by Suzanne E. Harrill
’Tis the season to be jolly. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for us in the USA. November and December are special months stirring the desire to open our hearts to others, connect to friends and family, count our blessings, and remind ourselves of the meaning behind our spiritual traditions. Sometimes we get off track and are not so jolly. Why is that? Many times we have hidden desires and higher than normal expectations that can set us up for hurt feelings and disappointment. We hear about fun family times others are experiencing or watch commercials on TV showing merriment as families sit around a turkey dinner laughing and having fun. Sometimes we feel especially vulnerable if our life is not completely on track and we secretly wish others would show special kindness and love to us when we feel overwhelmed or needy. Giving is emphasized during the holiday season, so we hide some of these feelings from others and sometimes even from ourselves. Let us take a few moments to preview our holiday season so we do not get caught off guard with our hidden expectations and agendas.
Let us spend a little time now planning ways to get the most out of the season. Take a few moments now and review the past couple of Decembers in your life, including family gatherings, parties or social situations, cooking and baking, buying and wrapping gifts, and attending religious services. Which experiences stand out as rewarding and worth repeating and which bring irritation and feel like you would rather forget about and not repeat them? Which of these rewarding memories have something to do with you and, therefore, you have influence in again creating them? Which ones just happened spontaneously? Let these memories remind you to be on the lookout for unexpected joys.
Now, remember situations that have disappointed you. Notice the ones where you know you have to accept things as they are, so as to stop setting yourself up for disappointment, expecting what cannot be. For me, with grown children I have to accept that my whole family cannot always be together. I also have to accept that I am not in charge of the family gatherings and they are not always held at my house and I do not plan for the meals, which became second nature to me over time. This is a loss, as I have lots of happy memories looking forward to all of us in the kitchen cooking, going to a candle light Christmas Eve church service together, or staying up talking at night. I must let go and accept that my daughters have their own lives and families. Some years it goes more to my liking than others and it is a special treat when everyone does show up at my house for a holiday and we spend quality time together and shared activities, such as cooking and eating meals.
To get the most out of the season, I must remember all the self-care and spiritual practices that enrich my life throughout the year and do them during the holidays. I continue to exercise, cook and eat foods I like and are healthy for me, meditate, and find time to connect one-on-one to each person that does show up for the holidays. If I find myself feeling “off” or disappointed, I remind myself of all the things I know and do that keep me centered and balanced. Looking outside myself for fulfillment and happiness either disappoints me when hidden expectations surface that cannot be met or only bring momentary satisfaction. I keep returning my awareness within, staying present to each experience that comes my way, knowing all experiences enrich my life, the challenging as well as the enjoyable. Life works from the inside out, so the more love, acceptance, and caring I experience within, the more I am able to give to others. And the paradox is, that as I give this love and caring and acceptance to others, the more I receive. It is like the old Beatles’ song, “The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You make.”
In summary, to experience more jolliness this holiday season, remember to stay present to all your experiences, let go of hidden expectations and agendas, and notice spontaneous moments that spark unexpected joy. Tune into yourself often to practice self-care and know that the only thing you have control over in life is your inner-self. Your attitude colors all that happens to you. People react to you as if you are each one’s mirror. When you love yourself and have the intention to see the best in others, then everyone else in your life is positively affected by you. It is a choice and it is up to you.