Sunday, December 19, 2010

’Tis the Season…Or is it?

Every year we anticipate the holidays.  Some of us bask in the glow of our Christmas cheer and the love of family and friends, and thrive on the chaos of shopping, decorating and penning cards in our most careful hand.
For many others, holidays arrive along with acute anxiety, feelings of isolation, and sadness over the loss of more joyful times when perhaps their family was closer, their finances were more bountiful, or their time was more fluid.
As someone who has vacillated between extreme joy and extreme anxiety, I have worked to arrive at a sacred place during this special time, and make it hold the promise that I have developed in a new belief, rather than what the world, with all its advertising and media, would portray it as for us.  And let’s be frank, not many of our holidays look, feel, or even come close to what’s represented by advertisers every minute of every day as they push their products and the impending joy that awaits us.
If you have sad or anxious feelings surrounding your holiday, I invite you to explore a new approach, one that has worked for me and that I share with you now.
1.   Erase from your mind all the images you’ve been programmed to believe your holiday should look like.  This is not easy.  Imagine erasing a chalkboard upon which all holiday hoopla is depicted.
2.   Now, close your eyes and think of the activities and feelings you…the real you…wants to associate with this time.
3.   Make a list of your favorite things…write them down. Now plan out your holidays.

Many years ago, when I was newly divorced and my eldest daughter was toggling between her father and his family, me, and her friends, I found myself alone.  I found my holiday season feeling empty.  Although I had many friends, I did not want to impose on them.  I’m a big girl after all.  So, I decided I was going to make my own holiday my way.
I got back in touch with what Christmas meant to me.  I reminded myself that it was the celebration of my faith.  I then decided I would spend time doing the things I loved, and relish the quiet time I had, to enjoy the feelings of wonderment that once blinded me with brilliant miracles. 

I went Christmas caroling with my church…visiting the retirement homes and shut-ins.  I quietly wrapped presents for those I loved to the joyful noise of my most beloved holiday music.  On Christmas Eve day, I went to church in the morning and sang my heart out with my church family.  Afterwards, I headed to the mall, not to shop, but to sit quietly in the movie theatre to see the newly released “The Nativity.”  Arriving home I was filled with joy and peace.  It was simple, directed and fulfilling. 

That night I had my sister and her husband for a simple little dinner and went to our Christmas service.  When I drove home, the snow was glistening on the hills, the carols played joyfully on the radio enveloping me, and the lights at home were on, burning bright. 
I had put myself back into the true season of love and peace. It was one of the most blessed, joyful and happy holidays I had experienced in years, and only because I had decided to create a holiday of my own design, filled with deep reflection, gratitude, and only those activities that fed my soul.
It is my deepest hope that something within my personal story may help any of the souls struggling to fill the holiday void created by world-defined expectations.  May you find your own definition of the season and fill it with what makes you truly happy.
God Bless!

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