It’s time for Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which means I’m also going to get a post in for Just Jot it January. What I like most about this happy coincidence is that I like getting a two for one in a post, AND SoCS posts usually end up being something I never would have written otherwise. So it’s a great surprise. If you’ve never tried it before, you should check it out. It can be really fun! So here is today’s prompt from Linda.
Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “pause/paws.” Use one, use both, use ’em any way you’d like. Have fun!
When I saw this prompt, I couldn’t help think of the Coca-Cola commercial with the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” (OK, so I date myself.)
Refreshing or not, it’s time for a pause. Following the holidays, and all those reindeer paws and Santa Claus and shopping and festivities, a break is what most of us need. There is something to be said for that week between the holidays when people comment about not knowing what day it is because schedules as we typically know them during the rest of the year simply don’t exist. Many of us can just move through those days and catch our breath. The pause might actually be refreshing if it weren’t for all the hoopla leading up to the holidays, along with the reality of heading back to reality as soon as we recover from our New Year’s revelry (if we partake in such revelry and IF we’ve recovered by the time said reality sets in).
Still, the pause is something we look forward to, often hoping in vain that we will be more organized, less stressed, and full of contentment and good tidings. For many, the pause itself is an illusion, as we trade the crazy schedules and expectations of the holidays for the crazy schedules and expectations of the day-to-day routines we manage through the rest of the year.
One of the great things about Taiwan is that I was able to step out of the holiday tradition as I experienced it all my life. I experienced a different kind of pause because of the cultural differences. Although Christmas will be a holiday of sorts in 2016 in Taiwan, it wasn’t during the six years I was there. I have actually taught classes on Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve, and the days leading up to New Year’s (although that day was a holiday for different reasons). It isn’t until exams are finished and graded, and final grades submitted, that the holiday pause happened.
The semesters in Taiwan are 18 weeks long, and while classes start a week or two later than they do here in the States, they don’t finish until the first or second week of January. Sometimes exams can sneak into the third week. THEN we have our semester break, with a three to four week break before the second semester starts following Chinese New Year. 2015 issued in the Year of the Goat.
In some ways, the preparations for festivities surrounding Chinese New Year are the same as the Christmas season for those who celebrate it. People plan their meals, clean their houses, pick up gifts. But in other ways, there are major differences. Where you celebrate each day of the Chinese New Year is proscribed, depending on how close you follow the ancient traditions. And while many people look forward to Chinese New Year’s Eve dinners based on the male’s family, and the reunion luncheons and dinners the following day based on the female’s family, it’s the same level of stress and activity that we experience on this side of the world.
I was fortunate to be invited to various Chinese New Year’s celebrations of various kinds, and I found that the sense of pause and catching one’s breath wasn’t really there. On the other hand, for someone like me, who only accepts a few invitations and picks up gifts for the hosts of the events I attend, the season is one where I can at least catch up on projects I’m behind on, even if it’s not a true pause. But occasionally, I was able to steal away hours and sometimes a few days to truly pause and recharge my batteries. It was during those semester breaks in Taiwan where most of my quilting time happened. I later learned to sneak it in other places, but CNY worked for me. I suspect though that it was largely due to the fact that it wasn’t MY holiday.
Being in Taiwan resulted in a huge shift in the way I approach Christmas. During my six years there, I sent greetings to family and friends, but aside from grandchildren, I didn’t do gifts. I invited students over to the house for a meal. I let them put up the tree, and we exchanged small gifts and ornaments, and they asked questions about the way Christmas was celebrated in America. But aside from that, it was business as usual, and we worked these gatherings around classes.
My first Christmas back in the States has been more of a pause than it would have been before my time in Taiwan, but as I reinvent myself in 2016, I have a feeling that Christmas will take on a new look as well, a space in time where I can truly pause and recharge my batteries and live in the moment of the season without getting wrapped up in the unnecessary trimmings.