Everyday life can be hard enough, but then you go and throw holidays into the mix and all bets are off. I long ago swore off trying to have a memorable New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day for the simple reason that real life never measures up to the scripted Leave it to Beaver moments we see on TV. Thanksgiving and Christmas, well, we all know how difficult it is to pull off a seamless, drama-free family gathering. I know far too many people who want to stick their heads in the sand and only pull them out after the holidays are over. The pressure to have a good time makes it all the more miserable when you realize you keep counting to 10 and taking deep breaths so you don’t lose your cool when the kids are fighting, the adults are bickering and your hands are puckered from doing all the dishes from an extravagant feast that inevitably involved an over-cooked turkey or rubbery green beans. Christmas and Hanukkah bring an added pressure to give or receive the perfect gift. For years I’ve struggled with the materialistic aspect of the holidays. Every year we read about Black Friday fist fights that break out over toys in pre-dawn lines at big box stores. In this economy people are resorting to yet more credit card debt in order to buy presents that they can’t afford. I’m not trying to be a Scrooge, in fact I love giving people gifts when they least expect them, but really, shouldn’t the best gift be simply being together with your loved ones? Isn’t that wherein the true magic of the holidays lies?
Being a transplant in Los Angeles means I don’t have family close by with whom I can easily spend the holidays. If I’m not with my family, I really like to spend the holidays in a quiet manner, either by myself or with my dear friends John and Lisa (for the record, John’s turkey is never over-cooked). I suppose this is why I wasn’t at all concerned about where I’d end up for Christmas. Given my track-record on this road trip, I knew that any plans I made would not play out. In fact, I actually did make plans only to abort them when I was reminded once again that this road trip has a mind of its own. For the curious, this Christmas Yoda, Princess and I are in Hot Springs, Arkansas with a very special community of healers. More on that experience in a future post.
The next big holidays are New Year’s Eve and my early January birthday, and for both, if I’m not in a relationship, I like to ring them in alone. I use both of these holidays as a time for quiet reflection on the past year and personal contemplation about the year ahead. I usually light some candles, meditate, cook a nice dinner, savor a glass of wine while I write down some goals for the year ahead, and then go to bed early. I find I wake up the next morning rejuvenated with a burst of sunny optimism for the year ahead.
I have found that taking time to center myself on a daily basis during the holidays is a wonderful way to remain balanced and avoid the holiday blues. So this Christmas, after eating your fill and exchanging gifts with your loved ones, I urge you all to carve out some time for yourselves. It may be as simple as taking a walk or retreating to a quiet room in the house to savor a cup of hot cocoa. All it takes is 15 minutes. Take a slow deep breath, smile to yourself and think about all you are grateful for and about all you have to look forward to in the coming year. No matter how rough this past year has been, let it go. I’ll be doing the same in Arkansas.
Kee Kee and Yoda