Unplug. As much as we all love our screens, the holidays are meant to be a time for faces. Bright eyes, rosy cheeks, Grandma’s yucky lipstick mark, delight written all over. We joke about the modern idea of family togetherness – everyone sitting in the living room, all looking at some separate device, all connecting with someone else, anyone else as long as they are not in the room. Turn them off. See what happens. You might have to talk, touch, connect, dust off the board games. It certainly will be different and maybe even memorable.
Give to Someone That Has Less Than You Do. The kids and I were on a budget last year. Our Christmas was going to have to be slimmed down. And yet, we found an extra $100 and the name of a family who has less than we do. We Targeted, wrapped, baked and drove to see this family. My kids had never ventured to “that part of town.” As we put Christmas under this family’s empty tree, the eyes of the mother filled with tears. She now had a Christmas to give her children. What she might not have known was that the real gift given that day was the one she gave to me and my kids.
Live with Your Limits. Somehow the “to-do” list is endless during this time of year. Indeed, if our physical, emotional and financial resoures were bottomless, then we could take on the additional demands and expectations with ease. But the reality is, we are human beings, not super-heroes. We have bounds and limits. Make choices, say “no” without guilt, go with the “good enough” celebration and save perfection for the glossy magazines. Better to enjoy the mess than to stress over the impossible. Let it go.
Establish Limits with Others. Who says you have to do what you have done for years? Who says that a visit to the in-laws has to last four days when two days will suffice? Who says that Aunt Susie has the right to tell you how to parent? Know the company you keep and arrange to make it work for you. Going into these yearly interactions well-informed and well-bounded can make the difference between an eye-roll with a clogged artery and a good laugh later. Boundaries are healthy for everyone. Be a grown-up and get some.
Rediscover Your Senses. I can think of no better time of the year where all of our senses are stimulated. — The smells of hot cocoa and mulled spice, pine needles, orange rind and turkey in the oven. The sounds to music and songs we have heralded since childhood. The warmth of a fire. The color of lights sparkling. The taste of recipes pulled out this time each year. – – The awakening of our senses forces us to contact our most primitive self – to connect with our selves in a deep, corporeal way. Pay attention, take it all in and enjoy.
Reflect. If nothing else, the holidays offer a halt in our routine. They act as the marker of one year ending and another year beginning. They act as a memory container when we think about our past and relive what we had, as well as what we wish we had. Often these reflections are feeling-laden, packed with emotions that lie dormant throughout the rest of the year. Challenge yourself to allow this flow of process. It will do you good as well as your relationships.
Say Thanks for the Moments. That is all we have really. The moments. The ones that catch us off guard. The ones that surprise us. The ones that remind us of life’s sweetness. The imperfect, human, Santa-really-does-not-exist moments. Look for them. They are there. And they make the journey worthwhile.