Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thoughts from another on the hill

Now and then I speak of the hill where we enjoy our life. We live here with family in three different dwellings. From my early 1800's log cabin, I am a minute's walk from my daughter, her husband and our first grandchild. My son-in-law--Matt--is in school to be a counselor, and was assigned the chore of spending time in "self care" this week. He wrote his reflections as a part of the project. Why not sit back with a cup of mulled cider, and enjoy his reflections and wisdom.

As the last of the leaves unwillingly release their hold and float their way to the ground, Brown County seems to settle into the holiday mood. Christmas lights gently frame the downtown streets and the first of the beloved holiday tunes are heard on speakers around town. A mile or so outside of town sits a little cabin-like home, nestled into the densely grown oaks and maples, with the occasional pine accenting the landscape year-round with its green needles. This is my house. And following suit with the rest of our community, we too are getting in the holiday mood. Free time these days is spent sitting around the wood stove with family and friends, tipping back mug upon mug of mulled cider, and counting our blessings that so many are doing without this year.

The economic decline has not passed over our hill. There have been salary cuts, followed by sleepless nights. And there has been a general sense mutually agreed upon frugality. This holiday season will have to be enjoyed in spite of shrunken budgets. But for some reason, there is no disparity in thinking that this Noel will be any less cherished than those passed. No, we will simply have to be thankful for the life we spend on the hill with family. And the gifts we make for one another will be more thought through than another over-priced gift, hurriedly purchased at that god-forsaken place known as the mall.

It was with all of this in mind that I decided to use my Tuesday morning to begin work on a Christmas present for... [name and info removed to save a Christmas surprise!]...a close friend. Plans were easily Googled, and after a trip to Menards, I had what I needed to build the first of my holiday related, wood-working projects. Pulling out the saw horses and table saw I began measuring, marking, and cutting boards to specification. And within the course of two hours had all the pieces needed to assemble what I am sure will be a much-appreciated and well-used Christmas present.

I have always enjoyed wood-working. The sorts of crafts that require saws and drills brings out in me a boyish glee, like sand paper brings out the natural grain in a beautiful piece of walnut. And so having the opportunity to spend two, Tuesday hours putting tool to wood, was for me indeed self-care. Fortunately for me, my life is somewhat conducive to pursuing arts and crafts. My wife and I have made it a priority to allow one another the time needed to pursue those interests that otherwise would go untouched, as often happens with adults who can see no other interest than career and other pursuits of this rat race. It has become the intention and mission of our home to attain a simple life.

This aspiration does not always come at the drop of a wish or will. Sometimes it requires sheer force and fortitude of mind. In the case of this week’s Tuesday, there were plenty of other obligations knocking at my door. And had I chosen to spend my time involved in any one of them, there is not a soul who would say I was being anything other than mature and responsible. However, no one can know what is needed for the health of an individual except that individual. And so I chose to ignore the call of homework, laundry, bills requiring mailing, and the endless list of chores and responsibilities that seem to creep up and jump on your back, as if just yesterday you were a carefree adolescent. Do I really need a reminder that I am not getting any younger? These are the obstacles that I, and every other bill-paying, 401K loving, American adult must hurdle in order to find just a shred of time for self-care.

And there is only one way to get over this hurdle…gracefully. We cannot defend ourselves from the obstacles and complications that arise from being a member of a society that values careers over family, and possessions over simplicity. But we can smile and hold on to the belief that health, although it is not easily attained, is worth pursuing. And in the last moments, a life spent with family around a warm fire will prove to be about the most rewarding of all.

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