Upon returning from a visit back home to Chicago for the holidays, I was left with a severe case of woulda, shoulda, coulda. I enjoyed a full week of daily visits with old and new friends, family, and all of my favorite Chicago pizzerias and hot dog joints. To say that leaving again was difficult is quite the understatement. At the end of this particular visit, in addition to feeling sad to say goodbye, I also experienced an incredible case of the what-ifs.
What if I had not moved away? Would things be different in my life? Could I have found a happiness that I have yet to experience in my new surroundings in Arizona? Would my relationships be different? Better?
The first few days back in sunny Arizona proved to be exactly the way I felt the last time I came back after a visit home… It was a bumpy re-entry! Homesickness, loneliness, and self-pity set in. Yes, I’m almost embarrassed to admit those feelings because I honestly do love my new home, the weather, and my chance to get back in the classroom teaching. I have also made so many new friends out here, found new hobbies that I love (West Coast Swing Dancing and hiking!), and have settled in quite nicely.
None of those things seemed to matter, however, when homesickness and loneliness began to take over. I found myself wondering what could have been. I slipped back into that pattern of wishing for things I did not have, instead of appreciating the wonderful things I DO have.
When I take even the smallest step back, and open my eyes wide, I can clearly see that I can’t stress the could haves, because if it should have, it would have. It is as simple as that.
So for today, I choose to have faith that whatever is meant to be, will be – and that brings me peace.
For me, the holidays have, in recent years, been filled with a bit of trepidation and anxiety. All of the pressure involved for me includes trying to feel the spirit of the season while trying to get everything done that is necessary.
During the last few years of my mother’s life, she expressed this same feeling of holiday anxiety. She complained about putting up decorations, and getting all of her shopping done. So, one year I bought her a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, and told her that it really can be simple if only you want it that way. We put so much pressure on ourselves (YES, we do that – no one does it to us)!
However, I have not followed those words of advice until recently. This year, I decided to keep it simple. I put up a few special decorations to make my home feel festive, but did not drag the tree out of storage (mainly because my kitten would probably pull it down:)). I figured that I will be leaving to visit Chicago on Christmas Day, so why bother.
Simplifying the holidays has really lightened my load. I chose to find ways to spend time with friends and family instead of buying gifts while money is tight. I am praying, and am fairly certain, they will understand. This eliminates the financial pressure, but I am also finding that it is way more enjoyable to spend a day with a friend versus the few moments of joy in opening costly gifts. The joy I will experience while spending the holidays in Chicago visiting everyone far surpasses any joy from gift giving/receiving.
My students laughed at first when they saw the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that I displayed on my classroom desk. However, when I told them the story behind it and showed them the Charlie Brown Christmas video, they understood. Simple can be SO much better, so much more meaningful, and bring so much more joy.
Without the struggles I have endured, I would not be able to appreciate the strength I have gained. For that, today I am grateful. I could look at my life and focus on the negatives: Working two jobs to make ends meet… Living across the country from family and friends… Falling into bed at night from pure exhaustion. But if I did that, I would be living my life miserably.
I have to wake up each day in gratitude. When life gets tough, it is SO easy to have a pity party. Those struggles I’ve endured have led me to where I am today. I kinda like who I have become. I appreciate every little minute detail in my life, because I have been through some very challenging times. On some days, I have to remember the hard times of struggle, and realize that today, I am living in the solution.
Today, my life is FAR from struggle-free. However, I choose each day to get into, and remain in, gratitude! It’s a pretty damn good place to be!