It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

my boys in front of our tree

my boys in front of our ‘tree’

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach! ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Particular times of the year bring us full circle back to the self we have been previously at that time of year, to those with whom we’ve spent those times, and perhaps who and where we wish to be at this time in years ahead. These are times for reflection, backwards-looking nostalgia and future-imagining dreaming. On this day – 22nd December – one year ago, I was reflecting on Christmas, on making traditions with my young family and on balancing holiday indulgence with kindness, generosity, stillness and quiet appreciation.

Here I am again, counting myself lucky for being on school holidays and therefore able to wind down with my children as Christmas approaches. I’m able to be mindful in the choosing and wrapping of gifts, sit with my kids as they decorate Christmas cards and glitter bomb decorations. I have the gift of being in PhD examination limbo this Christmas, so I’m luxuriating in letting go completely from work and study. Instead, I’m immersing myself in domestic, creative and parental roles. Gardening, making, playing. Wrapping, decorating, baking. The wonderful thing about these tasks is that I don’t have to be particularly good at them. I can be immersed in the process and the people, not success or failure (just see the skew, clunky gingerbread house below!). 

The holidays, if we manage it, can be free from pressure, accountability and performativity. Hugs and handmade and asymmetry. Giving time, conversation and listening. Retrospection, affection and introspection, rather than inspection or perfection. Accepting ourselves and others, and whatever our holidays look like, whether that is fancy or basic, extravagant or frugal, celebratory or sad.

moments of our 2015 Christmas lead up

moments of our 2015 Christmas lead up

So in our house we’re making a gingerbread house (but as we tend to stay away from gluten, refined sugars, colours and preservatives, we’ve given it away). We’re baking Christmas cookies for Santa. We’re donating toys and clothes. We’re hand making decorations. We’re lighting candles for those people who are missing from our Christmastime. We’re placing presents beneath our hand made upcycled ‘tree’, nailed together from scraps of wood. We’re talking about giving and receiving and gratitude and spending time with those we love. And I’m popping my fair share of champagne corks, too.

On Christmas Eve, Santa will leave ‘snowy’ footprints by the tree. The cookies and carrot left for him and the reindeer will disappear. On Christmas morning, we’ll go to the beach and build sandcastles.

The édu flâneuse wishes you a wonderful, flâneurial holiday season, in which you are deeply immersed in your experiences and able to be attentive to others and to yourself, to the energies around you (perhaps I’m being influenced by my recent viewing of The Force Awakens). Happy holidays.

Presence not presents: connect, unravel & be this Christmas

Joy is not in things; it is in us ~ Richard Wagner

Western Australian Christmas

Western Australian Christmas

With only three sleeps until Christmas many of us are wondering how to wind down, how to enjoy time with our family and friends, and how to continue or create meaningful traditions for this time of year. Perhaps we are trying to avoid a hurricane of over-receiving and over-indulging, trying instead to connect with Christmastime as about giving, faith and connectedness to others and ourselves.

One of my big challenges this year is winding down. In many ways I would like to switch off my work and research selves so that I can be present with family, friends, nature and the present moment. But the hybridity of my roles (teacher, school leader, researcher, connected learner, parent) makes it hard to power down. My leadership work in my school is closely related to my PhD research on teacher growth and school change, so I am constantly immersed in reading, acting and thinking about these things. Being a participant in education Twitter chats this year (like #satchat #sunchat #aussieED, #BFC530 and #whatisschool) has also kept my brain buzzing with ideas sparked by stimulating conversation with inspiring individuals, most of whom I have never met (thank you, my learning network). It appears you can’t turn off a turned on brain!

So to ground myself and connect to this time of year I have been taking time to be present in holiday tasks: playing with my children, swimming at the beach, reading Christmas stories, enjoying music and wrapping presents. Surely I’m not the only one for whom the careful, mindful process of wrapping gifts is meditative and grounding? Anything can be meditative and grounding if we approach it mindfully and with presence.

gingerbread house with dinosaur

gingerbread house with dinosaur

I also find creativity and making to be grounding and connecting acts. Things we make ourselves seem to have a magical energy, an investment of the person or people whose hands forged the object or made the marks. I have been hand-making ornaments, recycling found materials into eco-decorations and picking foliage from the garden for vases. Our Christmas tree is one made by my eldest son and I (he was two years old when we banged it out in our garage) out of upcycled scraps of wood. The physicality of painting, cutting, pasting and glitter-shaking can anchor us to the holiday spirit.

making our Christmas tree

making our Christmas tree

decorating our DIY Christmas tree

decorating our DIY Christmas tree

I was reminded recently that being a flâneuse is about being a ‘human being’ not a ‘human doing‘. Christmas is the perfect time to focus on what is important, in whatever way is meaningful for our family. Coming together should be about celebrating our connections with those we care about – in all their perfect imperfection – and taking the time to really be with them and with ourselves. Happy being.

The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present. ~ Eckhart Tol

bauble-licious with freshly picked garden foliage

bauble-licious with freshly picked garden foliage