One of the oddities of my adventure is the timing I've chosen: apparently, it's Christmas time. And I say apparently because it doesn't feel like Christmas. There are wreathes on the lights downtown and a Christmas tree up in my room, but all of the other familiarities and traditions surrounding the holiday season are not with me here in Iowa. I've always had a child-like appreciation for Christmas (as I do my birthday), with high expectations for greatness and forced holiday cheer to bring the happiness everyone should feel. While appreciating Christmas at this level is enjoyable, after childhood there was disappointment when the holiday never met the expectations I built in my head for this warm-and-fuzzy-world-problem-solving holiday. And the holidays are not always made of the stuff we see in movies and put in Christmas cards - families are never perfect, and certainly not without stress. But with the pressure of a picture-perfect holiday, I always ignored those realities and intensely focused on what the holiday should be - much to the dismay of my sanity and emotional well-being.
Now in Iowa, I find myself lost between what I used to know and what's reality, and I can't help but see a lot of good in this. In a way, I'm being forced to grow up - to see Christmas as it is, and to understand the realities of it without needing to cover them up. I've moved away from the 'getting-stuff' mentality and stopped the sugar-coated lies to make sure everyone stays warm and happy. I've started to be able to process the emotions I feel surrounding the holidays, and to reconcile the realities with my expectations of Christmas. And best of all, I'm able to completely rebuild what the holidays mean to me, to re-discover what I find as important during the holidays, and to create new traditions.
Friday night was the work holiday party - and with Christmas music, drinks and food - it was lovely to be able to meet and mingle with my co-workers. It started to snow after the party, and I spent too much time gazing up at it, letting it fall on my face and melt there. As soon as I got back to my house, I put on my real winter boots and wandered around the farm, marveling at the snow and realizing that my new Christmas will be white. And yesterday, Matt and Katie came down from Rochester to wander around the Seed Savers farm with me. We had pizza and beer in town, and afterward went to Burning Bright - an amazing locally derived holiday concert. With choral pieces and instrumentals performed in front of a packed audience in a small church off main street, the holidays couldn't feel more cheerful. I went to sleep supremely happy, thankful to have found some holiday cheer and friendship that I was so desperately needing.
This year the holidays are definitely a lot different, but so are a lot of things for me now. I'm confident that many good things will come of the change - new adventures, new traditions, and new friendships. I look forward to the only Christmas gift I want this year - getting my dog and bringing her back to Iowa with me. I'm so lucky as to have found a place for us to live, and I can't wait to show her, to see what she thinks of the snow, and to have all my new friends met her. More on the new house later - I'll officially move in after Christmas, and will be able to share pictures then.