The last month of the year 2008 is about to begin. It’s an exciting time. Halloween has come and gone, and now we have Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve to await. Many will be observing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
There will be many celebrations and gatherings to come, religious rituals observed, shopping expeditions or nightmares (unless you’re already finished), card and gift exchanging, and many meals shared. At least that will be the case for many.
For others, the season will be a time of sadness, loneliness, want, need, and perhaps, even despair. As we go about our holiday routines, it is worth remembering that not everyone will be celebrating with their usual flair. Many Americans lives are in upheaval. They will be missing loved ones the most during this time, juggling finances to pay their bills, trying to ensure their children receive at least one item on their Christmas lists, worrying about job security, having the funds to pay January’s living expenses, and pondering what 2009 holds in store for them. Others have known a difficult year and don’t hold much hope for the remainder of it.
Every year, we are reminded at this time of year to remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Depending on your religion or faith, it will be different things to different people. However, they are all variations on a theme: love, peace, hope, and generosity of mind and spirit. And, for those who may not practice any religion—formal or personal (spiritual)—it is still worth remembering what matters most to you and not allow yourself to be swept up into the holiday madness.
The following are some ideas to revisit often over the weeks to come. Embrace them or not, but do consider them.
1. Avoid Stress.
Don’t spend more than you can afford, go to too many parties or events, or lose yourself in work. Try to maintain a balance in your life. If you are worried about having a job next year, don’t go on a spending/gift-buying spree you cannot afford for one day in the year. If you find it difficult to accept gifts when you know you cannot afford to reciprocate, tell your family and loved ones you would like to exchange gifts next year when you are more certain of your finances. Accept and extend invitations as appropriate to your schedule. If you have much to accomplish at work, don’t go to parties just because you’ve been invited. Keep your schedule realistic. In addition, work will always be important because it represents your livelihood; however, it is not more important than the people in your life. Make time for them and try to be available to them.
2. Be Generous.
Give to others what you can and give from the heart. If money is an issue, then give your time. Volunteer at a charity organization. Help others whenever you can—one person at a time. This could translate to giving someone a ride home or picking someone up if they’re having car trouble, offering soothing words of comfort to someone who is unhappy, or giving another a spontaneous hug. As always, giving can bring so much more into one’s life than receiving. Offer whatever you can to others. You have no idea how deeply your kindness could be received and appreciated.
3. Be Understanding.
Holidays aren’t happy for everyone. In fact, statistics show that it is during this season that that the suicide rate goes up. So when dealing with others, try to be patient, positive and present during your interactions. Hear what they are saying to you. They may seem fine or happy on the outside, but be facing numerous challenges and struggles you couldn’t even imagine. Remember this especially when dealing with customer service representatives, waiters/waitresses, attendants, and anyone else with whom you come in contact. Let’s hope that no one would ever go home and commit suicide because you lost your temper with him or her. However, what if you’re the one who drives another over the edge? Do you want to take that chance? If you have an issue with someone, speak calmly and honestly on the issue—not on the person’s character or worth to the world.
4. Focus On the Big Picture.
This is one moment, day, week, month out of an entire year and an entire lifetime. It’s natural for some to be difficult or challenging. Don’t let the frustrating ones cause you to lose your balance. Remember at all times the person you want to be. Stay aware and be that person, the together and generous one who takes all things in stride. And, if you do have a bad moment and say or do something you regret, remember it’s never too late to apologize. As someone who once worked with the flying public, I cannot tell you how special it is to have an irate passenger who was rude or clearly dealing with other issues come back and apologize for his or her behavior. Not only does it wipe the slate clean with me, but it tells me much about the person’s character.
5. Have Intentions – Make Them Good!
Have a plan and have things you want to accomplish over the holiday season. Be true to you. Have great fun and don’t over-extend yourself in any way. Don’t spend, eat, drink, or work too much. Enjoy the holidays, being alive, and sharing moments with loved ones. Know your areas of concern and respect them—as well as your limitations and boundaries—as you go through each day and moment of this holiday season.
“LOVE AND YOU SHALL BE LOVED” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
6. FORGIVENESS & REBIRTH It’s a good time to make amends and dissolve old grudges. The gift of forgiveness will warm the hearts of both you and the forgiven. Once you have forgiven, embrace the moment, and let go of all hostility towards the person and incident you are forgiving. Go forward and start anew, a rebirth of your relationship. Do not bring up the subject ever again, just erase it from your memory.
7. ACCEPTANCE & RESPECT Accept your loved ones as they are, do not try to insist they change or do something for their own good. Respect their wishes, way of life, and right to be as unique and individual as you are. Nobody is perfect and no one likes to be told how they should feel or what they should do with their life.
8. COMPROMISE & COOPERATION Give in a little and compromise. It is the holiday season for the whole family, so consider sharing the children, grandchildren, activities and cooperating for the good of holiday. If each family member does cooperate in some way, no one will feel slighted, left out or disappointed.
9. PRAISE & ACKNOWLEDGE An unexpected compliment does wonders to break the ice. Conversations often start when someone acknowledges something good about another person. It is infectious, “I love your dress” and “your home is decorated so beautifully”, will certainly be graciously accepted and appreciated.
10. AFFECTION & WARMTH I confess I am a hugger, even when I meet friends of family or friends for the first time, I shake hands while being introduced, upon departing I usually hug them. I trust my first impression of the person and instinct takes over from there. For your loved ones, hugs and kisses are usually accepted warmly. The best huggers are babies, children and elders. They all accept the warmth of a hug and squeeze without wanting to let go.
11. GRATITUDE & GRACE Count your blessings, and consider the gathering among them. Graciously accept compliments, gifts and hospitality. Think before you comment on a gift you receive. The giver has taken the time and tried their best to please you. Politely thank each person who presents you with a gift.
12. COMPASSION & SUPPORT If you know someone is having an exceptionally hard time dealing with a tragedy or crisis, offer your support and a shoulder if they should need to talk. Spend a few minutes finding out how they are, and make plans to meet in a few days to discuss their situation privately. Then attempt to change the subject to a mutual interest or help them get involved in the activities of the gathering.
13. COMPANIONSHIP & TRUST A friend, sibling, mate or pet are treasured companions. We all need a honest, open and trusting relationship with someone in our lives. Nurture these relationships with honest and open communication and commitment. The gift of loyal companionship is a blessing to embrace and not to be taken for granted.
14. SHARE & INSPIRE Giving something of yourself, sharing your knowledge and teaching by interacting with the world around you, will inspire others to do the same. The blessings of our own personal lives are many and these blessings help us endure and overcome the unexpected trials. Inspiration is a gift we all have to give, share your inner feelings about life, your spirit and acceptance to the world of love around you. Unexpected happiness and love will be your reward.
Tis the season for love, giving, sharing, wisdom, insight, good will, and being true to yourself and others. All the best to you and yours!