It’s a Wonderful Life, Not a Perfect One

Copy of Copy of Copy of cheerful graphicIn the final heartwarming scene of one of the most beloved holiday films, George Bailey, beaming with happiness and surrounded by family and friends, realizes it’s a wonderful life. If you only saw that last scene of the movie, you would miss the part where George, desperate and overwrought, stands on the edge of an icy bridge contemplating ending it all on Christmas Eve. Things aren’t always what they seem, especially during the holidays.

The film itself has a backstory that proves life doesn’t often come wrapped in a big shiny bow. The movie is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Stern spent years trying to sell his story with no success. Eventually RKO Pictures bought the rights, but the project languished for a few more years. Producer and director Frank Capra came on board but had trouble finding stars who wanted to be in the movie. Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart ultimately took on the roles of Mary and George Bailey.

The film was released in December of 1946 with mixed reviews. It was considered a box-office flop that failed to recoup its cost of production. The film forced Capra to close his studio and nearly ended his directing career. To make matters worse, the Federal Bureau of Investigations flagged the film as Communist propaganda citing an unflattering portrayal of big-city bankers. 

The film did garner five Academy Award nominations, but it didn’t win any. The movie remained relatively obscure until it began airing on television during the holidays in the 70s. It wasn’t until 1990 that The Library of Congress deemed the 45-year-old film culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.

I look forward to watching It’s a Wonderful Life with a box of tissues every holiday season, but I have to remind myself it’s only a movie. The picture-perfect New England town of Bedford Falls doesn’t exist. The movie was filmed in the summer on a backlot studio in the San Fernando Valley. The glistening snow was made from painted cornflakes that created its own share of filming issues.

The movie always reminds me it really is a wonderful life, but it isn’t perfect, particularly at this time of year. For some, jam-packed calendars are filled with extra demands of cooking, shopping, baking, decorating, cleaning, entertaining and traveling. For others, the season can be a lonely time that renews feelings of grief and sadness. Financial concerns are often magnified, and the era of COVID-19 brings a whole new set of worries.

Holiday movies, music, advertising, social media and our own expectations can set us up for some not so wonderful feelings like sadness, loneliness, stress and anxiety. It’s important to put the holidays in perspective and protect our mental health by being realistic, taking good care of ourselves, and reaching out for help if we need it.

I don’t know if you believe in angels, but George Bailey had one. Clarence Odbody was a goofy AS2 (Angel Second Class) who after 200 years had yet to earn his wings. This most unlikely angel showed George the value and beauty of his life. He gave George his copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer with this inscription, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings!” §

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
~ Clarence to George in It’s a Wonderful Life

This video will inspire you to rest this season

Copy of Copy of Copy of cheerful graphic

At the end of a recent essay titled Resting Like the Fallow Fields, I wrote that I was going to heed my own advice and rest a little more during the month of December. To that end, I’m lessening my load by only writing my Sunday columns this month; however, something special happened this week that I just had to share with my subscribers.  

I was enjoying one of my favorite Youtube channels, Inspired by Nikki, when I saw my own words come to life. Nikki Moreno is a romantic and creative soul who has become a long-distance friend. We are often so in sync with our ideas that we are able to share each other’s content. Nikki reminds me of myself when I was a young mother, devoted to bringing calm and order to home and life. She does it beautifully. 

In this video, Nikki puts my words to music and her own soothing voice. I know you will enjoy it. You can find Inspired by Nikki on YouTube and Patreon. Please click on the link below to watch Nikki’s video featuring parts of my essay, Resting Like the Fallow Fields

Rest Like the Fallow Fields

Copy of Copy of Copy of cheerful graphicHere in America’s Heartland the fields lie fallow now. Barren squares stretch out like a patchwork quilt gently covering the land while it settles in for a well-deserved nap. The scene makes me want to snuggle under a cozy blanket and enjoy the time of year when nature encourages us to rest.

Fallow periods are traditionally used by farmers to maintain the natural productivity of the land. Leaving a field inactive for a time allows the soil to recover, restore and rebalance itself. You see, the land becomes depleted and unproductive if if isn’t given a chance to rest.

Can you relate? What if we took a cue from nature and thought of this season of the year as a natural time to recover, restore and rebalance ourselves? I know, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is often the busiest time of the year.

Maybe you’re in a season of life when relaxing seems impossible. A stressful job, child-rearing, caregiving and other challenges can be exhausting. Keeping up with the daily news can be taxing. Even fun-filled celebrations can leave us feeling worn out. All the more reason to rest. Writer Pico Iyer said, “It is precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break.”

My husband is the most steady and calm, yet efficient and productive person I know. He manages to get everything done and more, but he’s the first one to suggest we stop and chill. It’s no surprise his favorite Christmas carol is Silent Night. Like my laid-back husband, the hymn hushes and reminds, “All is calm. All is bright.”

Rather than waiting until the hustle of the holidays is over, let’s give ourselves the gift of rest now, when we really need it. Here are ten ways we can follow the fallow fields, even if just for a few minutes each day.

  1. Be still. Being busy isn’t necessarily being productive. Sit in complete stillness a few minutes every day to let your body and mind recharge.
  2. Stay home. Sometimes we stay on the go out of habit or fear of being bored. Be it ever so humble, home should be our happy place.
  3. Renew your spirit. Read, pray, sing, create. Do more of whatever renews your soul.
  4. Turn down the noise. Do what you can to quiet your surroundings. Unplug at least once a day and experience total silence.
  5. Say no. We aren’t obliged to say yes to every invitation or request. Graciously decline an avoidable situation that’s likely to be more draining than fulfilling.
  6. Eat well. When a field lies fallow, the soil regains nutrients. Be sure to consume healthy foods to replenish your own nutrition.
  7. Take a walk outdoors. Not only is walking good exercise, the crisp air is a great way to clear the head.
  8. Practice self-care. Schedule a massage, a haircut, a manicure or try some at home spa treatments. Take time to take care of yourself.
  9. Go to bed early. Sleep research shows human beings have a natural circadian rhythm that mimics the sun’s rising and setting. Shorter, darker days are a good excuse to get more sleep.
  10. Observe nature. Take a closer look at nature. Appreciate its beauty. Be inspired by its simplicity. Learn from its wisdom. §

“It is well to lie fallow for a while.”
~ Martin Farquhar Tupper, English writer and poet 1810-1889

Note to Subscribers ~ I am heeding my own advice and getting a little more rest the next few weeks. I will still post my weekly newspaper column here on Sundays, but there will be no Wednesday posts until the new year. I’m excited about my writing goals for 2023. Thank you for joining me. I wish you a holiday season filled with peace and joy! ❤ Alicia