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Take a moment for yourself this holiday season: Marilou Johanek

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A moment. That’s all. I want a moment. To find Orion. In the ink black December night, the familiar constellation is oddly comforting to me. It’s always there on a frigid evening no matter what kind of day I’ve had or what existential threat on Planet Earth is sending my stress levels to the moon.

We’re all living through nerve-wracking times that have us on edge. There’s no escaping the hard reality we face — with a pandemic that won’t end and a democracy that will if we don’t save it — but brief, soul-soothing moments offer fleeting release from the heaviness. Give yourself a gift this holiday season. Linger a little while on a moment apart. You won’t regret it.

Be awestruck at the glorious cotton candy sunsets you can’t miss on the way home from work. That stunning ending to your 8-5 was made just for you. Lose yourself in a Christmas light display bursting with brightness to illuminate the dark. There are so many of them vying for a moment of your attention. Allow a warm memory to return with a favorite song played on the radio once a year. Drift back in time for a nanosecond and reminisce.

Gaze at the ornaments on your tree that you purposely put in prominent places. They’re standouts for a reason. Maybe your grown-up kids made them in kindergarten, and you can’t get rid of them. Maybe someone close to you gave one as a present. Those are the best kind of decorations. Look at your holiday handiwork, extravagant or minimal, and bask in the self-satisfied moment.

Watch the snow fall, when it surely will, and give yourself permission to daydream for a minute or two. Sometimes snowflakes falling in the dead of winter look almost too perfect to be real. Take a moment to be a kid again. Summon the anticipation and excitement of the season. It won’t kill you to lighten up and let go for a moment of wonder.

Revisit that childhood feeling of unbearable suspense. You know the one. It’s universal and already torturing tykes around the world as the hours tick by. Almost there. Then magic. The moment they wake up. The moment they spot presents with their names attached under the tree. The moment wrapping paper flies. Everywhere. The moment of sweet bliss.

Set aside a few seconds in the chaos to snuggle with the dog that’s been your constant companion and all-round therapy animal through life. Spend some extra loving moments with the dogs who have done you a solid for years and are now seniors with graying muzzles. They move slowly and more deliberately but their loyalty to you still tugs at your heart like nothing else. They’ve made you a better human. You owe them more than momentary.

Try walking in the Metroparks without headphones or earbuds. Go ahead. Pick a new trail or old path and actively notice the natural sculpture, oblivious squirrels and grand trees that catch your breath with their majesty. Listen to the wayward gaggle of geese honking at each other. Pause for a break to experience the quiet when they’re gone.

Look a bit longer into the eyes of an aging loved one. They hold the knowing of a lifetime of moments that gave their spirits sustenance through upheaval, uncertainty, fearfulness. Short, passing interludes of welcomed peace and settled happiness lifted them and strengthened their fortitude. They have wisdom to impart about weathering storms instead of succumbing to them.

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the zero-sum-game politics of anti-democratic members in Congress who openly pledge allegiance not to the Constitution but to a delusional authoritarian willing to seize power against the wishes of the electorate. It is easy to become overwhelmed with Ohio lawmakers who put the public and police at heightened risk with reckless gun policy that removes training, background checks and transparency to carry hidden weapons. It is easy to become overwhelmed at the power of partisan hacks on the Supreme Court ready to roll back hard-won constitutional rights for women and equal voting rights for all.

But give yourself a necessary sanity break on a silent night or rare sunny day to be free of worry for a moment. Close your mind to all but the moment. Find it. For yourself. And find joy. I found my tranquility among the stars. It’s conspicuous and recognizable to millions of other humans who also gaze to the heavens for redeeming grace.


Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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