Midlife Myths & Realities: Andrea M. Slominski, Ph.D.
Memory is one of the most powerful activities in our psyches.
“If we are blessed, our memories of the holidays are warm and loving.”
Memory teaches us, connects us, encourages us, delights us, and sometimes warns us.
Memories – Collection Of Experiences:
Our memories are a collection of all the experiences that we’ve had in our lives. If we are blessed, our memories of the holidays are warm and loving.
Mine are glowing and golden. My mom loved Christmas, and we had many traditions that included decorating the house, listening to Christmas Carols, baking sweets, shopping for gifts, putting up a tree, and generally getting wound up tighter than a drum by the time Christmas morning arrived.
My dad loved Christmas morning. I have two older brothers, and my dad treasured the look on our faces when we saw the tree lit up for the first time. We would buy a tree each year and put it up on Christmas eve in the living room, but we wouldn’t decorate it. Oh, no. Santa decorated our tree, along with delivering all the gifts!
My dad would take a pair of old boots and make ashy footprints on the carpet from the fireplace to the tree. Dad, mom, and each of my brothers—as they aged out of the Santa Claus belief—would stay up into the wee hours of the morning decorating the tree and arranging the gifts beneath it.
The Tall Tree:
Then, before he woke us, Dad would go outside and throw small rocks by the handful on the roof, imitating arriving reindeer hoofs. If we weren’t yet awake, he would wake us up with a rousing “Good Morning, Merry Christmas!” and take us into his and my mom’s bedroom, keeping us behind closed doors at the end of the hall, while he went into the living room and plugged in the tree.
Only then would we stand behind the door ready for magic; it never disappointed. The tall tree, chosen on a family outing to a tree farm, was usually 10’ tall or more. Lit and sparkling in the pre-dawn darkness, it was always magnificent. After a moment of awe-inspired silence, we thundered down the hall to the living room.
“The memories of Christmases spent with her are particularly precious.”
Christmas was my Mom’s favorite time of year. We lost her when I was twenty. The memories of Christmases spent with her are particularly precious.
Both of my parents are gone now. I treasure the memories of my childhood holidays and all the Christmases with family, friends, and my children over the years.
I’m so blessed.
Not everyone has good memories of the holidays.
Memories Of The Holidays:
For many, memories of the holidays may hold disappointment, loneliness, anxiety, or even fear. It’s essential to offer understanding and compassion to those whose life experiences and memories create ambivalence around the holidays.
The commercialization of the holidays and the accompanying marketing of stuff and things can add unwanted pressure to lives that are struggling to make ends meet. Further, the last few years have been filled with the loss of many loved ones during the pandemic.
For most people, overall, our family homes were imperfect. Families are duality in action. They are filled with love, conflict, support, criticism, camaraderie, and argument. To be in a family is to live in the tension of all those opposites.
If you find yourself struggling with memories this holiday season due to loss, strife, hardship, or personal history, I want to encourage you to create new meaningful traditions, ceremonies, rituals, and memories.
“We can participate in the ritual breaking of bread, the sharing of meals together.”
The Creator And Keeper Of Loving Feelings:
The longing for home, a place to belong, where we feel safe, where we can be accepted for who we indeed are and be loved and understood, is universal. We all need that place.
In ancient Greece, the Goddess of the hearth and home was Hestia, where the kitchen was the literal center of the house. It held the hearth, which generated warmth, light, and fire for cooking.
The Goddess Hestia is the power, strength, and energy of home, that deep feeling or idea of the home where we BELONG. Hestia is the creator and keeper of the warm, loving feelings many of us have when we think of home. She is the hearth and the fire in it. Her domain extended to the larder—the food stores—and her magic included the enticing scent of foods cooking, like bread baking or cookies in the oven.
When our family and friends gather in a kitchen over the holidays, it’s the centering energy of Hestia that pulls us all together. It is here that we can bask in the warmth of love, laughter, and celebration. We can participate in the ritual breaking of bread, the sharing of meals together.
Hestia’s hearth had to be tended constantly. As do our hearts and what is sacred within them.
In ancient Greece, one could never let the hearth fire go out. The only time it was allowed to burn out was for an annual ritual, a ceremonial relighting of the home fire. Once a year new fire was brought to each house from Hestia’s temple hearth—the heart of Greek Culture.
What new fire can you bring to ignite your sacred energies of home this holiday season?
“Gather friends around a fire and tell stories of hope and faith to each other.”
Celebrate Old Traditions:
If you look within, you can still access the warmth and power of Hestia. Even if your life growing up was far from idyllic, you have the ability within you to create warmth and nurturance in the energy center of your home.
I encourage you to celebrate old traditions and create new ones this holiday season. Decorate your home with fresh greens, or whatever you love. Light a candle for those we have lost but still treasure in our memories. Make and share a favorite dish.
Create an altar that recognizes those ideas, things, and people that are a part of your Hestia energy. Gather friends around a fire and tell stories of hope and faith to each other. Raise a glass of cheer or cup o’ tea to have made it another turn around the sun.
Spirit Of Hestia:
Look up at the night sky and wonder at the beauty of the universe and the wonder of being alive to see it.
May you find the spirit of Hestia this holiday season, and may she bless you and yours this year and in all the years to come!
About the Author:
Andrea M. Slominski, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and women’s midlife coach. During her dissertation research and study, she explored the new life stage for women that has emerged over the past 100 years.
Naming this new life stage, from ages 45-70, Regency, Dr. A. has spoken at conferences, published articles, and coached women to make the most of their emerging power years. Dr. A. guides women 45+ through the often-tumultuous transformations during perimenopause, midlife, and menopause. She uses tools that include creativity, story, mythology, imagination, ceremony, and ritual. If you need support for your Regency years, including all the changes of midlife and menopause, I’m here for you. Email me at [email protected]
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