Chanukah, Light, and Happiness Amidst Adversity

It’s Chanukah, but we never got the decorations up.  I have quite a collection of Chanukah decorations, most of them delightfully cheesy, like the string of menorah lights.  Most years, I put them up before Chanukah with the kids and it makes the house a little more cheerful amid the winter gloom.  This year, I just didn’t have the energy.  My daughter was away in the hospital being treated for depression and I was running back and forth with my husband to visit her or to appointments for tests for his cancer.  Our son, being a teenager, was off at Chanukah parties with school friends.  We were doing good to have the menorahs unpacked and lit each night.

It can be really easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done and forget to add light.

Just like the decorations that are still sitting in our basement, I often forget to force myself to schedule in the things that make me happier or to make time to enjoy the moment.  I rush through meals at my desk.  I worry about the future instead of enjoying what’s now.  I schedule too many projects at work.  I don’t schedule enough fun trips with my family.

Chanukah reminds us that in the midst of our darkest times, we need to intentionally focus on the light.  Even the miracle of the oil itself is a reminder to stop and notice.  In the midst of war, people still took note of the fact that oil only enough for one day lasted 8.  For many people, this miracle might have gone unnoticed or uncelebrated, but the Jewish people not only took note of it, but commemorate it every year since.  They elevated it to a symbol that would bring light to dark times later, even during the holocaust when lighting a menorah became an act of defiance.

How often do I let the small miracles of my days pass by unnoticed, unmarked?  How much happier could my life be if I brought those moments of joy to the forefront, celebrating them?  

Even in a difficult season such as the one my family is going through, there are bright spots of happiness.  There’s my daughter’s laugh at my husband’s latest “Dad joke.”  There’s my son stretching another inch taller.  There’s a day spent with no appointments or schedule.  There’s a day to sleep in and cuddle with my dog.  Sprinkled among the difficult times are so many bright spots if I make an intentional effort to notice them.

So, even with a calendar quickly filling up, I’m starting my own project for 2020 to bring those moments of happiness into clearer focus for me and my family and to create more of them.  I’m starting a Happiness Project after author Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project books.  Mine includes habits I think will make my days smoother and happier and small projects that I think will bring more happiness to my family and I, like actually visiting some of the museums we keep saying we’ll get to.  Little things that add up to more happy moments in my life, like the small light from oil in the menorah that added up to a miracle that still inspires Jews.

Just a little bit more light in each day…to help drive back the darkness.

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