Contributed by Jody McVittie
We are about to enter what might be considered “the season of stuff (and stuffing)” and I’m not referring to the food you put inside your Thanksgiving turkey. How does this happen? It does feel good to give to others and it is wonderful to connect with friends and family around a full table of food and there are other forces at work here. My sense is that in this part of the year when the days are shorter (in the northern hemisphere) we tend to lose our collective compass about what is really important in our lives. We take our cue from others and wonder if we are doing or buying or having enough. The media makes a push for spending money on things and fancy food.
What would happen if we paused and asked ourselves what really matters in the long run? Is it what we have or who we are? Is it how much doing we can squeeze into one day or the sense of contentment available from being true to our deepest self?
Is it presence or presents?
Some hints for holding your holiday compass:
• Recognize the competitive urge. There is a lot of pressure from media to do more, give more implying that then you might truly be happy. More is usually not the answer.
• Plan ahead with your family. Ask your family what they remember with fondness from past holiday events. (Notice I didn’t write what “kinds of things”). What plans might they make so that the holidays will be something to remember with a smile? What responsibility can each person take for creating a holiday season that brings more joy and connection in the family? The plan may not look like what you thought “the perfect” holiday will look like but you’ll be learning and working together. You can do this without breaking your budget.
• Share the load. Lighten it up. Holidays don’t need to be a performance that a few people direct and organize. Engage the whole family in sharing how to make it work for everyone. Will you share family stories at the table? Will someone start the process? Will someone record them? Can the clean up process include some music that lightens the load? Or family songs? Or more family stories? Are there new rituals that need to be added? A walk outside? Reading aloud together?
• Aim for connection not perfection. Remind your children that you aren’t aiming for a “perfect” holiday – but one where everyone can participate, help out and have some fun too.
• Notice “enoughness.” Begin the practice of noticing that you are good enough as you are. So are your children. Sure, we have places where we can grow and learn and mistakes that can be repaired… and in the moment it is helpful to accept ourselves and others as enough. Notice the difference between a real “need” and a want. What really is enough?
• Practice gratitude. Openly. More than just before meal times. What do you appreciate about yourself? About your partner? About your children? Say it. Don’t make it up – but notice that in our culture we tend to pay more attention to what is missing than what is here. Connecting with our own sense of gratefulness can bring joy to us and others.
More on holiday fun or frenzy
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