It is late November, the holidays are settling over us, murmurs about Santa and letters of gratitude in a child’s determined hand fill the house. The girls are finally asleep, the anticipation of “fay-cajun with us all” having kept them pinging off one another from daybreak to mom-cracking. I’m sitting in the kitchen, avoiding the little things that need to be finished—a pile of glitter, rice and pine needles peeking out from behind the straw bristles of the broom, unmatched socks and washcloths still to be folded—and sipping that forbidden third cup of coffee. Here in the quiet between preparation and execution, I am numb.

I have that pre-release tension, wanting so much to have everything set just right before I unclench my mind. I am loathe to blur the line between the forces I deal with professionally and the spirits I nurture at home. I am unfamiliar with keeping it sacred, I cave or it simply seeps in and I am unequipped to keep it at bay. This time we’ve promised it will be different, going so far as to remove us physically from the temptations of work. It feels like brushing my teeth left-handed.  I am spacing out from the mental effort of disengaging.

Gauzy IKEA curtains hang in front of the sliding glass door, the fragmented shower of sunlight through evergreens is winking at me from the deck. It is deleriously distracting with its unpredictable patterns and honey glow. Each new splash of light brings a flutter, the memory of Thanksgivings as a little girl, of holiday euphoria. Simple belief. Leaves skitter by and startle me, but each one that passes and breaks my reverie, takes with it some measure of stress. I am literally unwinding. I woke with a back ache, it festered all morning across my waist. It’s gone.

Bags of groceries and art supplies are sitting waiting for me to finish packing them. I can’t recall what they were missing, but I wasn’t ready to zip them. It was the leaves, in the last cartwheeling leaf I realized that the bags were open for me. I needed to find my way in to the essentials of this trip.

Wishing you the space to slip into the spirit of the season.