As I sat down this week to write a new post I found myself feeling creatively stuck. Again. This has become pretty common lately. It seems whenever I try to call upon my creativity to perform (especially within any specific window of opportunity), it defiantly dig in its heels. Resisting me like a petulant child. There is no bargaining, no rationalizing with it. We could go round and round all morning and get nowhere. This is a dance I am familiar with having two young toddlers at home. And still I persist.
The steaming hot latte, flickering candle on my desk, and ambient Christmas music are not working the magic I have expected of them. A change of scenery is not the answer either. My creativity sticks out its chin and refuses to budge. Thus, I resign to let go of expectations all around. Today I will write what I know.
And since I’m knee-deep in holiday events this week, I will tell you a couple of random tales of holiday seasons past.
This first story begins with me spending way more money than I should have to buy 4 tickets to go see Elf the musical at the theater in Chicago. My sister and her husband planned to visit us that year around the holidays. Paul and I had a merry time of planning up fun things to do with them. We were SO excited for their trip. Chicago around this time of the year is an amazing place. It seems like everywhere you go has decked their halls. There are strands upon strands of Christmas lights casting a magical glow over the city. Every other corner has street musicians playing holiday favorites or people singing carols. Even the weather is accommodating – more often than not – creating a perfect winter wonderland.
Things on our list: the Christmas parade downtown, dinner at The Girl & The Goat (our favorite!), and best of all, an evening at the theater. My sister and I have a lot in common. And our enthusiasm for the holiday season is definitely one of them. We both get pretty happy about all things Christmas. The likelihood of catching us listening to Christmas music well before Thanksgiving is pretty certain. In fact, I just texted her to confirm this. When I asked what the earliest she listens to it is, she responded with “I mean… April?” Haha needless to say, I was so excited to surprise her with these tickets.
“It’s just nice to meet another human that shares my affinity for elf culture.” -Buddy the Elf
Days before their arrival I got an automated email from the theater but didn’t open it right away. Then Paul asked about how good our seats would be so I went to my inbox to investigate. The first line that caught my eye was “HOW DID YOU ENJOY THE SHOW?” My heart missed a beat. So I read it again, certain I had done so incorrectly it the first time.
“HOW DID YOU ENJOY THE SHOW?” it read, clear as day.
Cue a barrage of curse words followed immediately by an outpouring of tears. I had bought tickets for the wrong date. Spent too much money all for nothing. I was overwhelmed with utter disappointment, completely embarrassment by my mistake, and consumed by guilt. In effort to comfort me, Paul got online and attempted to buy tickets for the correct date (despite my objections) only to find everything was sold out.
I’m not sure how we discovered the Mercury Theater’s production of The Christmas Schooner. I remember the tickets were less than half the price of the others. And I remember feeling a little desperate to find any kind of holiday play or musical that would fill the void caused by my screw up. So this was it. Worried it would be awful and that no one would enjoy it, I braced myself for the worst.
Little did I know, my mistake had worked a touch of holiday magic for me that season.
The production was a heartwarming musical set in the late 19th century. It was about one family’s determination to fill Chicago with holiday spirit. Based on a true story of “Captain Santa” who braved the wintery conditions of Lake Michigan in a yearly tradition to deliver Christmas trees to homesick German-American families in historic Chicago. Five years into it’s holiday tradition, his ship met a treacherous demise and became forever entombed in the depths of Lake Michigan. To this day, Christmas trees are still preserved on the decks and hull of the ship under water.
Full of hope, joy, love, and loss – the story was so beautiful. And it was a poignant reminder of the importance of traditions, family, and responsibility. It turned out to be the perfect holiday experience for us that year. A real blessing in disguise. It reminded me that sometimes mistakes turn in to hidden opportunities that help us discover an entirely different perspective. And you can be sure, I’m a heck of a lot more careful to double check the dates before I buy tickets to things ever since!
The second story takes place on Christmas Eve’s eve 2012. It was one of the best holiday memories for me ever. Both of our mothers were visiting for Christmas that year. Paul had been sick and delirious with the flu for about a week. It was another bitterly cold day in Chicago. As the sun began to set, Paul suddenly seemed to find a second wind and asked me if I wanted to sneak out to walk the dogs with him.
Now, mind you, normally I wasn’t jumping up and down at the opportunity to put on seventeen layers of clothing and then trudge out to the park with dogs (who wore their own layers of clothing!). Standing around with the wind so sharp it felt like it was cutting my face. My fingertips going numb, all while the dogs tried to find a nonexistent patch of grass to relieve themselves was never my favorite part of living in the city. Give me a back yard any day of the week over that.
But for some reason, I didn’t resist that particular offer. Paul ran out to grab his gloves out of the car – meanwhile I proceeded to layer up. As I headed down the back stairs to meet him with the pups, I remember noticing he seemed kind of winded. His cheeks were flushed but I didn’t think it was any more than just him being sick. We held hands and each wrangled a taut leash as we walked a couple of blocks to our neighborhood soccer field. There we decided to be rebellious and let the dogs run loose.
We crossed to the middle of the field (one we played many a soccer game on since moving to the city) just as our oldest pup seemed to have found something on the ground that caught her attention. She was sniffing at a small object or box of some sort. Paul kept asking me “what is it?” I was freaking out that we had stumbled across some sort of crazy drug-drop or some other unfortunate set up.
As he knelt down to investigate, I was completely oblivious.
In what I thought was a very short period of time spent layering, leashing, and leaving our apartment, Paul had actually sprinted several blocks to drop off a ring box at the center of that same soccer field and then sprinted home to meet me as I came outside. His cheeks were flushed and he was totally winded! The strategic placement of that box was part of his incredibly romantic plan to propose to me (you see, we actually MET on a soccer field). Don’t worry, he didn’t leave the ring out there unattended in the box. It was safe in his pocket the whole time.
Aside from me being convinced that the box was part of some bizarre drug-exchange, a couple other funny things happened. Upon realizing what was going on, I was in such shock that I kept asking “is this really happening?” (while jumping up and down) and forgot to actually answer him when he asked me to marry him. Eventually he pointed this out and of course, the rest is history. Oh, and as it turns out, in his delirium, Paul was 100% convinced he had proposed to me on Christmas Eve, rather than a day earlier. He still argues with me on this fact to this day.
Reading back over both of these two random tales, I realize now the underlying theme is ironically similar. In both cases, a date of importance was mistaken. Expectations were misleading. And in both cases, these things led to two of the fondest memories of holidays in my past. I’d love to wrap this up with some important message I can impart on you to carry you through this holiday season in moments of doubt or disappointment or anxiety. But all I can really tell you is what I know.
Every story has importance in our lives.
When things aren’t going as expected or when you feel your emotions flare up this holiday season, try to give yourself a moment to pause and breathe. Often these experiences/mistakes/blunders (or boxes in the middle of a field!) can hold their own magic for us. We just have to give ourselves the space to see it.