Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When it is all just too much...

This 12th month of the year can be absolutely stunning. The holidays, the lights, the music, are all  pure compensation for those long, dark December nights.  But when the stars are not aligned, when things beyond your control are tearing your holiday fabric at the seams…a December to remember can become a nightmare hard to forget.

When Joni Mitchell wrote the painful lyrics “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer's and singing songs of joy and peace…oh, I wish I had a river, I could skate away on”, she captured the true need to escape it all.

2012 has not been the kindest year for everyone. On the east coast, a vicious October storm left many, many people without homes and businesses. Treasured ornaments crushed below raging flood waters could not be hung even if there were trees to gather around. There are no halls to deck. For many others, there are no jobs.

In some cases people struggle with the holidays because the family landscape has changed; the passing of loved ones, divorce, or even more common, over time, members of the clan have scattered geographically and those memorable festive gatherings have become a thing of the past. Almost all of us can identify with at least one of these circumstances. So what is there to do when every Christmas commercial looks like a Norman Rockwell painting and you feel more like Mona Lisa…struggling just to smile?

Well, there will be other Holly Jolly Christmas’s so it’s okay to sit this one out? Maybe, but not completely. Because Christmas isn't just a day, it’s a season; it’s hard to ignore the holiday atmosphere that permeates the air from Thanksgiving to New Years. So I, who has always been a complete Christmas geek, and this year find myself somewhat festively-challenged, vow to conduct a search and recovery of my own spirit.

What I discovered is that; it is okay to scale things back. Maybe, you’ll re-establish some of the old traditions next year…maybe not. That decision doesn't have to be made this year so take it off the list of things to stress about. And most important, no, maybe a better word would be most essential, is that you take one thing, one very special tradition that you hold most dear, and adapt it to your current life. Stay with me here:
  • If you are in a FEMA trailer or shelter, find a way to bake some cookies with your kids. There isn't a church in the area that would deny you access to the use of their kitchen. Gather up others in a similar situation and make it a party. Restore the spirit.
  • Recently, I watched a news story involving a young mother living in a women's shelter with her two kids, and again this year she  is looking forward to sending out her Christmas cards. “One of my favorite holiday things to do, is to spend an afternoon writing out cards for my family and friends. I make some tea and sit for hours”, she told the reporter. They’ll be no return address on those cards, but to her, it doesn't matter where they came from, just that her seasonal thoughts and greetings get to her loved ones. She bought cards that the kids have to color. It’s a family affair. In spite of everything, she continues her spirit.
  • Help someone else. If you have nothing but your time to give, it will be more than enough for someone else who needs it. The feeling that you get back is indescribable. The act of giving doesn't have to be the result a something bought in a store. Find your spirit and share it.
  • Every night, turn off the television for one hour and put on a radio station that plays nothing but Christmas music 24/7. Music soothes the soul like nothing else and it will create a holiday atmosphere that cost very little. Create your spirit.  
  • Keep moving! Staying involved in life and off of the couch is crucial. It is a medical fact that exercise decreases stress levels. Gather the family and find a brightly lite neighborhood and walk through it. Doesn't cost a thing and will bring long lasting memories. Invent your spirit.
Listen, I know, when it is just not your year, none of this is easy. But trust me, it is all do-able. Don't let life's circumstances dissolve your desire to celebrate the season.  Recover, restore, continue, share, create and when needed, invent your spirit. It's  the best gift you'll ever give yourself.

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