Even the most spirit-filled among us eventually get a little worn down in December: holiday parties, shopping for gifts, relentless Christmas music and saccharine declarations of “peace, love and joy.” No matter what your religious or celebratory affiliations are, December is tough. It often leaves people feeling worn out, a little jaded and sometimes depressed. Here are some thoughts about making it through the month without all the baggage…and perhaps a little more joy than last year.
Menorahs. Dating back to the time of Moses, I see the Menorah and the lighting of the candles not only a rich part of Jewish culture and heritage, but also as a symbol and act of experiencing our history in the moment. The holidays are full of traditions and symbols that, quite frankly, don’t make any sense in 2018…but we do them anyway. Our traditions—especially in December—connect us to our past and act as a bridge to future generations. Whether it is attending Midnight Mass, baking grandma’s famous cookies or watching It’s a Beautiful Life, try reconnecting to the traditions that mean something to you and your family.
Amazon. Christmas is commercial. We need to get over it because it’s not changing. Personally, I make a conscious choice not to do any non-essential shopping until after Thanksgiving because the “Christmas creep” totally ruins the season for me. I am not going to suggest that you hand-make all of your holiday gifts and wrap them in newspaper—if you love shopping have at it! Just make sure that when you’re shopping it’s with intention. If you can’t find that “perfect” gift for cousin Norbert, then maybe you need to rethink giving him a gift. My take on shopping in December is this: no one is forcing you to shop and consume...step back and think before you swipe (or insert or tap…or whatever we are doing these days).
*For my most cherished gift, see below
Plastic baby Jesus. I’m not a “kid person.” I mean in theory they’re cute but I really didn’t grow up around other kids and we don’t have friends with kids. Kids to me are like tree sloths: cute in pictures, rare in everyday life and a little bit scary once you encounter one that’s hungry or tired. But no matter how foreign they are to me and how awkward I feel when a baby laughs at me while in line at the grocery, it’s really hard to not to smile at them. Whatever your thoughts on religion and especially “the Church,” I encourage you to keep in mind that most people aren’t trying to convert you when they say “Merry Christmas”; they simply are trying to be nice with a seasonal greeting. And to those who get their knickers in a twist with “Happy Holidays”; stop, just stop...you’re acting like an old man who scowls at a happy baby.
* My most cherished gift (sorry mom!) was a used book of English carols given to me by my high school choir director. At the time I was disappointed it wasn’t a CD but over time it’s come to mean more to me than anything else I remember receiving.
As most of us return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to take moment to reflect before dive we head first into Christmas. Sometime over the past four days, most of us were asked (or at least reminded) to share what we were thankful for. For a brief moment we eschewed material items in favor of our cherished relationships and countless blessings. This, of course, happened just before we headed out to buy a bunch of stuff that we just said didn’t make us happy (more on that in my next post). I am not the first to point out this Thanksgiving paradox (hypocrisy?) that seems to get more exaggerated year after year. The more I think of it, however, the more I am starting to wonder if the problem lies more in the focus of being thankful vs. being grateful.
In reviewing two great articles about the difference between thankfulness and gratitude, I was struck by a common theme: feeling vs. doing. When we say “thank you” or experience being thankful for something – receiving a gift or really great service – we feel good or happy because someone essentially was nice to us. In this instance the relationship is a transactional one: a waiter provides good service and gets a good tip while we enjoy a nice meal and pays for our food – everyone is happy and nothing more is required or expected. We say “thank you” when someone holds the door for us usually never to see that person again. Thankfulness isn’t bad, per se, but it’s a rather shallow experience when compared to gratitude.
Most days I try and complete a journal reflection that specifically asks “What are you grateful for?” Some days are harder for me that others, to be fair. But when I think about what truly brings me joy – a sense of happiness or contentment without transaction – I often think of my relationships and opportunities afforded to me…and often it’s the dog or cat. Any pet owner can relate to the unconditional love and affection that they provide. When I consider this love and affection as part of my gratitude, I am compelled to spend more time with them, to pamper them more and to cherish their relatively short time in our family. My feelings of gratitude move me to a place an action to deepen that bond and relationship.
Are there areas in your life where you’ve relied more on being thankful but not grateful? Perhaps you’ve limited your investment in a particular relationship or aspect of your life that could use some review. When we stop equating thankfulness with liking something we open ourselves to possibility to true gratitude.
Check out the posts from Odyssey and The Wisdom Post and let me know what think!
“No.” Such a simple word that has so much baggage. In an age of equivalence, “keeping our options open” and old fashioned indifference, saying no can be a very difficult decision. Whether it’s to an unreasonable request from a coworker, taking a stand for something that’s important to you or denying the impulse to buying a new pair of shoes, deciding not to do something can be more challenging than agreeing to an action.
Let’s be clear: saying “no” is a choice – a decision – that often leaves us feeling like a total jerk or completely unsure of what comes next. The difficulty of saying no is that we often frame it as a close-ended option. What if, instead of seeing “no” as a final decision, we begin to view it as a choice to go in a different direction?
“No, I can’t lend you $500 dollars but I would be willing to help you figure out how to be more financially secure.”
“No, I’m not really up for a visit this weekend but what if we set aside some time to Skype?”
“No, I’m not ready to commitment to a relationship but I like what we have right now and really enjoy our time together.”
“No, I’m not buying those fabulous shoes. Although I love them they aren’t going to fix my frustrations at work.”
Saying “no” doesn’t mean the end, a rejection or failure. It means setting boundaries, limits and offering alternatives. Saying “no” to others can help strengthen your values and being respected. Saying “no” to yourself can be an opportunity to assess what is truly important to you. It’s time to stop seeing “no” as a closed option but rather an opportunity to try a different approach.
And if you want some additional thought about how to say “no”, check out this post from lifehacker.
In the shadow of the midterm election, I figured a post about dealing with losses would be fitting as we continue to discuss balance, wellness and maintaining perspective. While I love to chat politics, I am going to keep this a decidedly non-political post.
We all have experienced losing. Whether that be in a competitive sport or musical contest, vying for a promotion at work or even the end of a relationship, losing means that we didn’t get what wanted (or expected) to get. Losing sucks. Below are three ways that might help you process the disappointment and to move forward after a setback.
By owning the loss, taking the “big picture” approach and examining the experience you should be in a better place to continue to pursue your goals and dreams without letting any setbacks or disappointments come between you and the life that you see for yourself.
* note: the above is not meant to apply to the death of a loved one or the ending of a long-term relationship. Those losses (and any loss that impedes your ability to carry-out day-to-day living) are best addressed by speaking with a mental health professional.
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.