I used to go into frantic overdrive at Christmas time. Particularly during those years when I felt especially vulnerable, like right after my divorce, or right after my remarriage. I worked hard to give the kids a ‘best Christmas ever,’ and to meld a family that was not quite ready, and to distract us from the reality that this might be my Dad’s last Christmas. Matching outfits for kids & pets, photo ops, handmade and homemade everything, scrapbooks & special crafts & so much to attend to that I didn’t pay much attention at all to what was really important to me – those quiet moments of connection and humor that make my family so dear to me.
All the while that I thought that I was trying to make other people happy, I really think, in hindsight, that I was trying to make myself feel better.
From this place in my life where I’ve found such peace, I can truly say that we can’t make people happy. But we can BE happy, and our being who we truly are is the greatest power within our reach. Because joy is contagious!
But what if you are feeling anxiety, or dread, or loneliness?
From Chanukah to Christmas to New Year’, through all the parties and even solo evenings this season, you have tremendous power over how you will feel about this holiday – before, during, and after.
Spend some time in reflection about how you WANT to feel. I’d estimate that most, if not utterly ALL, of what we do as humans is designed to make us feel a certain way. Do you want to feel connection, relief, safe, joyful, rested, calm, energized, loved, accepted, inspired?
Imagine what will get you to those feelings. Just write all the stuff down that you think you need to make yourself happy this year.
Now look at that list, and consider this question: How much of what I want depends upon me, and how much depends upon others?
If you imagine that you need your miserable old grandpa to lighten up and stop with the sarcastic comments, then you are at risk for depending upon HIS behavior in order to be happy. Instead, focus on your own Circle of Influence.
And, if you imagine that all the food, gifts, décor, traditions, and outfits must be perfect – again, what for? Why? Will it truly get you what you want to feel?
Use your Influence. Once you know what you wish for, then make it happen. Make plans for what gives you joy, and take the time to retreat, or gather soulmates, or bring a favorite dish, or light a candle or make a wish or offer hugs. Regardless of others’ blind spots, nuttiness, or Scrooge behavior, this is YOUR HOLIDAY. It’s for you. If Grandpa gets on a roll with the sarcasm, you don’t have to listen, or stay in the room, or take it personally, or ‘catch’ the contagion of despair that is at the root of such meanness. It’s all his – so let him have it.
Seriously question your beliefs about how this holiday ‘should’ be. Those ideas will keep you trapped in misery without your even realizing it.
Let go of the idea that you can ‘make people happy,’ and, instead, consider that you can ‘share joy’ with others, who may or may not be able to join you – right now – in that joy. Scatter joy like confetti!
If your wish this Christmas is for love and acceptance, then you might be wondering, “How do I get that when I’m not supposed to be depending on other people to make me happy?”
That’s the PERFECT question – and here’s what I know – without a doubt: When you thoroughly accept and love your very own self, then people just shower that love right back atcha. Seriously. Give it a try.
And, finally, our holiday rituals derive from an age-old human need for connection with our cultural and family history, our connection to the divine, and our search for belonging in the seasons and elements of this planet. Take time to be still, in the light of a candle, and find your place in this vast universe.
About 3 years ago, Carl and I were walking our newly acquired 100-plus acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We dreamed of a little round...