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Early Saturday morning, three days before Christmas, I decided to do my holiday grocery shopping, hoping that only a small top up here and there would be necessary for a week or so after. The produce section was the main focus of my effort, sourcing in season fruit and organic vegetables to the degree that I could. We live in a place where none of it is grown, so we never know what the gods of long haul delivery will bring us! One of the veggies on my list was broccoli. The organic version had been full of moth eggs earlier in the week when I bought it, so I went straight for the regular kind. I don’t care for extra protein in my broccoli and the tedium to clean the eggs and the moth damage out of the broccoli is just more trouble than it’s worth, given that it costs more than double the regular.

As I approached the broccoli bin, a strapping young Aussie man bent over it examining the choices carefully. He picked one up and put it back, then another, and finally chose one. But as he held the chosen one, his serious face dipped down, looking and inspecting more. Ever so carefully. Finally he chose a second one. As he stood up, towering over me (I’m very short on one end) and began to walk away, I quickly said to him “Oh, those are the two I wanted!” He looked at me and said very sweetly “Oh, really?” I laughed and said, “No, no, I’m just joking!” His face broke into a relieved, open-mouthed smile and he chuckled as he walked to his trolley…or maybe that was clucking at what a mad loser he’d just encountered…hard to say.

A lady and I nearly collided trolleys but we finally got our signals right and as we passed in the aisle I said to her, “These things need turn signals”. It’s an old joke, but it made us both laugh. I joked with another fellow that we were ‘doing the dance of the trolleys’ and he laughed as well.

By this stage I suppose I was in danger of being hauled off to the looney bin, or at the very least being pulled up for misdemeanour merriment. But, unbridled, my mirth knew no bounds.

There were numerous other people at whom I smiled warmly. Some mirrored the radiance, others looked stunned, as if they could not even consider a smile. Perhaps I did look a little out of place. Finally, at the checkout, the staff member who was looking after the self-check-out registers, and I, exchanged smiles and best wishes for the season. It occurred to me that what could have been a stressful shopping trip was made very fun because I could connect with people in a light hearted way. It may have even improved their day, who’s to say?

As I drove home, I realised I was genuinely relaxed. At Christmas!! And for the weeks leading up to it as well. This was unfamiliar territory. Some weeks ago I realised I was teetering on the edge of depression, as many people do this time of year. What is the saying ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten’. I needed to make some changes. About the time I took that decision, or probably because I took that decision, some things came into my life to assist me. Have you ever noticed how that can happen? I discovered a new (to me) meditation technique which worked for me from the first time I tried it. I began my early morning walks again, though my foot is still quite sore. The walking is just so good for me mentally. We are all different. Because these things were good for me does not mean they would be good for everyone else, or anyone else.

Others may look forward to finding just the right gift for everyone on their list. They might revel in cooking foods that everyone looks forward to all year long, or writing that family newsletter to keep in touch with everyone. But for me, I knew I needed to say ‘no’. No to most of the gift giving, all the decorating, baking, card sending…so that I could say ‘yes’ to giving myself space to find my inner joy again.

We have had unprecedented high temperatures so far this summer, up to 43 and 44C (109+ F). The traditional Northern Christmas, celebrated with decorated pine trees, snowy landscapes and mountains of food hot from the oven just doesn’t translate well to this hot, arid zone climate. As I sit here, sipping my iced coffee in air conditioning, having gotten my chores out of the way before the day gets too hot, I’m thinking of those very sensible countries who practice ‘siesta’. I can see more serious relaxation in my future, and a little bit of celebration with close friends. I always have plenty to be grateful for, but this year I will add something else to the list. I will celebrate the gift I have given myself…the space to rekindle inner joy.

My warmest and very best wishes of the season to you all. I’m sending along my very favourite of all the season’s greetings…