This morning I was on my way to campus to begin day one of final exams week. I decided that instead of rocking out to The Struts or some of my other favorite musical groups as I drove to work that I would listen to Christmas music. I found myself singing along to all the classics, attempting to harmonize with Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and contemporary singers like Sam Smith, Josh Groban, and Christina Perri. I have a 40-minute minimum drive to work each day, which lends itself to listening to lots of good music and typically puts me in a good mood for the day.
As I was belting it out alongside Andrea Bocelli (whose rendition of White Christmas might be one of the best contemporary renditions I’ve heard of that lovely song), it dawned on me as to why I yearn for and absorb every single moment I can of this time of the year: it’s the nature of it, the understanding of what it all stands for, and a harkening back to times of yore.
I can’t help but to become sentimental at this time of year. I’m sentimental all year long, to be truthful (which is why I write the kinds of novels that I write), but at this time of year my nostalgia is on steroids. Once Thanksgiving hits and we go full-force into Christmas decorating, finding our perfect tree, and partaking in holiday events, forget it. I’m a goner.
And for good reason, and this was when it hit me.
If I had to articulate why I love this time of the year, it would be because of this main reason: it reminds me of what I think I yearn for almost daily—and especially during the month of December. I can actually try my best to partake in what my mind and heart wants.
It’s just the idea of simplicity.
For one, I love holiday movies, the old black and white ones, the ones on the Hallmark Channel, and even ones that just have a taste of the holidays within them. But if I take a moment to dissect these films, they are simple in nature, sweet or full of lessons of kindness, and often spiritual or religious movies that remind me of what it’s all about: it’s about love and family and friendship. It’s about being together. It’s about the birth of Christ. It’s about forgiveness. It’s about repenting. In the case of Ebenezer Scrooge, a character in my book, Little Milestones, says of the film, “You can never have a movie with too much redemption in it, right?”
I marveled two weeks ago at the amount of people who cut down their trees as they began new traditions with their families. I’d never seen the farm that packed, and my family, who has been cutting down our tree for 18 years there, was astounded. It was encouraging to see and hear people talking about the new traditions that they wanted to make or old ones they wanted to keep, clearly pointing out the need for time together and tradition during the holidays.
Which made me realize what this time of year is NOT about: it’s not about being on our damn cellphones all the time as it pings and pongs. It’s not about stressing out because the WiFi is out. And yet, as a society, we are becoming so attached to our electronics that we can’t, as my feature writing class learned the other day, stop and smell the roses, even when they’re right underneath our nose. One of the top fears of GenZ is that something will go wrong with their devices.
That’s just plain scary.
Which may be why I catch myself yearning for simpler times day after day, and by simpler times, I mean this: I mean the family sitting around the table for hours telling stories and in no hurry to go anywhere or to check our devices. I mean doing leisurely things I want to do and not worrying about time or how long it takes. I mean being personally more connected to those I love through get-togethers and parties and dinners out. I mean striving to have more conversations over the phone, you know, like we used to have when we dragged the princess phone cord into the closet and talked with our friends for hours so our parents couldn’t overhear our conversations. I mean hand writing someone a damn letter.
Admittedly, I’m on social media a lot because I’m an independent author who not only writes and edits and designs her books, but also promotes them; I know how harrowing it can be sometimes to feel the need to always be connected to our devices, always be posting, and always be creating good content. Believe me, the thought of it tires me out even as I’m writing this blog post.
Listing to Dean Martin and Bing Crosby’s voices this morning led me to think about how ridiculously fast-paced we have become, and how it is that during this time of year, I want nothing more than to bake cookies, celebrate the holidays with my friends, spend time with my family on the weekends when we don’t have to think about work and school and responsibilities, and remember fondly those we have lost and can no longer spend our holidays with.
Sometimes we just need to be.
It feels so much more difficult these days than it did when I was growing up. I remember becoming excited for my family’s drive to New Jersey when I was a kid knowing that I would see all my family and relatives and spend the holidays with them. Last year, I made a holiday promise to myself and actually put my phone away in the evenings during January, February, and March. It was amazing how many books I read just by giving myself free time. I also binge-watched Game of Thrones with my husband from Season One until the finale. I can assure you that I felt a sense of freedom.
I do think it’s true that years ago, life was simpler. It just was. It may not have had all the perks of high-speed internet and Google maps (which is very helpful, I admit) and hundreds of cable channels and Snapchat, but somehow we survived.
We all survived.
When I find myself becoming neurotic about my connectivity responsibilities, either good or bad, I sometimes have to stop and ask myself a tried and true question: Do I want my dying wish one day to be “I wish I spent more time on my cellphone,” or will it be “I’m glad I tried to live my best life, a more simplified life, spending time with those I love and that harkens back to the days of yore.”
The truth is, I can wonder about it, or I can do something about it.
The choice is always ours.