The fireplace crackling, laughter and warmth surrounding you, you notice a sense of calm as you look around at your loved ones. You’re excited to see the glow of excitement upon their faces as they first gaze at the presents you’ve thoughtfully purchased for them. They’ll love them, like they love you. You enjoy the food made with tender care, the peaceful company you’ve chosen to partake in.
Does this sound like your holiday experiences? If so, you know how nurturing the holidays can be for you and your family. If not, you’re like a lot of people around the world who dread the holidays.
There is something to the end of one year and the beginning of another. The time can be fraught with disappointment, excitement, reflection, and a sense of losing control of time as it zooms by. Holidays can be stressful, and often we’re left feeling alone while we picture the rest of the world enjoying the aforementioned wonderful holiday.
Ultimately, that is what I believe sparks the dark moments in our holidays. As a year comes to a close, we’re forced to realize another year has passed. What have we done with it? What did we accomplish this year, who did we love, and what will next year bring? We start to recognize when our life isn’t picture perfect and wonder what went wrong. These questions can feel overwhelming and we end up taking it out on ourselves and those we feel safe with. The pain of the holidays can be broken down to a simple idea:
We don’t want to be alone.
You’ve probably heard the idea that loneliness is a state of mind, and not a physical experience. Why do we feel so lonely, or afraid of feeling alone? Throughout the years we love, lose, question ourselves and others, and can wind up the end feeling incapable of fully connecting with our people. It isn’t until a moment of sheer reality strikes, like hearing a loved one has passed away, that we so clearly experience the truth. The truth that we will not be here for long, neither will anyone we love, and we can never truly know when the ride is going to be over. In these moments, our connection with others feels magnified.
If loneliness is a state of mind, then the cure cannot be outside the mind. So how do we cure loneliness? The first step is to recognize that we are never alone – that we are important to everyone in the world, just as they are to us. For example, imagine simply eating an apple. Imagine the people who sold it, stocked it, drove it there. Imagine who grew it, who runs the farm it was grown in. Consider who built the transportation used, where the fuel came from, and who fed all these people. Imagine everyone who loved and nurtured all those people, and those people, and so on. For you to have this apple everyone in the world has helped, if even in a small way. In this way, everything you do has an impact. So let’s make our impact positive, appreciate what everyone can offer, and recognize our power and connection to the world. If I see everyone as on my side and therefore dear to my heart, then I am never alone. We’re all in this together, even though we often feel like an island apart.
Great, Danielle. Now how does this help me deal with my family this holiday season? You never know when you will get the call that you will never again feel the presence of a family member or friend. The holidays can either be a problem you have to suffer through, or an opportunity or teacher. Use the stress of the holidays as a reminder that life is short. Let it lighten the path to loving the people in your life, even though they may push your buttons. Just like you, they’re imperfect. We all do the best we can with what we know. We all deserve a little compassion. If you truly love everyone and wish them well, then you’ll receive more blessings in your life in return.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you hug everyone you see. There is a difference between application and intention. The goal is to have the intention to hold everyone dear to your heart. In doing this, you are kinder, more forgiving, more patient. You’re less likely to fall into old patterned behavior with your family, and in return, they’re less likely to engage in it with you. This state of mind is a powerful one, and it can turn your dreadful holidays into a time to appreciate your people while they’re still around. If you see someone struggling or feeling alone, reach out and show them you hold them dear to you. When they feel the warmth of your love, it can help them find their own. It could make the difference.
Each moment, each now, is the perfect time to love yourself and others. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worthwhile.
I wish you the courage to lean in,