Friday, December 4, 2015

Writing Lab: New Traditions Have a Way of Sneaking Up on You

It occurs to me that I picked the strangest possible month to start participating in one of BlogHer's post-a-day challenges. As anyone that's read my responses to any of the other prompts is probably figuring out, I tend to feel like a fish out of water around the holidays.

Despite being on the threshold of middle age, I don't have children, nor do I have really close-knit, lifelong ties to most of my other family members. I don't have a busy social life that finds me entertaining friends (or letting them entertain me) every year either.

All I really have is my relationship with my fiancé. We're not exactly people of means, nor do we connect with many other people around the holidays. We are very much used to being a team of two at this point and when I picture holiday traditions, I tend to picture a coming together with lots of other people, particularly family. That picture doesn't really apply to our life as we know it, so for a long time, I didn't think the word "tradition" applied to anything we liked to do either. That said, I actually like how these prompts are challenging me to take a closer look at that point of view and reevaluate a few things. I'm beginning to realize that that's something I really needed to do.

One thing I have discovered over the past decade or so is that traditions tend to start themselves. I never made an actual choice to reboot the way I feel about the holidays or attempt to create new traditions to replace the old or non-existent ones. There was no conscious decision to "start" doing thus-and-so every single year right from the first year we did it.

I literally just turned around one day and realized that I had things I actually looked forward to about this time of year for the first time in a long while. Things that were our own. Things we did because they meant something to us on an actual personal level. It took participating in this writing event and actually consciously thinking about the concept of tradition to realize that we actually do have that very thing in our lives now. Our Christmas duck, our neighborhood walks, our special way of ringing in the new year with White Castle burgers and stuffed jalapeños -- all of those things are traditions.

So how hard do I think it is to start new traditions? I guess I'm saying it's easy -- something that takes care of itself. It begins with something as simple as deciding to do something new one year because maybe you got an idea or seized a great opportunity to have a new experience. And then maybe you enjoy that experience so much that you decide to do it again the next year... and the next, and the next, and the next. That's how traditions are born, often without any planning or fanfare whatsoever. They're organic things that can spring up overnight or become what they are over a long time. Both, even.