WORDS BY BEN DUNGAN
We all have a Christmas story in us. For one kid, it all started with a triple dog dare. And the next thing he knew, his tongue was frozen to the flagpole. You know exactly who I’m talking about. That’s Flick, Ralphie’s friend from the 1983 film A Christmas Story.
The movie is all over TV this time of year, but you can visit him in person anytime you want, if you just so happen to be travelling between Illinois and Indiana on Interstates 80 and 94. He’s stuck right where we remember him best, at the flagpole, only this time he’s parked at the Indiana Welcome Center located in Hammond, Indiana.
Now that’s a stop I would make, if I was up cruising around Lake Michigan. But I’m not, so in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for the boring rest areas and welcome centers on the North Carolina highways and byways instead.
These roadside stops aren’t meant to be flashy. They are supposed to be boring. But as my brother says, they are super functional. With three young boys under the age of eight, functional over flashy wins every time.
The main goal behind a rest area is to allow drivers and passengers a place to get out, stretch their legs, use the bathroom and get right back on the road without any hassle. Or in my brother’s case, allows the boys to burn off all of their pent up energy before
tackling the next leg of the trip.
North Carolina may have us covered when it comes to rest areas, but what about that metaphorical highway between Thanksgiving and Christmas? How can we incorporate the super functional idea of a rest area into our already busy lives?
Andy Williams reminds us each year that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”. Burl Ives walks around, by golly, wishing people to feel holly and jolly. Where are the Christmas songs about being exhausted and stressed out?
The older I get, the busier Christmas seems to be. As a kid, I used to count down the days to Christmas. In recent years, I have found myself counting the days down to early January when life becomes normal again.
When did this happen? One day we’re Cindy-Lou Who and the next day we’ve become the Grinch. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s slow and sneaky.
I don’t attend a luncheon all year long, and then the calendar turns to December, and I instantly have invitations to three. There’s always an extra party to attend, another gift to buy and another batch of goodies to bake. Your daily routines get swallowed up in the holiday madness.
Maybe I need to find my own rest area. Or perhaps, I need to return to center by constructing a “Welcome Back Ben” Center.
Austin Kleon already has one. He calls it a Bliss Station. Kleon is self-described as a writer who draws. He released a new book this year called Keep Going: 10 Ways To Stay Creative in Good Times And Bad. It’s chock-full of tips and tricks for creative minds and souls to be able to maintain their creativity during the good times and the bad. And in our current case, the busy times.
In his new book, he recommends that everyone should have a Bliss Station – a sacred space or sacred time where they can disconnect from all of life’s distractions. Kleon thinks it very important that we make a “daily appointment to disconnect from the world so that we can connect with ourselves”.
Life is full of distractions, and they seem to double and triple in size around Christmas. Maybe this is how we alter our Christmas countdown. This is how we keep the bliss in Christmas. We need to carve out a place or time each day where we can disengage,
disconnect and disappear so that we can reconnect, re-engage, and reappear and be fully present with the holiday.
Christmas only comes once a year. We only get so many of these. They can be stressful, sure, but they can also be special. Don’t let the bah humbug steal your bliss.
The holiday highway will beat you down, if you let it. This Christmas, may you find your rest area. Or your bliss station. Take time this Christmas to recharge and refuel so you reconnect to the season and the meaning it has for you. Everyone has a Christmas story. How are you going to write yours this year?