As the holidays are rushing by and through us like a December wind, I want to once again make a plea for you all to stop, or just pause and take a breath. Drink some nog or champagne and look around at your life. Look at those you love, even when they leave dishes in the sink when there is a perfectly good dishwasher right there. Those who make you laugh and make you cry. Yea those guys, the family you were born to, the family you choose and the trusted friends who know your brand of crazy. Stop and look at what you have achieved in relationships, through both difficult and joyous times over the years. Celebrate it all and revel in the fellowship that is connection to others and the rollercoaster ride that comes with our ticket to humanity.
This time of year has many expectations of what and how we should do everything. As our lives change, our relationships change and so do our rituals, from who is sitting at our holiday table to who gets the ecard verse the paper. These changes are neither good nor bad, they are just changes. How we see those changes or feel about them, is what makes them good or bad. Taking time to embrace what is, find a new normal and invite in generosity of spirit and heart is not only good for you but everyone around you. We sometimes want to jam our life into a cookie cutter and we do this with a vengeance at holiday time. It creates stress, conflict and anxieties, making us want to add brandy to our nogged coffee or hit the cooking sherry with breakfast even if we have to flambé a bagel to do it.
What would it be like if we saw those around us for who they are, instead of who we wanted them to be? Better yet, what would it be like to see ourselves for who we are, instead of who we think we should be? Oh goodness those are powerful lenses to view the world through, and they are most beneficial to our sanity. How can we do that though? We can start by taking time to sit with a book, a cup of something good, a fire or a friend and enjoy that perfect moment between our expectations, our agenda and our angst. Taking that moment, can be a lovely little antidote to the shoulds or have tos. That step back from the whirl might give us some clarity and help us to realize we are playing old roles, old tapes and old drama we no longer need nor want. Simply by choosing to put it down for a little bit, whatever it may be, can help; if you really need it you know exactly where you left it.
Take parts of your day for yourself, even if only 30 minutes, to savor doing nothing but watching the crowds going in and out of airports, malls or tree lots all around you. Watch your fellow humans leap, struggle, grit teeth and laugh at wherever they are. Stop and think about that connection to others, strangers and loved ones. To those who are brave enough to love and be loved fiercely regardless of consequences. And to those who need to sit on the fence a little longer to watch, because the game of life looks so very dangerous that they fear they might make a mistake. Think of those times you have done just what they have done in some way or to some degree. The world has never been them and us; it has only ever been us. One boat, one people, one heart.
So maybe in the spirit of the holiday look at those we love and those who make us crazy, angry and scared—and many times those all are the same person—and find our humanity in theirs. Find compassion for them and for ourselves. Find laughter in the small moments, and let go the difficult ones, knowing this too shall pass. I think finding space to love where we are and who we are with for this very small slice of time is a powerful tool. We can do this by making this day, this shining moment, perfect in its imperfection and beauty and perhaps use it as a blue print for the holidays and beyond. Come on, we have all seen the films that make us fall in love with life… Love Actually, Stranger than Fiction and About Time, to name just a few.
In the last lucid conversation I had with my sister Amy shortly before she died she said she knew she was going to die and very shortly. She paused after this and said, “What I could do with one more month, a few more weeks.” Well folks, most of us have that time don’t we? So let’s take advantage of the love, the laughter and what really, really matters. Nobody at the end of their life I have known ever said they should have worked harder, they should have made more pies, sent out holiday cards or lost 10lbs to fit into that dress. They always say they should have been braver, taken more risks, loved harder and more, been kinder and let things go. They also say they should have had more pie, champagne, or naps.
Maybe we can look at the holidays to reconnect, rewire, to find love and forgive for others and ourselves, and build something wonderful with everyone around us. Light the fire of kindness, compassion, tolerance, and do it with laughter; build belonging and connection. When we feel loved and that we belong we can do anything and be anything. So that is the gift to give this season: above all others the generosity of spirit, give it freely to everyone and most especially to yourself. So here is some homework from this giant elf: first do something special for yourself, something thoughtful and kind. Then reach out and tell someone who has made a difference in your life, call them, or even send them a note and tell them how grateful you are that they are/were in your life. This can be a grade school teacher, your mother or your partner in crime and life. In fact the more people you tell and show your love and gratitude the better your world, and all of ours will be. So grab your nog and champagne and start to make a new list, this one based on love, gratitude and generosity of spirit … they don’t call them spirits for nothing folks, cheers!