“an invitation to be present”
The holidays bring many expectations. Sometimes these expectations are fulfilled and we are left feeling touched by hope and joy. Other expectations are left unfulfilled and leave disappointment and sadness in their stead. The days leading to the holidays are so often marked by a stressful and almost manic desire to control the outcome - to secure some of the joy and avoid the opposite. But if this approach worked for us at the holidays, it would surely work better the rest of our days!
What if the holidays were simply an invitation? An invitation to be present - to ourselves, to others and to the world around us, just as they are. An invitation to enter a different kind of space in our life. A space where we could allow the whole of our experience to exist without prejudice. Rather than spreading ourselves thin to create equally thin moments of magic - we could make choices with our time and energy that allow authentic joy to bubble to the surface. Rather than avoiding difficult feelings of sadness and disappointment, we could listen closely to the need expressed through them and give ourselves the real gifts we need - like compassion and connection. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, we could deepen the relationships that really matter to us.
So how can we accept the invitation to be present?
Breathe. Just a little slower, a little deeper, than you normally breathe. Do it whenever you hear that internal voice of "should." Or hear the expectations of everyone around you. Or confront commercialized images of the holiday that feed your own expectations of how your life 'should' be this time of year, or ever. Breathe in protest to these 'shoulds' and let yourself dwell in the moment and your own life exactly as it is, without judgement.
Create Space. Rituals are a wonderful way to create space for the fullness of your authentic experience to inhabit. Make a cup of tea, prepare a simple meal for yourself or loved ones, stop for a treat on your way to work, paying attention to the details of these rituals that feed and nourish the spirit, as well as the body. You might light a candle to remember a loved one who has died or cannot be with you during the holidays. When we accept difficult feelings like loneliness and grief, we open the possibility for other feelings to also emerge, and for meaningful moments of connection to happen. Accepting all of our experience - the joyful and the painful - takes a lot of courage. But it extends the invitation to others who continue to disregard their own experience and feel 'less than,' perhaps particularly so amidst all the tinsel and magic.
Be compassionate. Challenge your own biases about holidays and traditions that are important. When others disappoint, consider how you can fill unmet needs for yourself. And use the amazing power of the human imagination to consider what the other person's experience may be. Kindness towards yourself and others at a time that is so full of expectations is a gift worth giving!
Wishing you all the wisdom and courage to accept the invitation to be present this holiday season. To use whatever faith story, resilience, relationships and life experience that allows you to embrace yourself, others, and the world around you, just as it is, here and now.