In the week after Christmas, I often find there is an emptiness that is difficult to address. The month of merriment is over, the draining of bank accounts complete. Careful wrapping has been shredded and the echoes of delight have died away. One may discover, upon eating the last tree chocolate, that the relentless consumption of leftover vittles has not filled the hole, and it seems ludicrous to bake more after such gluttony. One might ponder what to cook for dinner and come up empty having concluded only that there is nothing at all to be excited about eating.
This sense of aimlessness lies in the problem of there being an allotted season for giving. For the months of November and December we string up lights in joyful celebration. We wear out shoes in the pursuit of the perfect gifts for our loved ones. We stay up too late baking cupcakes for the teachers, and sweet buns for the children, we so love to see the wonder in their faces.
We stand in line to donate toys, and wrestle wallets from purses under covers to contribute to a stranger’s go fund me campaign. We give of ourselves in all the ways we can fathom, and are available to us. It’s exhausting, it ’s expensive, and it feels like pure joy and purpose. And when a gift arrives in our laps on Christmas morning, a llama teapot carefully picked, it is somewhat of a surprise. Yet we have been joyful all the while. The excitement is in the anticipation, not of receiving gifts, but of giving them.
What a delight it was this year to make for my dad a retro trifle, to watch him devour two big bowls full. What a pleasure to carefully trace Santa’s handwriting onto a return letter for Cleo, to stamp it with Santa’s official seal and watch her face light up at the discovery. How wonderful to bake gingerbread for the elderly, to watch our littles sing them carols as the childlike among them reached out to touch their precious hair. How quickly it was all done.
In January, it’s all juice cleanses and gym memberships, yoga challenges and workout videos. The focus turns inward as we return to searching for the thing that will make us feel whole, most of us oblivious to the fact that instead we unwittingly turn away.
So this January first I challenge you not to dig your Vitamix from the depths of your kitchen cabinets, nor to procure another weight watchers membership. I challenge you instead to go ahead and bake another cake festooned with gold stars or rainbow sprinkles, walk it to your neighbor’s house, the one having the trouble with her hips, and let her see the children. And on your way to work roll down your window, offer a wide smile and give five bucks to the guy with the cardboard sign, the one who believes you’ve forgotten him now it’s January second.
Leave up your decorations and light a fire, watch movies together with your family, and realize that there is no great mystery here. The way to happiness and fulfillment comes each December and stares us in the face. Reach out and touch another human being, every day. And each morning when you wake up ask yourself what you can give.