The holidays are an interesting time. They bring up childhood hurts for some, nostalgic recall for others and for a few magical bliss.
What does it mean for you? Starting with this question can open up a dialogue.
Look at what it means and observe how your thoughts are centered around creating that meaning. If this is a time of magical bliss you will probably see wonder in every event. If this is a time of past pain then you will recount all the ways things are not going as planned; thoughts of another holiday alone, not enough money to get what you want, commercialization everywhere that misses the spirit of what is meant to be. These are all examples of thoughts that focus on what is negative. These are thoughts that perpetuate what meaning we’ve given this time of the year. What is interesting here, is the holidays only magnify the state we probably live in throughout the rest of the year. The holiday just brings more awareness; to what has been there; to the forefront of our awareness.
The holidays used to be a very sad and dark time for me. They were wrought with past memories which seemed to come alive this time of the year. Many holidays were a time of intense loneliness for me. It was depressing to realize, that sadness, and loneliness, were feelings I carried with me my entire life; the holidays just intensified them.
One holiday in particular was extremely rough. So I spent it doing service work. I helped take care of an elderly woman on one side of the street and a mother of five who was very poor on the other side of the street. I cooked and cleaned for both families and spent all my time and energy focused on their needs. Something magical happened; I enjoyed, really enjoyed, my first Christmas. My expectations about “how it’s supposed to be” just melted away. I was able through my actions to change my state.
What is also interesting is I thought joy was “over there”. One day I will be married, in a horse drawn carriage in central park a millionaire and I will be happy. I arrived in New York, married and accomplished in a carriage ride and I was not happy. Sadness and loneliness were replaced with deep depression. “What am I missing” I thought to myself.
Now the holidays are magical. I spend very little energy shopping or buying things as I’ve never been a materialistic person. My show of love has always been in the sweetness of making things, preparing meals and spending time laughing and enjoying others. My children have hand made all the gifts they are sharing with family and it warms my heart. They enjoy the ‘spirit’ of the holidays, the traditions of hiding elf on the shelf, of the fresh scent of a pine tree, decorating and spending time with family.
What does it mean to you? This is where I started my journey. Then I realized I have the power to create a new meaning. To spend my time being of service; adding richness and deep meaning to this time of the year. To drop the expectations of what I should get, how I should feel, what others should do for me and what is expected of me. I dropped the guilt of how I should be and the resentments of what others should be doing. The question changed to “what will bring me joy” and I started to take part in that conversation. At first I did not know the answer. The first place to start was to drop doing all the things that were ‘expected’ of me but did not bring me joy. These were expectations I either placed on myself or allowed others to have of me. Once I started to drop these expectations it gave me the freedom and TERROR of figuring out what I WANTED.
What I want is to be joyful and to share that joy with others. My attention is focused here most of the time. When I get distracted, as we all do, it does not take long to tune back into this fundamental focus. The feeling of joy is around me, inside of my children, in my marriage and even in the food we prepare. We have more now than ever. We are still millionaires on a spreadsheet; just there’s a negative sign! Having a sense of humor is perhaps the greatest gift you can give the world. Through the tragedy see the humor and joy will follow.
May your actions be filled with service and your hearts filled with joy. Bake some cookies instead of buying gifts, buy a gift for a charity, volunteer to serve a meal to a child that would go hungry, cancel those ‘obligations’ that make you miserable, stay away from the manic consumption if it depresses you and ask the terrifying question; what will bring me joy.
Then laugh at your folly and be merry!