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  • Bill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 12-23-22 – Standing Still

Solstice - derived from the Latin sol ("sun") and sistere ("to stand still")


We are in the darkest of days. We just passed through the Solstice mid-week, on Wednesday, at 4:48 p.m., EST. From here on out each day gets a little brighter until mid-2023. One of my favorite things this time of the year is seeing our home with all the warm glow of light on the mantles and front door. I have always liked the idea of bringing a little extra light into the abode when things outside are dark and the wind howls through the naked winter trees. It provides a sense of comfort. It is as close to standing still as the tempo of a year has in its quiver, at least for me.


It is of course Christmas Eve, eve. Traditions are important, they remind us of the passage of time. I am sitting here thinking about all the Christmas days of yore and those long gone from our table. The gathering places have changed a great deal over the years. Starting with those first ones at my parents’ house in what seems a different age. Later, with Julie, we made sure we got to visit both families and fit in two meals. Over the last 25 years, most of those meals where in Western PA. I am thinking back to all those years, now. I suspect many of us are reflective during the Holidays, no matter what you celebrate at this time of the year, if anything at all.


It is all very finite and so very precious. We have had silly holidays and somber holidays. Times hanging out with loved ones. On reflection, the good memories were never about the stuff. I have a rough time recalling most of the things I got as a kid. I think as a kid one year I received a flexible flyer that stands out. I remember sledding down some big hills on that thing. Mixed in are some rougher memories. For me, Christmas week also marks a major loss. I lost my mother on solstice eve when she was 56, which from the perspective of a 58-year-old feels far too young.


In recent years, Julie and I had not bothered with a tree. This year we changed that. We got a modest Charlie Brown tree, our first artificial one. It is pictured above. A few weeks back, we pulled the old ornament box out of the basement, cleaned the dust off the lid and sifted through our memories. I found ornaments I made in grade school and others from our family tree in the 70s. Hanging ornaments is like pulling out the remnants of days past and putting them on display.


In our home, this year is the first major gathering of the Miller side of the clan under our roof in several years. We are hosting it in our 100-year-old home in Allentown. We used to drive out to Bedford PA for the holidays. It was the established family gathering spot. There have been some losses and changes in recent years. The pandemic hit and disrupted our lives and traditions even more. We have special foods and a plan to just hang out. Maybe hit a movie. Perhaps we will not do much at all. Grateful to have the peeps here in our home for some good times.


Yet, the late days of December are complicated. Even beyond all the hype and high expectations, which I think can be somewhat of a set up. It is rare my attention can be in one place. One Christmas, the first I worked in the addictions field at age 23, I did a 16-hour shift because a snowstorm left me and one other person managing the adolescent program. I was employed at in the lowest entry level position. Years later, I would often end up getting pulled into situations in programs I ran. It was not uncommon for me to have to leave the family to go spend time with people in the recovery world, which is also like family in many ways for me. Grateful to those close to me who supported me in those times.


The truth is that holidays can be a less than stellar time for so many of us. Thinking about people in prison or in the first shaky days of recovery. There are far too many of us who will spend these days alone or in places of darkness. I am grateful for those called to serve people. Pulling double shifts or spending their time this weekend helping others though a rough patch. Can anything be closer to peace on earth and good will to all than spending it helping another human being?


One of the lessons of aging is that loss and change become part of the landscape of time. We can become bitter and mired in hopelessness and despair or find ways to endure and prevail. Even rough times often have some good facets if we look closely. It is important to find something within our experiences that warms our hearts and brings smiles to our faces. Even memories of better years. Or perhaps recognizing that these are the good old days we shall one day cherish.


Not sure what is happening in your home this year. Is this is a time of pure bliss or a time complicated by loss or hardship? Are the holidays something to celebrate or endure? Are they a little of both? Whichever they are for you, I hope you can take a moment and stand still to reflect on something, some person or some event that has meant something to you this year. I don’t think we do that as much as we should. Perhaps make it a tradition to share thanks, even if it takes some digging to find.

What are you grateful for today?

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