Here comes the time of excess. Even though we’ve been seeing holiday displays in shops and ads online and on TV since mid-October, now that Thanksgiving has passed, there will be no sense of restraint. Everything will be about the holidays and all the ways we can spend lots of money on gifts for others, or even ourselves if we are so inclined, gifts most of us don’t need.
As a child way back when I remember our parents and grandparents bemoaning the commercialization of the holidays and that was well before what goes on today. My grandmother has been gone for more than 30 years, my parents more than 20. I’m pretty sure if they were to pop back in today they would be stunned. What they thought of as excess has now become the norm for many and excess has, well exceeded even itself.
The world we live in is often far removed from the natural world, however, we can choose to at least try to keep the commercial world and natural world in balance. Balance will differ for different people, and that’s OK, I think. Some of us will need to get away from crowds and traffic at least once a day while others will be happy with a weekly foray into nature.
There’s a popular meme that goes around the internet that says something like we all need an hour in nature every day, but if we are stressed and time restricted we actually need more than that. I have to admit I agree with that sentiment. Nature is the best “de-stresser.”
We are living in a time where the new black is being busy, too busy. We are overscheduled, always trying to do too much, always trying to keep up with work, raising families, caretaking the sick or the elderly, cleaning up pet messes, you know, doing all the things that modern life demands from us.
The holidays add even more busy-ness. We are bombarded with images of perfectly decorated homes. We walk into stores where our senses are assaulted with an overload of cuteness or some semblance of elegance, leaving us wanting something, anything, to make us feel less guilty or out of touch. Advertisers and marketers are well trained these days. Even my most frugal and commercialism hating friends have succumbed to the gnome or reindeer trends while my most boisterously extravagant friends put up a theme decorated tree in every room.
It is easy to knock this, even mock this, to say one never goes to a mall or watches television and yet, most of us have at least a glancing acquaintance with the commercialization of the holidays. Even the grocery stores are decked out with décor and holiday treats. It’s simply everywhere we turn. More and more local beaches have holiday trees decorated with battery operated lights and boats with lights are no longer uncommon.
Most of us live in the Land of Inbetween when it comes to holiday excesses and escapes, I think. As much as we may try to escape it all, there’s always something that keeps us involved. Perhaps we have teenage children or grandchildren who want gift cards to a place in the mall or an inlaw who desires fast-food coupons. Perhaps we ourselves have a soft spot for animated reindeer or socks with cats in Santa hats hidden beneath our jeans.
So, how do we escape? We can take long walks on the beaches or in the woods. It’s hunting season, though, so that’s not always a peaceful or even safe choice. It’s time to don the orange, not the red and green, for holiday walking, though of course red alone is a good choice.
Nature reminds us constantly that life has nothing to do with boxes or glitter, ceramic gnomes or huge blow-up Santas. She has plenty of drama, comedy, tragedy, and lessons in survival to last multiple lifetimes. Her decorating skills are over the top. We just need to step outside to take part in it, to witness it.
We need to remember nature is our biggest gift, and it’s free! When all the hustle and hubbub threaten to wear you down, just get outside and take deep breaths. Oxygen is good for calming stress. So is looking at expanses of water, shuffling our feet through crunchy leaves and watching chickadees flit in the branches.
We don’t have to walk away from everything modern life offers us, but we can choose how much of it we engage in or put up with. Sometimes it’s good to remember we will take absolutely nothing material with us when we it’s our turn to leave. Most of our belongings will end up in a dumpster that will end up in the landfill. Sorry, but that’s the truth. What we really leave behind that will last is what we’ve shared; the love, the listening, the holding, the being there when needed. Those are the real gifts we give that will be remembered and cherished.
If the holiday clamor gets to be too much, take the time to take a walk in nature. Don’t worry, it’s not time that is wasted. It is time that refreshes and helps balance the rest. Enjoy the holiday prep, but don’t forget to enjoy nature as well. Every day spent outside is a bargain that can’t be matched by any retailer’s coupon.