It is so easy at this time of year to feel overwhelmed. We work extra hours to bring our organizations to a satisfactory end of the year, to get things cleared away before 2012 appears, and with the often mistaken belief that getting a list of extra things done will allow us to have a more restful holiday. That belief would be more true if there were not an endless list of things that can keep our mind busy thinking about work .
And we have the additional errands and costs associated with entertaining, gift-giving and shopping. Add to those things the pressures of cooking and cleaning and decorating, not to mention the internal chatter of our minds that often arises from the gift selection process for parents, children and friends, and it is easy to find ourselves dropping into bed at the end of the day feeling totally exhausted. And we might conclude that "this is just how it is right now," hoping that someday it might be simpler. Someday when the kids are older or the business is less hectic or we have more money or…
But how difficult would it be to make a change to "how it is"? For me, the ability to make some changes came from noticing the "shoulds" that were taking control of my life during the holidays. I should do this because that is what is expected, or that is how it was done when I was a kid, or that is how someone else does it. It took some quiet time to actually see the "shoulds" and then to ask myself what Ithought was most important about this time of year. And when I had that answer, it became much simpler to go through the list of "how it is" with the litmus test of "does this support what I identified as most important or not?"
For me, the answer to what was most important was to spend more time enjoying and nourishing the connections I have with family and friends, and to remember those in the society that I might be able to help enjoy the holidays a bit more. And my answer also recognized the need to have some spaciousness in my life to sit quietly and connect more deeply with myself, listening to the body, heart and spirit, as I reflect on the events of the past and enjoy the warmth and love of the present. The "shoulds" that don’t support making room for those choices began to drop away, not all at once, but bit by bit. And sometimes I still need to catch myself falling back into my autopilot mode of the season. But each year the holidays seem simpler and more beautiful.
Right now, consider putting down your "to do" list and ask yourself what is most important to you at this time of year. Not someone else’s answer, but your answer. Then see if the tasks and obligations on your list support spending your precious time on them. Do they further what you believe is important? If not, you might experiment with changing just one thing. You might be surprised by the reaction of others, and the feeling you experience from making that one change.
This season can be a time of connections and reflection, a time for nourishing ourselves and those around us. Be bold and stay ever more true to who you are, listening to your unique inner wisdom.
Wishing you a holiday season filled with warmth and light.
First published 12/22/11, updated 12/14/12