Christmas, presence, and why I learned to like wine


It’s December and the Holidays are always a busy time for us.  Maggie is often shooting, editing and delivering the last of the wedding, event, product and portrait photos to clients before the turn of the new year. I met her around this time 2 years ago when she first invited me to her apartment to hang out while she wrapped Christmas presents.

I brought wine (the smiley face brand from Trader Joe’s) and promptly cut my finger on the cork wrapper. Maggie walked up as I ran my finger under water and I was forced to admit what had happened. She went for a bandaid, we wrapped it all up and I poured my hard fought wine into two glasses – one for each of us. 

I had somehow learned that she liked red wine and she admitted that she really couldn’t tell the difference between a “good” red and a $5 bottle of red from the store down the street. I liked that about her, because frankly, neither could I… In fact, I’d only started drinking wine a few years earlier when the guy I’d been long distance dating at the time told me “at some point you’re going to have to learn to like wine — that’s what successful people drink during business meals.” I could see his point, so I ventured into the world of this vinegar tasting beverage and learned to like it about halfway through the glass — right about the same time I started to get tipsy.

I delivered our wine glasses to Maggie’s living room floor — hardwoods with a grey oval design area rug. I sat on the rug with the presents. Maggie preferred the hardwoods with the wine and her Christmas wrapping supplies surrounding her. One of my favorite things about myself is that I am easily entertained so watching someone else wrap Christmas presents for her family wasn’t at all boring. Maggie’s December schedule had been wildly busy that year — 2012.  In fact, I got to learn a lot about Maggie through these presents she bought on a power shopping spree earlier that day. I learned about her friends, cousins, her nieces, nephews, even her brother, her Dad and Mom and stepmom. The gifts she bought for them told a story about her family and about her relationship with them.

I learned even more about Maggie that night. Her computer sat on the desk in the corner of the room and I got to watch her screensaver scroll through a parade of what looked to be at least the last 5 years of Maggie’s life. It looked to be a highlight reel of her favorite moments. Many photos of her favorite people. I learned by the toys she picked out for her nieces and nephews that she loves to play, she appreciates comfort and she always strives for a gift that’s the right one for the recipient. I learned that she can shop faster for an entire family of presents than I can for just one present… and this year, I did my best to implement more of her decisive shopping habits. I admire that about her. I learned that she doesn’t love gifts — her love language is quality time, after all, so she strives for gifts people can use and experiences they might not otherwise give themselves. I learned about the way she thinks and categorizes things. I learned that she’s super visual and the wrapping had to match the ribbons and bows but that that wrapping itself didn’t have to be perfect, but it needed to look nice. She had a list of names and gifts that she marked off one by one until she was finished. I learned that while she had procrastinated on shopping for the gifts themselves, once she started the process she was determined to finish all the way up to getting them all piled neatly into their shipping boxes, labels and all.

We went to our respective families homes for Christmas that year and texted every chance we could, providing updates about what was happening, if we had brought having met each other and our new friendship up in conversation yet, and what our families were like. We texted, then called each other later for a recap, then met up for coffee and walks around the neighborhood. I even got a text from her on New Years, which to this day I remember being excited about, thinking “yes, she’s thinking about me, too!”

Now we’re on our second “official” Christmas together (3rd Christmas since we met). Our social cups are filled to the top around Christmas and for that I am forever grateful — we have Christmas parties, birthday parties, New Years parties, multiple families to celebrate with, and incredible friends that we’re so fortunate to have. We also have end of the year business to attend to, our minds are focused on what is next for 2015 and sometimes we find ourselves at the end of the day without having had much time to connect – just us, you know?

I can’t help but think about how fortunate we are that the one thing I got upset about last week was — not enough time with Maggie. You know, time without the phone, the places to be, the work, the computer, TV, etc. Just us. After I got done crying about my own existential meanderings and passions that I want to achieve in life, I smiled. I smiled because as entrepreneurs with our own successful businesses, Maggie and I are so fortunate to get to work in the same space together most of the time. To take breaks, go on walks, do yoga and go to the gym, and make lunch and dinner together… To adventure together on our business trips and to feel we just always want more of each other. I think that’s an incredible “problem” to have. I know many people who wish they had more time with their person and likewise many who sadly wish they had less, who have much more to be upset about than time together. At the same time, in this coming year, I look forward to designating quality time, not just time in the same space doing different things.

I find that as I ponder my own “what’s next?” I want more focus and connection, which is something that we haven’t had as much of this month. I started to get mad, to feel frustrated, angry and to turn it on myself and over think everything possible to over think. And then I stopped myself. I decided that instead of engaging in unproductive distructive behavior that would surely help no one, I would help the one person who needed my heart and understanding the most… Maggie needed my help. So, when I had time, I went Christmas shopping for us… I wrapped presents, picked up our Christmas tree and made dinners, washed dishes and kept things going so that Maggie could continue her very long workdays, knowing that she was doing this for us, for our future and so that we could enjoy Christmas together with our families totally unplugged and relaxed. Without conversation, Maggie returned the gestures as she always does. I love that we’re connected like that. She decorated the tree with me, wrapped presents with me, appreciated my efforts to help, stays up late to spend time with me even though she’s exhausted, makes me oatmeal for breakfast every morning no matter how busy she is, she took a few evenings off last week so we could reconnect, and she takes dance breaks with me so we can jam out to the Mariah Carey Holiday station on Pandora.

I share this because it seems small… but I think sometimes that’s where we get hung up. We think it’s the big things, that feed or drain relationships. However, I think it’s the “small things” that actually become the big thing in a relationship because it all comes down to being heard, seen and validated in all moments, no the just the convenient ones. Life is busy — sometimes our lives are more busy that the other person. We all have moments that go the way we want or don’t, we all bid for the attention of our loved ones in hopes of them noticing and affirming. Our relationships are created and nurtured by how we choose to treat and prioritize it all — and the way in which we choose to communicate it.

In the midst of it all, I focus everyday to remember these things and hope they will guide me:

1. We’re a team

2. How can I best speak to her love language?

3. How can I help and bring joy to this situation?

4. How do I choose to show up in this moment?

5. What can I learn from this?

Happy Christmas!
We’ve worked hard to enjoy some Christmas time off. I’m looking forward to some connected time with Maggie and our families.

Enjoy the way you do Christmas. Teach others your traditions (or non-traditions)
Look for things to learn about your person, your family or your friends. People are so interesting!
Share yourself with others and leave some time for reflection before the new year hits.
Choose how you will show up, what you want from your Holiday… in other words, choose your own adventure and make it memorable. This is it, this is life! You deserve the good stuff.

Love to you,