Savor The Season

Savor The Season

This holiday season is different in so many ways. We are being asked to limit our interactions with one another to avoid putting more pressure on our already taxed health care workers. So what do the holidays look like in this case? For me, it means decorating the house as usual and having more time at home to enjoy it. Taking time to savor the lights, the colors, the smells and the meaning of this season. It’s pondering the love of God and the gift He gave us through His son. It’s remembering that we are called to love one another. God’s gift through Jesus is a reminder to keep our judgments of others in check, to look at our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions, and put them through the filter of: is it loving? I’m not perfect at this, but I do try to live it out.

Perhaps you do not share the same beliefs as I do. What does this time of year mean to you? I’m assuming it’s something positive, in which case, ponder it. Reflect it to those around you, even if ‘those’ are limited to just a few people. Put up your decorations as usual or maybe for the first time. Sometimes even just a simple strand of white lights can brighten up our long nights. Maybe bake gingerbread cookies and notice how the fragrance lifts your spirits. Take in a slow deep breath and soak in the sights and scents around you. Exhale and notice your body relaxing, even just a little bit.

Maybe you have nothing. You can’t bake cookies, you can’t or don’t want to put up decorations. Look outside at the night sky, soak in the beauty of the stars or moon. Notice the changes of the seasons (if you have seasons!) or just notice what you see around you. Listen to the sounds. Simply notice…breathe…relax.

Savor the moments. Let them restore you.

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Pandemic

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Pandemic

For those of you who read my blog regularly I have no explanation for why I haven’t written a post in a long while. I just didn’t feel like it. That’s all. Some days…or months! are like that. We are all doing well, including Anna.

Thanksgiving in the US is tomorrow. Normally my family has a large gathering. This year it is not happening. I know this is the case for many others. Our plans have changed in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We are also trying to be mindful of the impact this pandemic is having on many medical facilities. Given all that, what can we do to honor the reality of the changes this year while still celebrating the holiday?

I think it’s helpful to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This is not new to anyone who reads this blog. I frequently write about the importance of awareness: knowing what you are thinking as well as what you feel physically and emotionally. Stuffing our feelings inside does not taste nearly as good as the stuffing we shove inside a turkey! It might make the moment easier but in the long run you are setting yourself up for some kind of unhealthy leakage or explosion. I know this first hand ūüėČ

So start by honoring your true experience but not letting it dominate you. You notice what you are thinking and feeling. You find the parts of your thinking that are based on made up stories or predictions i.e., “We’ll never have another family gathering!”, “Thanksgiving is ruined forever!”, “This pandemic is never going to end!” Those predictions could come true but we don’t know for certain. All we know right now is it is safest to limit our gatherings, our usual Thanksgiving traditions will need to be altered, and we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Keep your thoughts reigned in to what is true. The truth is painful enough for us. We certainly don’t do ourselves any good by adding the emotionally crushing predictions.

Next, consider what you are grateful for. When the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest celebration, they had already endured tremendous hardship, illness, and loss. Sometimes the less we have, the more grateful we can become. The little things begin to take on more meaning. Many of us have a roof over our head, food to eat, and technology that allows face to face communication. We can step back and be grateful for those. We can look around us, at nature, the sky, sun, moon and starts and marvel at their beauty. Take a moment, breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and soak in the beauty…the gratefulness. Let this moment bathe you and nourish your soul. Carry it with you and share it with others.

Gratitude

Gratitude

As we approach Thanksgiving in the US, it’s a good reminder to shift our thoughts toward gratitude. Sometimes it seems as though there’s very little to be grateful for. If you’re reading this blog chances are good you have electricity, internet, a smart phone or a computer. Be thankful for them. It’s also likely you have a roof over your head, somewhere warm to sleep, and food to eat. If it’s hard for you to find things to be grateful for, start with these. We sometimes forget to be thankful for the basic necessities of life.

Watch the sunrise or sunset and notice the beauty it casts across the sky. Take pleasure in what nature has to offer you, even a weed poking though a crack in the cement. Observe the unique qualities in the people whose paths you cross. Look around you and find what you can be thankful for.

This is an exercise in seeing the positives in your life rather than focusing on the negatives. When we shift our attitude toward gratitude we open up space within to find contentment and joy. Try it ūüôā

Help for the Holidays: Understanding and Compassion

(This is a rewrite of a previous post from November 2014.)
It’s the holiday season! Are you ready to be around people you find challenging? You know, the ones who say things and suddenly you no longer feel very good about yourself. Perhaps drama trails around them like Pigpen’s dirt cloud. Approaching these situations with understanding and compassion can help.
To begin, recognize you are never very far from hurting others. This awareness generally helps with the next valuable action to deal with dysfunction: seeking to understand. Understanding where someone might be coming from, what he might be thinking or feeling, helps us develop compassion for him. Understanding does not require that you agree.
Understanding, and its closely linked cousin, compassion can dramatically change any dysfunctional system, at the very least for you. As you put on understanding and compassion, you will notice you are not so negatively affected by the dysfunction. You more easily notice the dysfunctional barbs, recognize them as a product of the other person’s pain, process the feeling, and realize, “This is not about me.” Once you have metabolized your own reaction, you can then shift your focus onto at least being kind to this person.
 

Fluidity

Fluidity

Change can be beneficial. Really. Just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean it hChristmasas to stay that way. This is true especially around the holidays. Think about the areas in your life where you have stress. Is it possible to change something up that will result in less stress? Usually our first answer is, “No!” But stop and ponder the idea for a bit. What would happen if you did things differently? The obvious answer is things wouldn’t be the same but is “same” always good/best/helpful/beneficial?
A stagnant body of water with no fluidity, no change, no movement of water coming in and moving out is a breeding ground for all manner of parasites and bacteria. When I looked this up the first bit of information said it’s a breeding ground for dengue and malaria. I do not want my life to be like a breeding ground for nasty parasites and bacteria. I want to be open to changing. Whether that is related to how I prepare for and celebrate the holidays or how I function in relationships, take care of myself, approach my work or faith.
How about you? What areas in your life need some fresh, clean water running in and clearing out the old stagnant parasite breeding ground? Let this holiday season and your entire life embrace and thrive with change ūüôā

De-Icing

De-Icing

ice formations in winter streamIt’s that time of year again, the holidays. As with each year since I started blogging I will post holiday-related topics for the next few weeks.¬†Last week was Thanksgiving for those of us here in the States. Generally I have enjoyed my¬†Thanksgiving holiday but¬†not so this year. There were some highlights: gathering together with most of my children and grandchildren, seeing siblings, nieces, nephews, a few cousins, my mother-in-law¬†and my mom. It was a chaotic experience with many people I did not know and¬†that was¬†not enjoyable. Sometimes I am in the mood for conversations with strangers but this year, not so much. This year, I just wanted to be with family. I definitely felt my dad’s absence and that was part of my sadness.
I¬†experienced the¬†strangling of disappointment and anger taking over inside of me. It¬†sucked me down into a ¬†familiar hole. I stayed there for several days. I was less patient with those around me, especially strangers in cars who received eye rolls and shouts of frustration. All of which I’m sure went unnoticed. It felt safer to yell at them. They can’t yell back (or at least I won’t hear them if they do). You know those times when you only want to have one-sided conversations because you are pretty certain a two-way conversation won’t go well? I felt gloomy, eyore-ish, and it’s been hard to get out of it.
I stopped to take stock of the why. My self-care¬†was nearly¬†non-existent while I was away for the week of Thanksgiving. I had been expecting myself to survive on the basics alone and that is not enough for me. On my last day away, I grabbed my husband and our puppy¬†and¬†went on a walk. I griped along the way, getting all¬†that life-sucking¬†poison out. I requested that we leave early (a looming snowstorm sealed that deal for me!) to put an end to this misery. Along the way, we stopped on a pedestrian bridge that¬†overlooked the Roaring Fork River (sounds big but it’s just a stream really, especially in the winter). The clear frigid waters lolly gagged and splashed around huge boulders and scattered tree limbs. Patches of ice formed on the rocks on the¬†downstream side of the bridge while the upstream side,¬†in full sun, remained ice free. Something about that caught my attention. Maybe my heart was like the river. When I am on the downstream side, away from my source for internal warmth, I ice over. It’s harder for me to stay grounded. When I move toward the warmth of my source (in my case, God), the hardness and ice inside of me begin to melt.
But it doesn’t stop there. Ice builds inside of me when I am not getting out on walks, feeling fresh air and sunshine on my skin. I desperately need¬†to soak in nature,¬†do yoga, and spend time in solitude with my thoughts and prayers. Those are my biggies, the most important pieces of my self-care that must be regular ingredients in my life. I had a profound experience of what happens to me when I starve myself. I am working on stabilizing again, turning toward the sun, feeling the ice crystals softening and chunks of ice peeling away from soul. I feel warmth growing again and with it, hope that I will be ok.