For the most part, living away from “home” doesn’t bother me too much. I went away to university right after high school and spent most of my summers somewhere other than my home town so, by now, I’m used to being rootless. But there are times when, regardless of how content I am with my place in, and pace of, life, there is no substitute for being at home. Those times can be somewhat unpredictable – a bad day (or week, or month) can make me want to hop on the first flight out so I can drink a glass (who am I kidding…a bottle) of wine with my mom – but are usually brought on time and time again by those events set by the calendar. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. Although the original meanings of those festivals have largely been forgotten or dismissed, they stand as convenient annual milestones reminding us to appreciate and gather near to us the ones we love. It can be easier to cope with being away when surrounded by others who are drifting rootlessly.
I love Christmas, and it is the one time of year for which I try to make sure I’m home. This past Christmas, though, I stayed in Newfoundland. I have many wonderful memories of Christmas with my family, so I was filled with trepidation in the days leading up, not sure how I would actually feel when it came around. My partner and I hosted an “Orphans’ Christmas,” and the house was filled with food, drink and music. Although it didn’t ‘feel like Christmas’ the same way spending the season in my parents’ house does, it did feel warm and loving and, just maybe, like what Christmas should feel like.
Easter as an opportunity to reflect
Easter is a bit of a different story. Back home, those of us who are in town usually get together for a family brunch, but it is not taken as seriously as the other Big Holidays. It sticks out on my personal calendar for other reasons. For years, while my grandmother’s health was in decline, I trekked down to visit her near Washington, D.C. Then, three years in a row, I had what I will here simply call (bizarrely similar) negative experiences.
Unlike the other Big Holidays where I relish others’ company, Easter has become a deeply personal time for me. Since moving to Newfoundland, Easter has become a time for me to reflect. Perhaps its fitting, then, that during Lent we are asked us to give up some indulgence. I follow a slightly different tradition – one that, until just now, I didn’t even realize I had. I think about my Grandma, the stories I know about her and how difficult the last years of her life were. I think about my own life, what changes and what stays the same; how far I’ve come in a year, and how I got to where I am. I think about where I’d like to be by the time next Easter comes around, and how I can get there.
In a sense, this is not so different from giving up meat, or chocolate, or cheese. The point is the same – to live with intention and consider what life would be without the small things we take for granted. It’s the small things, after all, that make up the big picture. Although it’s disputed, popular wisdom claims that a habit can be formed or broken in 21 days. If that’s true, imagine what can be accomplished in 40, and what the implications of carrying a Lenten habit forward for the year. I’m not talking about giving up chocolate for a whole year (come on!), but maintaining the intention and consideration put into food choices as well as other life choices. Maybe try to take country of origin into consideration with all the food you buy, choosing local whenever possible. Or buy an extra can of beans for the food bank on each trip to the grocery store. If nothing else, such a habit will open our eyes to what, and how much, is available locally and remind us that the things we take for granted are not ‘givens’ in other people’s worlds.
So around this time each year, I try to give up being carried from day to day in the whirlwind of deadlines, responsibilities and worries and instead think intentionally on how I am living my life. I remember that how I live is a choice – not only at Easter, but every day. I think about how where I am now reflects all of the choices I have made up until this point. And as the snow clears for what I hope is the last time this year, I am at peace.