It is the holiday time of year and everyone is happy and celebrating. Presents and parties abound, and we are all supposed to be joyous, appreciative of what we have and loving this time of year.
Some of us are not – not joyous, not happy, not loving this time of year. Some of us can’t find that holiday feeling. Life may be too complicated – breakups, financial strain, work/life relationship struggles – these can all make it hard to find any fun or great in a day.
But sometimes you just have to look for it.
For me, this time of year is often fun, filled with fast and furious activities both holiday and non-holiday related. For some reason, it feels like the whole world is frantic, even with things that do not revolve around the holidays.
Everything just moves faster.
This pace, regardless of whether or not you choose it, can amplify an already difficult life.
- Gifts to buy = more money worries
- Parties to attend = reminder of your recent breakup
- Time off with friends = no approved vacation
- Travel to family = expensive, time consuming chaos
More is added to our lives, and sometimes, some of us, are already at the max of what we can take. The added pressure of the holidays often becomes a boiling pot of emotions, rendering us hopelessly sad and stressed out.
The holidays do not have to be this way. To reduce the woes of a season where people send cards with pictures of reindeer pooping out candy, we can be more observant, we can hit pause, and find something to get us through the day, something to bring a spark of joy, something to grasp onto, to bring some hope.
Sometimes we just have to look for it.
“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens, and response is something that we choose.” – Maureen Killoran
We can choose to sit in the pit of despair (yes, that mythical place from The Princess Bride) or we can grab onto something that can hold us through the holidays, or the day, or even the hour. Sometimes, it’s just getting through the hour that is important.
When we pause, truly stop what we are doing, and sit in silence, we can find a sliver of the past joy, that something, to walk us through this time. And maybe, it will bring us more than that, a pause might even bring us back something wonderful.
Most of us have never learned to be truly still. In fact, most people, when asked if they sit in stillness will equate their time sitting and looking at their phone as “stillness.” Yikes – that is not what we need at all. What we need is stillness, true inner quiet, when we can notice and hear what is truly happening around us, and what is sitting within us.
Have a minute? Give this short moment a try.
- Set your alarm for 120 seconds (yes, two whole minute!)
- Start the clock and close your eyes
- Breathe in deeply counting to five
- Exhale to the count of five. Do this three times
- Now listen around you – what do you hear from your right? Say each sounds name in your head (dishwasher, dogs barking, the air conditioner)
- Now what do you hear to your left? Say each sounds in your head.
- Do you hear computer noise? a fan blowing? footseps?
- How about an animal snuffling in its sleep? Or a child laughing? the comforting noise of the heat turning on?
- Within those sounds, identify one – just one – that when you say it makes you smile. Hold it close, remember how it feels, what it means to you.
- Open your eyes
Think about what you heard. Does it still make you smile? What does it mean to you? How does it make you feel?
When we listen intently, we can often identify many more sounds around us than we think we can. For me right at this moment, I hear a pool heater, a bird calling, and a gentle breeze rustling the palms of the tree above me. As I listen to those sounds, I am reminded that although some sadness surrounds my heart this time of year, those sounds represent a holiday gift to our family of warmth and a Christmas that is different. It represents being together, laughing and sharing stories, and spending precious time together.
But it is easy to overlook those wonderful gifts if I am not paying attention to what I hear. I could instead focus on cleaning up the kitchen, worrying about the money, wondering what to make for lunch… instead, I am listening, and remembering why we are here.
My reason for the joy this season will be to remember – remember my Dad who passed on this year. Remember the Christmas’s past that included pinata’s, ever changing family and friends that came with a Christmas Eve Santa visit from the Jewish neighbor, and a red sweater vest.
If I think about just THOSE moments, I can be overcome with sadness – those moments are gone. They cannot be made again. But I can remember how they made me feel, and THAT is the feeling to hold onto. Not the sadness that they are no longer here, that I was able to have those moments in the first place.
By pausing and listening, I remember those times of greatness.
And I smile to myself as I write of them.
You too can find your joy – we all have it. You just have to pause and let it call out to you. When it does, answer the call. Hold it close. Your joy is out there – sometimes you just have to look for it