Last week, I made the bold move of going to our local shopping centre. All I had on my list was to pick up a Christmas present, buy some baby formula, and maybe I would treat myself to a coffee on the way out. What a great day I had planned! How relaxing! Okay. So, even after living thirty-one Christmases, I still forget that there’s no grace for the “quick stop-off” at the shops in December. Just because I only want to purchase three things doesn’t mean that half of the population of Australia at the same shopping centre that day will also think, “Oh, she only wants three things. Guys, let her in! Prioritise her! She’s only popping by!”
Nope. It’s the twenty minute trip that’s now turned into two hours because car parks are packed to the brim, checkout lines are four times as long, people are doing the classic window shopping wander, kids are zipping around my pram, yelling and being young, and I may or may not have raced a senior citizen at some point. (I won.) Somewhere along the line, my cruisy shopping venture turned into a speedy Christmas race against time and energy.
I knew my brother-in-law was picking up a coffee nearby so, being the top notch sister I am, I texted him saying, “Don’t come inside! It’s holidays and it’s chaos in here.” Within minutes, he’d written back, “No, I love it! The rush, the decorations, the cheesy carols. It’s Christmas!” I read it and laughed at his naivety as I shamelessly elbowed a toddler aside to get to the front of the store.
But when I got home, I thought more about his text message. Because yes, it was chaos in there. My usual routine was “unexpectedly” thrown out by a stressed, sweaty, summery crowd who are all angling for a couple of Christmas bargains and an air-conditioned space on a hot day. Kids are screaming, parents are wrangling, credit cards are chinging (is that a word? I know you heard the noise in your head, so I’m declaring it to be one) and that idea of a peaceful drop-in has well passed into a full-scale Olympic hurdling event.
But you know what? That’s only one perspective. What if I didn’t get caught up in the emotion and hype of my original intention and frustration?
I love being around people. I really like that we all have a common goal: we’re tracking down gifts for family and friends that represent a small portion of our gratefulness from another year passed; we’re food shopping because we still have to eat; we’re drinking coffee because we’re not idiots. I love Christmas carols. I love sales. Working at a coffee shop over the Christmas period was one of my career highlights. I love talking to retail assistants and making them laugh even though the media and a high tensity environment says that they should hate this time of year. I love the unique little gifts that come out just over Christmas, the presents that say, “I have a super cute kid and a mortgage that nicks off with most of my money, but I still wanted to buy you something because I like you a lot.” I love pretty displays and I love the colour gold. I love turkey and warm summer nights and a cold cider and spending time with family and Christmas lights and nutmeg and BBQs and big belly laughs with friends and that look on someone’s face when you know that you have gifted a present that truly shows how much you care.
Truthfully, it all comes down to where our focus is, doesn’t it? What takes our attention? Each situation, each moment, each day we can choose whether to focus on being grateful or on being not quite satisfied. Life can totally be frustrating, sad, hard, and sometimes, it’s just downright awful – and those things have their place in their own right. But those things shouldn’t cancel out the joy and thankfulness that each day has to offer!
I read a saying yesterday that said, “What if you woke up today with only the things that you were grateful for yesterday?” Ouch. If I’d stayed in my holiday shopping rut, I would have woken up today with my bed and a can of baby formula. But the fact is that there are so many things to be grateful for, no matter who you are – little pockets of joy and fun that are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by us – and it doesn’t cost us anything.
You are totally allowed to just enjoy the good things in life, big and small, with no strings attached, in all of its glory and wonder.
So what are you waking up with tomorrow?
At the very least, I’m waking up with this bowl of ice cream and my Netflix subscription.
Ps. Ashleigh did a fantastic post on being happy and finding things to be thankful for a couple of months ago. If you’re struggling to find the good things in your every day, this post is just the greatest!