A week ago, I was window-shopping down the main street of the town where I live when I came across a wooden placard displayed in a gift shop window.
On the placard was written:
THE FOUR STAGES OF LIFE:
- You believe in Santa Claus
- You don’t believe in Santa Claus
- You ARE Santa Claus
- You look like Santa Claus
Christmas and the whole holiday season bring huge bundles of wonder, disillusionment and obligation (with the attendant stress) all mixed together in a not-so-neatly-wrapped package.
Many of us have the memory still inside of us of the happiness and sheer magic that Christmas day or the eight days of Hanukkah once gave us – or the pain of hoping that this year we would have that feeling, only to have those hopes dashed once again. As we grew older, the endless manufactured frivolity and sentiment, so obviously calculated to get us to spend money, can make it feel as though it’s all false and meaningless. And then all the extra tasks and obligations – the presents to buy, the cards to write and send, the dreadful office Christmas party and “whose house do we have to go to on Christmas day this year?” – added to lives that are already hectic enough – can drive lots of people to the point where they throw up their hands and say, “Christmas? It’s just for the kids.”
But deep down we want to believe that “the Season” can remind us of something that transcends everyday reality, reconnecting us to feelings of wonder and hope we once had in so much more abundance. Here are three tips to help you do that.
Step into the moment
In the midst of all of your hectic activity – preferably someplace pleasant or beautiful – take a moment to stop, pause, and reflect: This is your Christmas, your holiday. No one in the world has the same Christmas or holiday as you. No one else sees or does exactly the same things, buys for exactly the same people or exactly the same presents. What’s more, this Christmas will never come again. Next year’s will be different. You’ve created this Christmas out of all the things you have done or not done in your life. So if you’re feeling hassled by what you’re doing, think about the why behind what you’re doing. Think about all the life, and all the love, that led you to where you are right this very moment, and bless or congratulate yourself for it, because you deserve it.
You can do this many times. It’s especially useful those times when you notice you’re partly only “going through the motions.” Pause to look around and consciously appreciate the wonder of what you’ve created all around you — both the good and the, well, not-so-great — in all of its imperfect glory. Then “step into the moment” and improve it. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, at all. It could be as little as an extra hug, a sweet word or two, or a couple of extra moments looking into someone’s eyes.
If seeing where you are this Christmas brings sadness, be very gentle with yourself, and realize that it’s all the love that’s already inside you that’s making you feel sad. Because if you didn’t know what was missing, you couldn’t miss it. Also know that everything changes. It may not look like it now, but next year’s Christmas could be better. Maybe this year’s season will improve unexpectedly before New Year’s.
Talk about Christmas and the Holidays
Rather than just “doing” Christmas, make time to talk! Tell a loved one or two what Christmas really means to you inside, what some of your favorite Christmas memories are, what you’d like less of this season and (more importantly) what you’d like more of. Then invite them to share the same with you. You can do this while you’re doing something else, or you can carve out a little special time to do this over a cup of coffee or tea. After a second of two of awkwardness, just about everyone enjoys talking about this, so you can bring this up with casual friends and turn an everyday conversation into something more personal and bonding. If you and your spouse have been together a while, consciously take the time (20 or 30 minutes will do) to reminisce about your favorite Christmas and holiday memories together as a couple.
Do things that give you Holiday joy and pleasure
When there are so many things you “have” to do, it’s easy to forget about what fills you up and gives you joy and pleasure. So take a few moments to think of the things that give you that “Holiday feeling,” or simply make you feel good. Is it viewing Christmas lights, or watching certain holiday movies, or buying roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, or singing Christmas carols, or going to midnight Mass? Or is it, as one of my clients shared, going from room to room and putting a single light in each window of her home, feeling a sense of quiet, coziness and peace? Make a point of doing at least one thing that spells “Christmas” or holiday magic for you. If you can share it with someone else, great, but if not, savor it for yourself.
Your own Inner Voice wants to show you how to bring these feelings of fulfillment and peace into your life, not only at this time of year but all the time.
I wish you a Holiday season full of hope, wonder, joy, peace and of course, abundant love.
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Helene Brenner, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the author of I Know I’m in There Somewhere: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner Voice and Living a Life of Authenticity. She offers individual therapy, phone coaching and telegroups.