How a simple random act of kindness can transform anything from a shitty day to surviving the holiday season
Simple is good, right? But practicing ‘simple’, no matter what aspect of our lives we’re talking about, is another story. Are you a creature of your own over-complicating ways? I feel your pain.
And despite all the fa la la la la, twinkly lights and clinking of glasses — the holidays can suck you in and carry you off, robbing you of your ease and your self-care promises faster than you can say jingle bells. Whether you’re lighting Hanukkah candles, putting presents under the Christmas tree — no matter what your tradition may be, at this time of year it’s hard to keep it all together. Particularly the simple stuff, the small things you insert into your life that create balance.
So how’s it going? Are you muddling through or joyously co-mingling celebration and self-care? If you are anything like me, you probably don’t believe that you can really have it all and that the holidays have to play out in a certain way according to the traditional family rule book. That’s just your preconditioning rearing up. Because the truth is that whether it’s the close of a year and the start of a new, a birthday or an ordinary Wednesday — each day is a choice and you get to decide how you want to greet it, how you want to participate in it, how you want to feel about it. Yes, even with your family.
I try to not get caught up in the holiday shopping craziness — to prevent myself from falling down the rabbit hole that leaves me feeling depleted, frenzied, over-committed and barely crawling over the finish line. Every year I tell myself I’m going to do it differently. Every year I promise that I’m going to make the holiday season less about material stuff and more about the good stuff: gatherings, connection, celebration. And while I may be moving more in that general vicinity — the reality is that it’s still a struggle. And like any other habit, I somehow manage to veer off in old directions.
So how do we show up for the festivities and retreat to recharge?
Well, before this feels like a runaway train, before we over-spend and under self-care — let’s do something, just one little thing that shifts our perception, even if only in the teeniest way. Think of it as soul food (and maintaining sanity).
For me, I need to carve out some quiet time to read or write (no matter how many people are in my house). I know what replenishes my batteries. It doesn’t take much, but conversely, it doesn’t take much to fall out of alignment — and finding your way back once you’re on that path isn’t so easy.
What do you need to get through the holidays? What will fill your body, mind and soul coffers so that you feel inspired and empowered to enter into your 2018? The list can be simple. Here’s mine:
- Alone time: To read, write, meditate
- Movement: To move my body, anything from a walk in the woods to the gym or a class
- Mindful consumption: I’m going to indulge in yummy things, just not every yummy thing, every day
- Guard my downtime: I’m going to refrain from jumping to accept every invitation, even the juiciest ones; my 1st obligation has to be to self
- Connect to inspiration: Whether volunteering, helping someone else out, journaling about the new year or reading something that fuels me, it’s important to keep the creative envisioning flowing
- Align with Hell YESes (and NOs): Your intuition will clearly let you know if you should buy it, eat it, commit to it — check in and listen!
Here are a few things that have unfolded around me recently that have made me rethink my experience of the season and that put a little pep in my holiday step. They are ways in which I was prompted to think out-of-the-box, to pay attention more, to be playful in my giving and most of all, to be mindful. And btw, this isn’t exclusive to holiday time. You can implement these strategies any time.
Find creative ways to do random acts of kindness for others (preferably anonymously)
One afternoon after I pulled into a parking spot, I was delightedly surprised by the kindness of a stranger. While digging for quarters, I looked up through my windshield and saw a man who had been walking down the sidewalk, stop before the meter. The glare of the sunshine prevented him from realizing I was still sitting there inside. I was mesmerized, watching as he pulled change from his pocket to feed what appeared to him to be an expired meter — and to prevent some unknown person from receiving a ticket. He tossed in a few quarters and went on his merry way. It all happened so quickly. I didn’t even have a chance to thank him, but I will never forget it.
There are so many ways to show up for others when we open our eyes. How simple and yet so profoundly sweet and playful, a gentle kiss of humanity. It’s inspired me to be on the lookout for expired meters. Be a meter feeder!
And of course, there are always ways to make charitable donations right under your nose. Be a Secret Santa. Find out where there is need and make a difference in another’s life. When we put forth the intention serve, we are always met with opportunity. This is one of my most favorite holiday rituals. I find ways every year to give anonymously. It makes me feel like an undercover elf while preserving the dignity of another.
Look before you leap (or think before you purchase)
Notoriously, when I go Christmas shopping, I see 1 thing for someone else and 3 things for me. Yes, do the math, that triples the cost of holiday shopping. I’m not saying that making purchases for self is a bad thing, but it depends upon how you are going to feel at the end of the day, surrounded by shopping bags and credit card bills. This year, I indulged in more ‘window shopping’ and passed on things knowing that I could always go back and get them if I absolutely couldn’t live without them. Perhaps not surprisingly, I got over it all and never went back to get any of those things. It felt lighter and more mindful. Besides, I’ve been working diligently to get rid of ‘stuff’ in my house…do I really need to bring more of it in?
Be Creative; it doesn’t have to cost a lot
The gifts we truly remember are the ones that touch us and those are the ones that are personal in some way. The other morning when I showed up for a hike with a group of women, one of my friends handed me a small gift. Inside was a framed picture of our group in a Christmas ornament. It made me smile, the note filled my heart and I was truly moved by the gesture. A relative also compiled a small photo album as a gift filled with pictures I had never seen before. It’s so easy to give consciously without breaking the bank or your spirit. Yes, it takes a bit more time to create an album or search for pictures to print, but it has lasting impact.
And remember to not set yourself up for the faux Hallmark greeting card version of the holidays. Don’t compare your experience with anyone else’s (especially what you see on Facebook, the land of fabricated perfection). Seize your experience right now as you are reading this. Check in to see where you are and where things are headed. I don’t have a perfect practice by any means, but I know if you can find ways to care for yourself, to take one for the home team, things will move in a new direction.
I wish you that. And I wish you sugar plums and blessings for a new year of your design — one where you trust in yourself, you care for yourself and you courageously take action steps on behalf of yourself. Go for it, Best Selfers. The world needs you!
Happy, Merry everything!
As always, I LOVE hearing from you. Check in and let me know how you are managing the holidays. Share your strategies for doing things differently. We’re here for each other.