Ready or not, the Holiday Season is upon us. As for me, I am ready … for the most part. It is fairly easy for me to be ready since my family in Maine consists of my husband and my dog.
Although we may not be a typical American household and we won’t be sitting around the table with our larger, extended families who live in the Midwest, the three of us are doing good. We are healthy, well-fed, live in a warm home and have many caring and loving friends. We feel grateful, joyful and content. However, this is not always the case for everyone during the holidays.
The celebrations. The bright lights. The carols of good tidings and great joy. The ideal “Norman Rockwell” family gathering can all be overwhelming. The perfection expected of the holiday experience can come crashing down on us making the feeling of gratitude difficult to muster. In fact, some might have difficulty coughing up a sincere “thank you” no matter how hard they try.
First - for those of you who have lost someone special, I want to take a moment and recognize your grief. My wish for you is that the pain you experience will lift sooner rather than later.
For those who may be experiencing other challenging circumstances or whose families are either miles away or estranged, being grateful during a time of celebration and thanksgiving can be difficult.
I have researched some ways in which we can reach deep into our pockets and pull out a “thank you” when it is not easy to do so. Here are some ways I found that may be helpful. You or I may not be able to utter the words of gratitude but, perhaps, shift the feelings of such:
· The first suggestion I came across was, “stop focusing on the negative and stop complaining for 21 days.” According to psychologist, it takes 21 days to learn a new habit, retraining the brain and the way you approach and view things in the world. I have never tried the 21-day challenge – so I don’t know if it will work. But it wouldn’t hurt to try it if you’re up for it.
· Upon waking or just prior to going to sleep, think of just one thing you appreciate in your life. During an especially difficult time in my own life where I faced certain financial challenges, I did this. Some days, the only thank you I could muster was; “I’m grateful for this warm cup of coffee.”
It worked for me. Although the difficult circumstance remained for a year or so, my gratitude shifted my life and I felt better – even during the most difficult moments. Did life continue in a “rainbow, roses and everything is beyond perfect” manner? Of course not. Life is life. Yang begets Yin. Love begets hate. Truth begets dishonesty. And, perfection is often found in the imperfection.
· Being okay with your “non-traditional” life.
Most of us don’t live that Norman Rockwell family and existence. Whether you are a single parent, live alone or must dance to a weird family dynamic – remember that you are not alone. In fact, there are more people like you than you think.
· If you don’t have family, create a “fremily” (friends who are family). Don’t force it. Go with those who are your “kindred spirits”.
These are the people who are most like you. (Although I can’t make any promises. The odds are that if you are authentic, tell the truth to yourself; you will find your “friemly-those kindred spirits who live life much like you.) I have hosted these gatherings and thoroughly enjoyed the non-traditional get-togethers.
In fact, at one fremily get-together, I invited one of my husband’s co-workers who was alone for Thanksgiving. We didn’t know each other that well but enjoyed each other’s company so much that a year later, we travelled to Italy together. Next summer in 2020 – I will be a bridesmaid in her wedding.
· My all-time favorite suggestion came from a Real Simple magazine article. It recommended, “For Pete’s sake, stay off Pinterest.”
It’s true for me. Not only for Pinterest, but Facebook and other social media connections. These sites give the impression that others live the perfect, happy life with friends and family. Most of these posts and photos do not reflect with honesty, a personal reality. Like the time I took a photo of a ‘loving and happy’ couple just moments before they had a not so little spat.
Don’t compare your life with others’ misleading life presentations. In fact, most often, if they are presenting a perfect life. They have more challenges than you. I know this because I probe too much – discovering the truth of said “Facebook postings.”
I hope this small list is helpful in some way as we dive into the holiday season. Just remember, in little over a month it will be a new year with new possibilities of change ahead. Maybe that’s something to be thankful for.