Often in the middle of the night, I’ll awaken, get up, and realize I’m in a strange place. Yet another hotel room in this road warrior life. Before mobile phones and smart watches, I’d sometimes roll over, call the front desk, and ask where I was. Hotel rooms blend together over time, and sometimes you simply forget where you were when you checked in the night before, especially on a tour of 10 cities in 20 days.
This morning I immediately know I’m not home, but it’s no hotel room. Instead it’s our annual Christmas journey as a family, living aboard a houseboat in a marina in Florida. It’s a tradition we’ve followed every Christmas for years.
The water is splashing against the sides of the boat, ever gently rocking it, lulling us to sleep. Though quarters are tight, it brings family closer and away from our home distractions of homework, housework, studio work, and office work. It’s a break we all look forward to, but the best part, of course, is time with family, a treat we don’t have as often as we would like. It’s also a treat for our good friends who use our home back in Austin as their Christmas HQ while they visit family.
Memories Over Pain
Though Christmas is a busy time, I still love the anticipation, the joy, the magic, and the great feelings it can provide. For some, it brings up difficult memories, or it can bring sadness over loved ones no longer with us. And though missing them is hard, sometimes the joy of those holiday memories outweighs the pain. This is my first year without my mom. She was all about Christmas, and even last year, she had her tree beautifully decorated; though it was a much bigger chore in her mid-90s, she always looked forward to it.
Have you stopped to think about your precious Christmas memories?
I love the wonder of not being able to sleep the night before, of wanting something so badly that I was nervous whether Santa would show up. I still remember that gold-colored Schwinn bike sitting unwrapped under the tree — it was so exciting. Another year it was an artist’s easel, which I suppose was a prediction of what was to come.
This year for Christmas I have a special mission. Instead of my red hat, I’m putting on my Christmas ears. Rather than making things all about me and talking too much, I want to listen more carefully. When mom left us, there were unanswered questions about long-lost family members. This year my goal is to learn as much about my family as possible, try to find things I never knew about them, and of course try to document old family stories and history.
Will you be listening?
With Christmas comes anxiety for some, having to deal with difficult people, old family issues, and other pressures. But perhaps next week you can put all that aside, heal and forgive, and break the patterns that have plagued your relationships.
Don’t Carry Your Past
The reality is that no one on this earth is perfect. As parents, we make mistakes with our kids, though we all try to do the best we can. As siblings, there may be old rivalries we are clinging to from our childhood. Maybe we are stuck on something someone did 50 years ago. Let it go, if not for your relationship’s sake, for your own sanity. Harboring the negative causes internal festering that is hurting you physically and mentally without your realizing it. Be forgiving.
Make It Fun
Rather than dreading relationship issues or worrying about dealing with your weird aunt or with family members who have made bad choices, try to put it aside and make it fun. Do things as a family … play games, start the interesting conversations you never have, go for walks together, be playful by making snow angels or doing something else fun. Go out of your way, and if others remain sourpusses, ignore it and keep trying to draw them in.
How Many More Christmases?
My friend Richard Saul Wurman always talked about how many summers we each have left … and encouraged us to make every minute count. The same is true for Christmas. How many do you have left? Maybe a lot, maybe no more. We simply don’t know.
For most, the magic of Christmas is the result of memories created by parents, grandparents, and friends. That magic does not have to be lost — each of us can play a role in bringing it back and making it special. Just have fun.
Oh, and no matter how passionate you are, and how differently someone thinks about politics, you can’t change their mind and they can’t change yours. Don’t even try. Our country is being divided by strong opinions. Leave them alone. Let Christmas be about common ground.
My Christmas Rule
Here is the Christmas Rule: At the beginning of gatherings, simply say, “No politics spoken here.” And if someone starts, “ding” your glass, and it will be a signal for everyone not to go there.
I hope you make this holiday time special. Set a goal for yourself for something you want out of it … maybe, like me, it’s listening or learning, maybe it’s just having fun and creating memories, but be deliberate. Make it the best yet, and don’t take it for granted. What if it’s your last?
PS: One of the great joys of my life has been sitting here each Sunday morning to write my thoughts to share. I started out intending to share thoughts with my kids, to prepare them for life, and a friend suggested I share it with others. I’m told we’re hitting about a quarter million people each week because many of you are forwarding it to friends. Thank you, I’m very grateful. If you like what you see most of the time, I appreciate your forwarding to others and suggesting they subscribe for free. We would hit a million readers this week if each reader found four people to send it to. That would be nice.
I love hearing your feedback in the comments section, and I try to read them all. It means a lot that you would take the time.
One point I want to make … I don’t want to tell anyone how to live, what to think, what to believe. One lady objected to my mentioning God, but that’s part of who I am. If it offends you, know that it’s not my intent, and I hope you can read past it and find some value anyway. My intent is not to push anything on anyone, just to stimulate thought or conversation.
One more thought … I’ve found that success in my life and my year is all about being deliberate. If you have some quiet time, think about where you want to be a year from now, and make a plan. I have several stories about that at www.coffeewitheric.com, which is also where you can subscribe.
I’m grateful for you, and for your taking the time to open and read these stories. Thank you!
May you live forever!
I so enjoy reading every heart felt word on the page.
I am an artist in the far North of Canada. I love to read your writings every week. I thank you for sharing this gift of words with each one of us. You just never know in life who you will touch.
Blessings for a joyful and healthy New Year.
I always enjoy your talks. They’re enlightening and full of encouragement. God bless you and your family.
Good Morning Eric
Missed reading Sunday Coffee last Sunday and saved it for Christmas Eve morning, today.
You said a lot and your messages are always good for pondering.
Christmas to me is togetherness, as we gather together with family and friends for our big family feast. This year there are 24 of us hosted by my son and daughter “in laws” home. It’s the memories we create year after year. For Bob and I it’s such a beautiful, blessed day being surrounded by all the love of family.
Our wish for you is all the love you spread to others throughout the year comes back as blessings from above to you and your family. Merry Christmas 🎄
Thank you Eric for this email I look forward to each Sunday. To the lady who objected to you using the word God, I like your reply. In this day and age someone will get offended by something. No getting around it. But I will remember your words… Stay true to yourself. That’s most important. God bless and have a Merry Christmas with your family.
Love reading your Sunday Coffee and your Podcasts and just about everything you do. I know all your past Sunday coffees are available on the web to read but wish they were in a book….I know I would buy it.
I loved reading your well written thoughts. It should be a pattern by which we all live our lives. My wife, Wendy and I are in our second marriage and we have had 35 wonderful years after both being married to partners who were selfish and in my case, addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs.Our joint family consists of 3 sons 1 daughter, seven grand children and 11 great grand children. We have had many adventures in our time together. including 17 Pacific cruises in 4 years, me teaching art on board and my wife was a lecturer on famous Australians. In February,2001 we started the Pastel Artists of South Australia. Our first meeting was in our lounge room and we had 37 people join. We now have 160 members an three branches. I organised workshops in the early days and as a result, met many artists who are now world famous, from the USA New Zealand, Scotland, UK and all around Australia. Not bad for a one time hobby artist. We cherish the friends we have made through my art and through Wendy’s church.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love receiving my copy of Pleine Air magazine, such wonderful art work, presented in perfect colour too. Bill Truslove
Thank you for this message, and all of your messages. A good way to close Advent and ring in Christmas. Forgiveness is a good attitude as is Hope for a grand future……painting.
The final paragraph of today’s SMC that ends in “What if it’s is your last?” is one of your best ever, a potent wakeup call.
Keep up the good work….
Warm regards, Will
Merry Christmas to you and your family,Eric!! I wish you many blessings in the New Year.
Merry Christmas to you and your family! Love these Sunday coffees with you. These are your thoughts and that is why I read, enjoy and learn from them.
Merry Christmas, Eric! Thank you for these Sunday posts. I really look forward to them.
Contrary to the lady you mentioned, I appreciate that you share your faith in God. I am blessed to be apart of a small group of artists, most of whom profess to be Christians. I look forward to your articles each week, and hope to someday attend one of the events.
Thank you for your commitment and hard work for the artists everywhere.
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.
Best wishes always,
I really do appreciate your Sunday Coffee and all the other activities you do. I get exhausted just reading about them (kidding) you are really an amazing person. You mentioned one lady didn’t like the fact you mention God in your writing. Because you do give God credit and praise is the reason I enjoy your writing about your life. God is so good to us all and the reason we can accomplish what we do especially in being creative. I am glad He is part of who you are, that makes us related. God is the largest part of my life too,
God Bless you and your family,
I always enjoy Sunday Coffee. I’m not an artist but an avid collector. Many times your comments touch a nerve in my life, make me stop and think, and sometimes reevaluate my thinking. Keep up the good work! Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Blessed New Year!
I for one am happy when someone not only mentions God but believes. Far too often God is left out. I cannot believe so many of their blessings “just happen”. Besides, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s a shame that so many feel we should give way to the minority. I enjoy your messages and very often your “food for thought”. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your family.
Eric, this is YOUR blog, YOUR arena for self-expression.
Anyone “offended” why your words can go elsewhere.
And may 2020 bring you and the rest of us a more peaceful, kindly year
with more opportunities for everyone to feel comfort and joy.
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your Sunday Coffee emails. They’ve become part of my Sunday morning routine (or sometimes caught up with later in the week). I always enjoy them and they make me think.
Thank you, too, for encouraging all of us to be creative, to paint or make or simply stop and think about creative things. With those encouragements you have enriched my life a lot.
When you said that mentioning God was somewhat offensive to a reader, it occurred to me that if the writer pleases everyone, then he/she ends up saying nothing of consequence. It is also a betrayal of self.
Hi Eric, I love your Sunday letters and look forward to reading them. I am 75 and love art. I love nature and birds and bees and animals and I love God. I think most of us do. Dont change anything. thanks for being who you are and being honest and true and a marvelous inspiring person! 🙂 A dear friend of ours committed suicide a few days ago, young, beautiful, smart. So incredibly sad. Who knew. Your letter this week was so true for so many, you never know when it will be your last. Or someone special’s last. God bless and have a merry Christmas and a blessed new year! Keep up the good work!
Please add my name to the ton of fans who are and will enjoy this essay. Well done but then that is why you are as famous as you are. Seasons greetings from Canada.
Right on the money. Your messages help put the events of the previous week into perspective while at the same time setting the tone for the week to come. Thanks, Eric. Janey and I look forward to seeing you at PACE in May, if not before.
I was concerned a couple weeks ago when you didn’t post, so your column last week was a relief and a hope that all is well. So, in this season of peace, hope and thanksgiving, I thank you for your wise words each week and the time it takes to share them. Even though our paths may never cross, please be assured you make an impact on my creative journey. I wish you and yours a joyful holiday season and all the precious memories your heart can hold…and love. Above all else, love.
A few weeks ago my art group had to say goodbye to our beloved teacher and mentor, Brenda Semanick,. She lost her five year battle with ovarian cancer in November. Our group has been painting under her guidance and friendship for many years and we are all now looking to 2020 to take the gifts she gave us and continue enjoy painting in her memory and to fill our hearts with joy. Each Sunday I look forward to your article and you especially touched me this morning with the reminder that every holiday should be enjoyed, no matter what our circumstances, Thank you and I wish you and your family a Very Merry Christmas,
Happy Holidays to you and your family. Your Sunday morning emails have been a gift to me for the past year. Thank you for taking the time and for having the inclination to share your thoughts.
I always look forward to reading these. You are one of my favorite writers. Yes, because you believe in God, (I’m a believer) also because your writing comes across as loving. I just love how you write in the spirit of gentleness. You are inspiring. This was a great one!!!
I always look forward to your sage advice each Sunday, and this column contained many jewels that I will put into practice as my family comes together soon. God bless you and have a joy-filled Christmas!
Dear Eric, This is my 23rd Christmas without Mom. It gets easier – and in some ways, more difficult. Times change and families disperse. I moved and so did they. Traditions are like rules carved in stone. But “ all of a sudden” the stone has crumbled and new layers of sediment are laid down. I watch and smile as my sons and daughter gather THEIR families just as mother did. All is right with the world!
Merry Christmas to you and yours! May the Grace of Christ settle over that boat and soothe away the aches of every-day stress. Thanks for writing!
I am grateful to you for the “pause” it takes to read “Sunday Coffee”. I share many of your beliefs, especially the need to connect with nature and the importance of family. I recently attended a wedding that brought most of my family under one roof; all four generations. I couldn’t help the feelings of Deja Vu, watching the latest generation interact. It was wonderful. Since we are scattered all over the East and South it was a minor miracle we could all get together and I am very grateful.
Hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas and I’m thankful that you talk about God, family and country. We are all given gifts, thank you for sharing your many gifts
Thankfully, Janet Bickham
Eric, Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the spirit of the season blanket all of you with JOY throughout the New Year.
This too is our families first Christmas without ‘mom’ here to celebrate. Tiz a different feel indeed. Yes, JOY remains- tenfold. Enjoyed your message this week, it underlines that. How to enable JOY to remain- no matter our circumstances— may we hold onto the good and reflect that… in all that we do, intentionally so. Also remembering that we each, are here by grace…
and finally – love seeing how your message here has grown to reaching so many. Keeping this a Sunday message, about family and reflecting good ways to press on in all that we do.
Thank you for sharing your heart each week!
Merry Christmas to you & your family & all the artists out there reading this!
Dear Eric, What a lovely column! May God bless you and your family! I feel like I can call you dear since I have been enjoying your column for several years now. I have been painting in pastels for over 60 years and I esp love the columns you write about how art affects our lives and hearts. How I love this artist’s journey! Our family too has been divided by political beliefs, but we have a rule-no politics at the table or anywhere when we get together. Anyway, Merry Christmas to you and your family1 I have shared this column with several friends so may you reach your goal!
Thank you Eric. This Sunday brought back memories with my Mom for Christmas. She loved this Holiday and made it special for all of us. Christmas evokes alot of good and sad feelings for everyone. I am going to make this Holiday Season a special one for my children and Grandchildren because as you say, this could be our last. Have a wonderful Holiday with your family and I look forward to more Sunday Coffee with you.
This is a much needed reminder of remembering the important things in life.
Reading your Sunday morning posts always helps improve my day, if I remember to read it before heading out to my job!
Today, I looked for it and now my head is in a better place. Thank you!