It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of life. It’s tempting to fret about the little things, particularly as the holiday season approaches at full pelt — down-to-the-minute travel plans, scrambling to wrap up business at work in preparation for the end of the year, trying desperately to find a way to satisfy everybody: deciding who to see and when, what to make, bring, give, wear, and talk about. For many people, the holidays are the most stressful time of year. While this outlook is certainly understandable, it nonetheless feels sadly backwards.
For all the stress that goes into it, when the actual day of celebration comes, suddenly, it all fades into the background. On that day, no matter what you were fretting about, no matter what you obsessively convinced yourself could have been done better, easier, sooner — you realize it doesn’t matter. It never mattered. Everything, suddenly, feels just how it should be. As you sit gathered around the dinner table, fireplace, or twinkling tree, you realize that everything that’s important is already right there. Maybe it was all along, but you just needed this moment of peace and calm to see it. And as you sit reflecting on what you’re thankful for, your mind is clear. It’s a moment of reflection and tranquil, plus a perspective check all in one. It’s what the Germans call besinnlich.
Besinnlich proves to be quite a useful word. It can refer to a person, place, or even a time — someone or somewhere that exudes calmness and tranquility, a place or time where you stop to think and reflect and momentarily cast aside the stressful things. When you are feeling besinnlich, you experience a return to what’s important; the state of Besinnlichkeit is unreachable by whatever external stresses exist in your life. To drive this point home, the root word of besinnlich is Sinn, which means “sense”; in verb form, sich besinnen means “to come to one’s senses”, or “to recollect oneself”. It’s not about the little things, the small, inconsequential troubles that nonetheless eat away at you; it’s a peaceful moment when you let those things slip away and reflect on the things that really matter. Often, in those moments, you realize how small and silly the small and silly things are; you might realize that you have much more to be grateful for than you thought.
This is the time of year for taking the time to be besinnlich. We gather together with people who are important to us, and even as the rush of the gift-giving holidays sets in, we remember all the things that we already have and how lucky we are to have them. This is the time when we remember that if we’re in a position where we’re able to be thankful, it means we’re doing pretty well. This isn’t the time for stress. It’s the time to celebrate all the things we don’t have to be stressed about.
I’m thankful for my lovely home in a wonderful place. I’m thankful for the highs and the lows that have led me to where I am now: the highs for reminding me that no matter how bad things get, they will always get better, for giving me something to hold on to; the lows for teaching me how strong I am. I’m thankful for the words and adventures that this year has brought me so far, and for the ones that are still ahead of me. And I’m thankful for all the people I’ve had beside me in mind, body, and spirit, who I’ve been able to share all these things with.
If you’re reading this, thank you.