Christmas Dissonance

At a writing group the other day, we wrote about a Christmas memory that was discordant. Christmas is often this happy time of year, where we share happy memories and miracles, but we explored the other end of Christmas, when that expectation of happiness is instead met with difficulty.

One writer shared about when she no longer believed in Santa Claus, transitioning from childhood to being a teenager. The presents weren’t fun anymore, and her parents gave her a doll that she hated.

Another writer shared about a large cousin present exchange, and the strong feeling that she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by being disappointed. She cared more about others’ feelings than herself.

And then there was a heartbreaking story of a family trying to find happiness on Christmas morning–but instead of seven children, there were only six.

I thought about the Christmas not too long ago when we moved on Christmas Day. I made frog eye salad because I make it every Christmas. We put it in a cooler and we pulled over to a rest stop and ate frog eye salad for Christmas lunch with plastic forks, straight of the bowl. It snowed the day, hard, and we got into our house late and exhausted.

There was another Christmas, a few years before, where I was dealing with mental health issues and did not have a handle on my emotions. I was overcome with anger and ended up throwing the frog eye salad in rage–it landed everywhere, even on the Christmas tree.

Why was I making frog eye salad for Christmas when it was tied to so many difficult times?

Because I really like frog eye salad. It’s a weird combination of custard and acini di pepe pasta and canned fruit and whipped topping. Yes, I’ve eaten it during hard moments, but it still tastes good.

Sometimes Christmas doesn’t need to be the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes it’s hard and difficult. Sometimes we cry more than we laugh. That’s okay. No Christmas is really perfect. We’re all still people trying our best and failing a lot. But we still keep trying. In all that trying, it’s okay to just let life come in all it’s imperfections.

And if you are going through hard times, it’s good to remember that your favorite food can still taste delicious.

Christmas Morning 2018–the year we moved on Christmas Day


Can I run away from the commands of the Lord? Can I flee when it is too hard? Board the ship, pay the fair, sail away.

But the Lord is there, in the wind on the sea, in the violence of the storm. Even when I sleep, the Lord is there.

I cannot awake and pray for deliverance without facing my own shame.

Throw me into the sea. The Lord found me on this boat, and I cannot run from him, and I will face the stormy waters.

Off the boat, and into the Lord’s hands. I do not deserve to live.

But the Lord saves me in the belly of a fish, and in the deep I pray to him: I remember you, Lord.

Onto dry ground, go and do what the Lord commands–but I do not yet understand his compassion.

For the Lord saves even those who run from him.

Not time management

Four thousand weeks in a lifetime. 168 hours a week. Split into 15-minute increments. Planned and agonized over. We think we want to master time, to figure out how to use all of the time we have to do more and become better.

I have enough time. Time management isn’t my problem.

I can sit and figure out how to use my time. But I have a much harder time figuring out how to my energy and focus and capabilities. There are constant interruptions and I get overwhelmed.

I have time. But now matter how much I plan out my days and weeks, life is unexpected and I don’t have the energy to do everything I want to.

So I wish we would stop talking about time management. It’s fairly easy, because it’s quantifiable and straightforward. Time keeps going in the same direction.

But I want to know more about energy management. And focus management. And emotional management. I don’t really need to use my time well, but I do need to use myself well. And that is a whole lot harder.

Two guidelines for motivation

I was feeling unmotivated about my to-do list, so I decided to ask myself two questions about each item on my list:

  1. Does it affect someone else?
  2. Do I really enjoy doing it?

If I don’t like doing something, and it’s not helping someone else, then I don’t need to do it.

So what did I eliminate? One thing is reading books that I don’t really like. That serves no purpose, since I don’t enjoy it and it doesn’t affect anyone else. Another thing is going on walks–I really like to go on hikes, but just walking for the sake of walking, particularly when I live on a busy highway, is not interesting to me. And sometimes I try to learn new things, find out I don’t really enjoy it, but keep on learning anyway. Coding, for example. It’s fine, but I don’t love it.

I realized I needed to prioritize things that affect other people a little bit more: cleaning my house, cooking dinner, and working on my renovation. It’s nicer to get things done when I can share my work and other people appreciate it.

And there are other things I really like to do. Writing in my journal every day. Playing the piano. Even working on my calculus class–it’s fun for me. But I have to remember I’m not doing it out of duty, but because I want to.

Is there anything you are doing that you don’t like to do and it doesn’t affect anyone else? Can you eliminate it from your life?

And is something you don’t have motivation to work on? Do you actually really enjoy doing it once you get started? Is someone else relying on you to do it? Does recognizing those things give you some added motivation and clarity?