The holiday season is usually an enormous challenge for me. It’s the time of the year that many of us who have faced major loss struggle to keep our heads above water. As ornaments are pulled out of dusty plastic bins from the basement, each carries a story of Christmas Past. For us, Christmas Past included my strong, healthy late-husband, no longer with us to place the star on top of the tree.
In the midst of the difficult and bittersweet memories, the holidays have also been a time of tremendous responsibility and me drowning as a result of what I think others expect. I’ve been that frantic shopper who arrives at Toys R Us at a 4am doorbuster. I’ve stayed up all night wrapping. For many years I’ve cooked, hosted huge parties and navigated the endless to-do list alone while trying to help my kids manage their grief for their dad while trying to conceal my own.
This year, the mission became to change the way I think about Christmas. I turned to my practices of yoga and meditation and used them as tools. Not everyone will get the “perfect” present but many will get my love. I chose not to attend big department store sales or host parties. I combined effort with ease and included self-care. I allowed myself to surrender to the sadness when the ornaments came out and I found quiet ways to pay tribute to George. I opted to stay rooted in the moment by breathing, making long lists of gratitude, taking inventory of my life right now with all its abundant blessings, and letting go of my perception of what people think. Most importantly, I spent a couple of days in silence surrounded by a community of amazing people.
This is Christmas Present. And now that I finally took some time to be present, I've changed the way I experience it. It's been a wonderful few weeks and I'm looking forward to the next two.
As we eat, drink and be merry over the next few days, let’s not forget that for many people who face loss or other challenges in life, the holidays can be a time of great suffering. Show compassion by being Christmas Present for them, lightening their load, and making sure they feel seen and heard this year.