The dream you are living is your creation. It is your perception of reality that you can change at any time. You have the power to create hell, and you have the power to create heaven. Why not dream a different dream? Why not use your mind, your imagination, and your emotions to dream heaven?from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
Have you heard, “I’m just trying to get through the holidays first!” That common phrase makes me sad as it seems to imply that the holidays are oppressive, burdensome and simply a time of year to be endured. As if “the holidays” are a virtual ball and chain that we must drag around.
Now, when I hear that self-sabotaging sentiment, it reminds me of the freedom I felt when, years ago, I stopped trying to be the Martha Stewart of every holiday. I simply gave it up. I realized how much pressure, stress and ridiculousness I personally created for myself in my effort to appear “perfect” and completely unruffled and prepared for my friends and family to shower the accolades: “The hostess with the mostest!” I swallowed the commercially created and long ingrained frenzy by the gulps in an effort to fill a void I felt, especially around the holidays.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE to create beautiful spaces and places for celebration. I always have and always will. But I had learned over the years that much of the reason I was feeling drained, disappointed and distanced from deep connection was due to my own expectations of duplicating full-blown scenes that rivaled Williams Sonoma! Towering stacks of decorations filled my storage room and I would purchase new additions each year.
Whew! Fast forward to this year, after selling my house, and everything in it (including those fabulous decorations!) and making a major life changing move to St. Croix, Virgin Islands from Colorado, I found myself becoming more and more homesick as the holidays approached. I missed my good friends, the mountains, the snow, the sounds and smell, the celebrations, the sweaters, the fire, the coziness…and yes, the decorations. During a pre-holiday visit to the mainland, I made a critical mistake and visited a TJ Maxx and a Hobby Lobby. All the oogling over all the cool decorations triggered that ‘ole “I HAVE to have this for the holidays!” feeling and my homesickness intensified. I chose a few things I could pack and was able to work through my fleeting feelings of, “OMG, what was I thinking making such a drastic move? I want my old life back with all the stuff!”
A client recently asked me to talk about resiliency during the holidays (as in, “how on earth are we going to get through this season?”) at their conference. As I pondered what to say, I thought about the irony of the request. “Resiliency during the holidays?” I was reminded of my recent retail flashback and my old, worn out self-sabotaging behaviors that I had lugged around for years. Wait a minute…shouldn’t this be the time of year that we strengthen our resiliency muscle as we load up on activities, ritual and celebration that fill our hearts with joy, peace and love for others?
Circumstances change, people change and locations change but “the holidays” can be a beautiful, natural time to let go of self-imposed expectations of a perfectly executed season.
Years ago, I experienced the “perfect” trip to Europe for the holidays with a previous partner. We had toured the Vatican privately on Christmas Eve as preparations were made for the Pope’s address. As I woke in Rome on Christmas Day to the sounds of church bells ringing, I couldn’t have been lonelier. Our relationship was long dead. There I was in a picture postcard setting, yet feeling numb in the vacancy of my broken heart. I vowed to change my circumstances and honor my heart. I’ve never looked back. (Although I’d really LOVE to re-live that vacation with my current sweetheart!)
Resilience lies within our hearts, not our circumstances.
Perhaps the holidays are the perfect time to simply vow to fill your own heart with more of what makes you feel alive and truly appreciate your loved ones in the moment. Regardless of your religious beliefs or how/if you choose to celebrate your spirituality, feeling connected and loved is a vital part of being resilient. Allowing yourself to simply let go of all the “stuff” can open your heart to infinite compassion, kindness and gratitude…but it all starts with you. You can’t give from an empty basket.
May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.Mary Anne Radmacher
So, as I spend the holidays in my new home, I’ll still be blasting music, but decorating with my now one big box of meaningful ornaments, trading my sweater and boots for a swimsuit and flip flops, watching wave instead of snow, paddle boarding instead of skiing, celebrating (thankfully now with electricity and water!) with new friends and loved ones…and of course, my sweet old fur babies. It won’t be worse or better, it’ll just be different and open to new possibility.