I’m getting on a plane tomorrow. Going to spend time with some people I love, people who have known me since before I could talk (oh how they must cherish those days!). The weather could be frightful, the flight could be delayed. The people could be frightful, their stress unchecked at the gate. I could be one of those people, giving in to impatience. But I’m going to try not to. I’m not going to wear a sweater with bells and snowflakes on it or force a joyous demeanor, mind you, I’m just going to carve out some moments of comfort along the way — pockets of peace, if you will — to help make it easier to go with the flow. Whether it’s getting to the airport early enough to enjoy a cup of coffee, rereading David Sedaris’s Holidays on Ice during the flight or listening to random favs on my iPod (Hi Def Leppard’s Bringin’ on the Heartbreak, still love you no matter what), these familiar moments could be the difference between a grumpy traveling bear and a laid-back cruising cat with a reserve of energy to adjust if something goes awry.
When the holiday pressure is on, the slightest comfort can be king. Like in December 2006, when I was preparing for a similar flight home from Austin to Oregon. Two of what would be six rounds of chemo had knocked the follicles out of my head. I was bald with thinned eyelashes and brows. I had a wig that was supposed to help me blend in but it itched like a mofo. I had to do something about it or I might end up in tears or worse, scaring the other passengers by wedging my fingers under an unattached head of hair for a good scratch.
“I took my hair off in the airport bathroom. The thought of sitting on a plane with an itchy scalp for five hours was too much. So before boarding the flight to Oregon where I’d spend Christmas with my family and Marit, I stuffed all two-hundred and fifty dollars of it into my backpack and said, “Fuckit.” I have never felt more brazen and free.” — excerpt from my memoir, I Don’t Wanna Be Pink
Once on board, a few passengers did double takes, others proffered a knowing smile. All I could think was how much better my head felt. I wouldn’t say I was joyful — enduring chemo for a cancer diagnosis at 39 has a funny way of dampening cheer — but more comfortable? Hell yes. It made me a more pleasant passenger too.
Any of these carols strike a chord, furl a brow?
Stress to the World, the Pressure is On
The First “Oh Hell!”
We Wish You A Harried Christmas
I Saw Mommie Using her Credit Card
That’s because it’s not so joyful for everybody right now. In fact, it’s hard to find joy when you have a big fat to-do list, feel pressured to please your house guests or have a big dinner to prepare. Or when you have to travel through inclement weather, have gifts to buy (charge) and wrap, and/or find yourself receiving loved ones with free advice on how to prepare a meal, raise your kids, discipline your dog, cut calories, decorate the room you just decorated, achieve financial success, and how to drive more safely. And its near impossible to find joy when you’re struggling with finances, displacement, a break up, illness or personal loss. But a little bit of comfort, whether by taking a 1o minute walk around the block or ducking into a corner for a moment of prayer? That’s possible, that carries some weight.
But the song says “tidings of comfort and joy.”
Look, I’m all for beautiful, tingly, authentic joy. I’m just not sure we need to cram it into a certain few weeks of the year. If it smacks you in the head in March, embrace it! If it sneaks up on you in July, jump for it. Take joy when you can get it but for now, maybe a little comfort is enough. Here are a few ideas to carve out a piece or two.
- Whether you call, text, Skype, Facetime, check in with someone who gets you. Yesterday a frenzied friend called–she only had a few minutes between errands but by the end of the call we were both laughing and hung up a little more prepared to make the most of the day.
- Walk, run, skip, skate, ride, shake your thang. Even ten minutes can do wonders.
- Stay up late or get up early — savor a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.
- Close your eyes and breathe.
- Pet the pet.
- Wear stretch waistband clothing. I’m not kidding. It makes standing in line easier.
- Ponytail that hair or don a cap.
- Say yes to help with getting your groceries to the car, doing dishes, etc. More time for you.
- Check out A Buddhist Guide to Surviving the Holidays: 4 Practices. I’m focusing on #3 and 1. And 2 and 4.
- Have a cookie. Actually, have Santa’s cookie. You deserve it.
Where do you find comfort? Would love to add more ideas to the list!