22 December 2010

'Tis the Season

Now that Christmas is here, it's time to decide just how I'll approach the holiday this year--and believe me, it always takes decisions.  I used to just take the holidays as they came, and that was okay, but I found that there were often just a few too many disappointments, just a few too many problems that came up that I wasn't able to deal with.  So now I try to approach the holidays in a practical, prepared way--at least mentally and emotionally--so that I don't have to deal with unpleasant surprises that tend to arise.

First of all, I always decide about this time to let go of any expectations I may have for how other people act, for what kinds of gifts I may (or may not) receive, and for what other people do.  I find that much of the dissatisfaction that I witness other people feeling during the holidays has to do with what they expected not coming through, and that's a pretty silly reason to have to be dissatisfied--something that we bring upon ourselves.  Other people are who they are and will do what they do--they simply aren't on this planet to live up to our expectations, no matter what our relationships or lack of relationships.

I also decide to err on the side of generous.  I don't go out and buy lavish gifts for most people, and my wife and I enjoy the very simple things, but if I have to decide whether or not to get something for a particular person, then I'll get it because it may be a huge mistake not to.  Since I get modest gifts, the loss to me is slight if it turns out to be a mistake, but that can't compare to the damage that will occur if it would have been a mistake not to get a gift.  I also make the decision to take as much time for myself--relaxing and doing nothing (except perhaps reading or watching a Christmas program)--as I can.  This way, I can enjoy the holidays more because I've dealt with the stress and strife in a proactive fashion.

I also decide that this season will be about spirit more than it will be about gifts or parties or anything else like that.  I like the gifts and I like the parties, but these are incidental parts of the holiday season, not integral parts.  To this end, I listen to a lot of Christmas songs such as "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" and the like to continually remind myself of just why this season is here--to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who did his best to teach us all about our own power to love and live in harmony and unison with God.  While we haven't done very well at taking his lessons to heart, we have done well in maintaining the celebration of his birth, and that will have to do, won't it?  It truly is a holy season, and if I want to get the most out of it, I have to decide to do so.

When we work so hard at our preparations for Christmas, we often
feel cheated and frustrated  when others fail to notice the results
of our efforts.  We need to ask ourselves why we are doing the things
we choose to do.  If love motivates us--love for our families, for our
neighbors--then we are free to simply enjoy the actual process of what
we do, rather than requiring the approval and admiration of others
for the results of our labors.

Ellyn Sanna

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