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Posts from the ‘Minimalizing’ Category

Reinventing the holidays (or confessions of a Christmas overachiever)

My Christmas Tree

My Christmas Tree

Early in this walkabout I said goodbye to relationships and ways of life that no longer served me.

Now I’m ready to tackle a holiday.

You know. The one coming up . . . Christmas!

I am having to be a little bit brave because this is hard. Changing how one celebrates the most beloved holiday of all is akin to stepping into a minefield. Terrible and wonderful memories begin exploding left and right.

Christmas with my family of origin was a mixed bag, but mostly nice.  My mother pulled out all the stops and my father disapproved, so joy in our bounty was mixed with guilt. My favorite memory is of my family gathering in the dark of a Sunday evening and lighting the candles of the advent wreath. In that golden glow we sang, laughed, took turns reading aloud and told stories.  This was love, pure and magical.

It was only when I became a parent myself, that I turned into a Christmas overachiever. Months before Christmas I started creating handmade personalized ornaments for everyone I knew. I drove kids to and fro, baked countless batches of cookies, decorated lavishly and stung yards of popcorn and cranberries. I crafted Christmas cards, wreaths and my own wrapping paper. I attended and gave parties. I shopped like a fiend, making sure everybody got what they wanted. And then after Christmas, I took it all down and packed it up again for the next year’s marathon.

I was the ring master for it all. But truthfully I found Christmas stressful. I gave myself too many things to do in my mission to make everything perfect. I was my own worst enemy.

So in my year of reinvention, I asked myself the following questions:

  1. What do I love about Christmas to incorporate into a new tradition?
  2. What has become meaningless for me?
  3. How can I take better care of myself during the holiday season?

Here is the first incarnation of the new Christmas for me:

My sister, the food blogger

My sister, the food blogger

Family and friends: In smaller doses. This year I spent several wonderful days before Christmas tooling around Portland with  my sister Robin. We tried out new and old ways to celebrate.

Décor: A few minimal but beautiful (to me) decorations. For more about this, read my note on Facebook about  mindful ownership.  No  tree for me. I can visit 20 beautifully decorated trees at the Pittock Mansion in Portland or take in the city lights twinkling below  my apartment window.

Sacred: I am lighting lots of candles this time of  year, just as I did when I was a child. They make sacred the dark days of winter. I listen to the Christmas music of my past. I plan  a day of mindfulness and Tonglen on Christmas Day.

Events: One or two small — or none at all. This year I went to Portland’s Crafty Wonderland Show.

The Hubbub factor: I like all the excitement of Christmas and being anonymous in crowds, so I went Christmas shopping without buying anything. I visually soaked in the beautiful things for sale and enjoyed being part of the crowd.

Eating and Drinking: In moderation. I don’t need to make or taste every possible Christmas cookie or dish. My sister  and I celebrated simply, slowly savoring a glass of port and one huckleberry chocolate truffle each (from Portland’s Moonstruck Chocolate Co.) No more turkey, ham or huge dinners for me. I am trying a spaghetti squash meal on Christmas Day from my sister’s blog.

Port and Huckleberry Truffles

Port and Huckleberry Truffles

Smells: Fresh greenery is at a premium in an urban setting. I bought two small sprays of red berries and a  friend brought me some clippings from her tree. When I walk by, I inhale deeply!

Children: I can’t be with my kids or grandson this year.  While in the children’s section of Powell’s Bookstore, I watched with delight the little ones about my grandson’s age. They fill me with joy.

Giving: In honor of a family member who chooses to be homeless, I  buy a sandwich or two when I grocery shop and hand them off to the many homeless folks I see in Portland. I hope someone does something kind for my relative too.

Christmas Day: I discovered on Thanksgiving Day that the city of Portland goes quiet and still on holidays. With only a few cars and dog walkers about, it feels rarefied and magical. I will be walking there again come Christmas Day.

Crafty Wonderland-Mt Hood Morning 027

My way is not the way for everybody.

And — as with everything — it’s a work in progress.

What do you love about Christmas? What family traditions to you cherish? What traditions would you like to change? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Holidays!

Betsy Lewis

The Walkabout Woman

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Catching my breath after my first 57 years of life

A Hair Raising Walkabout

What a wild ride it’s been so far!

I love this saying below, by Brian Andreas, which he pairs with a painting of one of his colorful StoryPeople:

“Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can’t help but wonder what the hell she was thinking.”

When I look back on certain parts of my first 57 years of life, I really do wonder what the hell I was thinking.

And for some parts I wonder how I came out alive.

Which makes me wonder further. . .

In the future, will I look back at this walkabout and ask myself, “What the hell?”

Or will I say, “Good going!” with no regrets.

Only time will tell, but I am guessing it will be a little bit of both.

My collage above, “A Hair Raising Walkabout,” pretty accurately depicts the first two months of my walkabout. My itinerary was tight as I busily traveled up, down and across California and Oregon by car, (all the while defying PTSD.) There were heat waves at the start of the trip and early snow storms in the last days. I drove on crazy multiple lane highways and through shockingly beautiful deserted country.

I lived as an anthropologist in other people’s houses, studying and  accommodating to the ways of each household. There were family and friend reunions, and I met many new people. I did bits of art and writing along the way, but there was not much true rest or time for reflection.

I had burst out of the walkabout gate with a high energy explosive catharsis. And as right and wonderful as it was . . . it was time for it to end.

Now, I am quietly stashed away, all by myself, in a cozy cubbyhole of an apartment in a historic high-rise in the city of Portland, Oregon — until next summer.

I only know a few people here, and even those, not very well. I talk a lot on the phone with clients, friends and family, but my only in-person communication has been with shopkeepers, clerks or people in elevators. My apartment is 475 sq. ft., and it took me just a day or two to set up because I brought only the things that would fit into my car. If I need something I generally find it at Goodwill down the street — knowing I can return these things there when I leave.

My apartment is high on a hill on the fifth floor of the building – well above and looking down on the twinkling lights of Portland. This, and the close gray winter days, contributes to my sense of being set apart from humanity and cocooned. I like being anonymous and, so far, I haven’t been lonely. The stimulation of a long walk through the city makes a nice counter-balance to my isolation.

I question my contentedness and begin to suspect I am an introvert . . . or is this just a phrase?

I take the Myers Briggs Personality Test online and find I have “a moderate preference of introversion over extroversion.” So maybe it is true, but it doesn’t really matter. I am doing what feels good now.

I also conclude that  I am catching my breath after the first 57 years of my life. I am in repair, taking stock, and gathering supplies for the future. This time here in Portland is a punctuation mark to my life, a slow putting on of the brakes toward an ending which will inevitably lead to a new beginning.

It’s doubtful I will live a second 57 years. I could be gone in 30 years or 10 or tomorrow. I am glad I have made it this far at least – to have the chance to live the life I have – messy as it’s been.

And with the holidays coming – this time here in Portland is icing on the cake – the gift solitude I give to myself.

Taking a bite out of the world

I launched my walkabout on a full moon — and a blue one to boot. It was an unplanned but auspicious beginning to my journey.

Blue Moon

The Blue Moon from the Oregon Coast

Three quarters of my possessions have been sold or donated. What was left is stored in a 10’ X 10’ storage unit, or is traveling with me.

The storage facility has a gate, a code, locks and overseers. Part of me has been left behind, but it is safe and secure, and this is exhilarating!

I take a surprisingly large amount of stuff in the car with me. Not surprisingly, my trunk is completely packed with art supplies. The meanings to what I gave away, what I stored and what I find essential to keep close are not fully clear.

I head to the Oregon Coast – literally needing a breath of fresh air. The Rogue Valley has been stifling hot and smoky for days. The weeks of planning, packing, cleaning; and the emotional upheaval of leave-taking has left me feeling drained.  I need solitude, the soothing rhythm of the waves and fresh sea air.

The night before I leave I visit a friend who is training to be an Enneagram instructor. The Enneagram is system that categorizes people into nine basic personality types. My type is a “9”, also called “The Peacemaker.” “9”s typically lose touch with their own needs, live outside their bodies and merge with others to create relationships where everyone else is content and supported. I know this to be true for me. Nothing makes me happier than to have everybody else happy!

A “9”s own needs can be deeply buried and may need some serious and frightening excavating to identify. This has already started to evolve into becoming a part of my walkabout and my friend suggests I develop what the Enneagram calls “Appetite” — and this is not about food.

I ponder this word on my drive to The Coast. Being a visual person, I image myself looking at a round globe of possibilities and then taking a big bite out of it! After I arrived, I created this collage featuring a blue moon fishy Pac-Man like creature taking a bite out of the world.

Collage by Betsy Lewis

Appetite

Frankly, to have a primitive Pac-Man appear (with such large teeth) was a little disturbing to my most mild-mannered Betsy!

Appetite, however, is a pretty primal word bringing up things like desire, craving, lust, gluttony, hunger, and greed — all things likely to fire-up fear and aversion in the heart and soul of a “9”.

On the flip side — it is also a word evoking longing, passion and yearning – all of which I am in search of on this walkabout.

So can I allow myself to have an appetite? And for what  do I have an appetite?

I have no one to please but myself, there is no right or wrong, no one for me to anxiously monitor for contentment.

The world is serving itself up like a meal and it is time for me to bite.

You can read more about the Enneagram here: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/

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