Dr. Nadine’s Thoughts:
The countdown is on…This is the last week before I leave for the Christmas holiday break. I’ve just spent the last 4 hours wrapping gifts, having been kept company by a couple of Christmas movies. I prepared my packages and organized them into different bags that represent each family I shop for. I’ll soon load them into the car, filling the trunk with presents and packing my suitcases for the time away.
Anticipating the week at home with family brings to mind the host of traditions that we all construct for our holiday time. Our traditions define our celebrations, symbolizing our values and blending them with festive pleasures developed over time by our families. I was recently asked if my family celebrated Christmas with the usual traditions of my cultural heritage. My answer was a thoughtful “No”, and I explained that we did a variation of the typical customs, adapting them to our family’s unique personality.
Most often, traditions are symbols that provide the comfort and security of belonging to a family. They are representations of a shared identity, a unique, authentic definition of our kinfolk. These cherished rituals give us emotional comfort, and provide a haven when we meet stressful times, when we feel uncertain or lack focus and direction. They’re the guides and the supports when we feel adrift. They’re our anchor in times of storm.
Yet, we all eventually experience the inevitable changes that Real Life brings. Personally, my living situation has changed dramatically in the recent past. I’ve also witnessed my tribe shrinking as we’ve lost beloved family members, and as other relatives have relocated far from the homestead. I’ve watched the group grow again with the addition of in-laws and children. Each of these occasions has prompted a reevaluation of our practices, and we’ve chosen to adapt them to suit the new circumstances.
Isn’t that a lovely metaphor for living every day? Our lives are not static. People move in and out of our lives. Our jobs and homes change. Unexpected things happen. We need familiar practices to rely on, to ground us, to stabilize us as we ride the roller-coaster of our experiences. And at the same time, we would do well to reevaluate our rituals to see if they still serve us. It’s OK to decide to change them up, to better fit our current realities. Ultimately, we can and should still hold on to our familiar comforts and traditions, provided they help us move forward and don’t offer an excuse to stay stagnant.
t’s my Christmas wish for you to embrace your beautiful traditions. Make some of your own, if your family is fragmented or not connected to one another. Let them bring you tidings of comfort and joy as you navigate the busy-ness of the days ahead. Bless those traditions and bless the ones with whom you share them.
Dr. Zan’s reflections:
What a joy it is for me to read and reflect upon Dr. Nadine’s thoughts about holiday traditions! The notion of grounding ourselves in tradition, despite the particulars of our individual celebrations or holidays, is so meaningful. And, I cherish the reminder to invite and embrace change and flexibility as it serves our ever-evolving needs. Family truly can be defined and re-defined in whatever manner is genuine to us at a given moment or season in our lives.
The idea of relishing rituals causes me to think about the very important practice of savoring during this holiday season. For those of you who are not familiar with the notion of savoring as a mindfulness practice, it involves being very intentional about basking in a moment and allowing your sensory or emotional experience to linger. You can then greet the experience with openness and appreciation. When we savor the moment, we are much more likely to connect with a sense of gratitude for those we love, for all that we have, for anything and everything that life has to offer us. When you get right down to it, all that we have is right here in this very moment. By learning to savor each positive experience, and to accept each experience that is not so positive, we can fully embrace the holiday and notice the occasions for celebration throughout the year.
For those of us who claim Christmas as our holiday, the chaos is in full swing. We are far too aware of all that must get accomplished, but are we equally attentive to our process along the way? Are we caught up in saying, “I have to…” when we could more appropriately say, “I choose to…”? When we can shift the focus to our choices, as opposed to our obligations, we once again open the gate to savoring.
Today I choose to savor time with special friends, to linger over a cup of tea. I choose to collaborate with my son to make homemade gifts for his teachers, infusing the process of wrapping each treat with love and laughter. (Except, of course for those moments when I’m fussing at him to get his booty off the screens and back into the kitchen to help me. After all, I’m only human.) I choose to savor a phone call with my children who no longer live in my home. I even choose to listen, with full presence, to a favorite Christmas carol playing on the radio and to remain in my vehicle when I arrive at my destination so that I can enjoy the tune all the way to completion. And I relish the beauty.
This season, may you savor every heart-warming moment. May you accept every challenging moment. May you remember to note and express gratitude, keeping life in perspective. May you discover that, in any given moment, there really is much to celebrate.
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