Dear Pomona
Oh how very wise you are!
I am 'inhaling' all your sensible and serene words and hoping to keep calm on the Christmas front.
Thank you for this timely reminder!
D x

Jackie said...

I agree..we need to stop organising Christmas right down to the last crumb of food. I have spent too many years panicking and not enjoying it myself.

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