A simple question prompts a deeper look at what’s important and how I want the holidays (and my life) to unfold
Sometimes we forget the power of our words, their potential impact on another — and at the core, our innate need for connection (to ourselves and others). Even I, a lover of prose, tends to forget. Our words have the power to heal us or slice and burn. Spoken, written or even just thought, they convey as much in the unsaid as they do in the said. They are blanketed in our energy. It’s why I stopped in my tracks when I received this text from my stepson recently:
How is your heart?
Those few words held such meaning as I stood there staring at my phone in hand. They made me pause, feel deeply loved and genuinely held. My heart, for all physical intents and purposes is totally fine. That wasn’t what he was asking. No, he was simply diving deeper to my core…a more beautiful way of asking, “how are you?” …and meaning it. He was asking how my spirit was.
Far too often those words simply fall from our mouths. Hug, hug, air kiss, air kiss, how are you? (turning our attention away before properly listening to the answer). Yes, “how is your heart,” is a question given with presence…one in which we stick around to hear the response, really hear.
I highly recommend taking this question for a test drive. Notice the reaction you receive and witness how you feel asking. At first, one may turn to you with a quizzical expression, but within seconds you will observe everything soften as they grasp your intent and smile from the inside out. Consider it a soul squeeze, not an empty pleasantry.
During this season of extra holiday hustle and bustle, wrappings and ribbon, where you may feel frazzled and pulled in many directions in your already-too-busy daily routine — the gift of your presence (for yourself and others) is immeasurable.
Being in the present moment actually calms our entire nervous systems and we catch up to our spirit and heart’s true desire…to languish, to slow down, to connect, to be. Most of all, to be mindful. No one says, I want to scramble through the holidays at high speeds.
I don’t know about you, but I get both delighted and overwhelmed at the onset of the holidays. Christmas is laden with expectation — the gifts, the decorations, the gatherings, the self-imposed pressure to recreate things the way they have always been done. Whew. No wonder we are exhausted. If you grew up in a house of Christmas like I did, you are well aware of what goes into transforming your house and heart into a winter wonderland. We remember holidays past as if they just magically came together, but memories can be skewed and besides, that’s quite an unsustainable, tall order…unless we consider shifting our definition.
Things change…and so do we. It’s okay to evolve and give yourself permission to do it all differently — to break free from the norms — to slip into ways that feel more resonant with you — to create new traditions and break free from old ways.
Go ahead, blaze some trails. You know, your soul responds when you march to the beat of its drum.
Back to the text from my stepson. It helped me recalibrate myself a bit. His presence prodded me into my own. How is my heart? Well, now that you’re asking like that…I’m not going to dole out the perfunctory response of “I’m fine…you?” My heart is full and it has hunger pains, it craves holiday merriment and solitude, it wants to deck the halls with fa la la and hide under a throw blanket on the sofa in front of the fireplace reading a good book. It wants to remember and forget, it wants the past and the future, old ways and new. It desires connection and presence, toss in some twinkly lights, the smell of evergreen and the joy of rediscovering treasured ornaments that had been tucked away, or receiving a gift selected specifically for you.
But what it really wants is to avoid a holiday hangover of over-doing, over-indulging and over-committing — over-stepping its innate wisdom. I don’t want to screech into Christmas on two wheels, a frazzled mess too exhausted to enjoy it when I arrive — or fall unconsciously into a new year completely depleted and in credit card debt. So how do we avoid this well-traveled path? We connect to the things that matter most to us along the way. We check in with our hearts.
We feel our spirits.
We align with our intuition…and we heed its call.
We honor our feelings.
We say no without chastising or judging ourselves afterwards.
We make the time to connect to ourselves in stillness and to others in conversation.
We celebrate the polarity within that makes us uniquely ourselves.
We cease from self-sacrificing.
We are simple and complex creatures at the same time. What works today (or this holiday), may not be what you need tomorrow…and that’s okay. We can change our minds and choose again and evolve into new incarnations of ourselves.
Connection feeds the human spirit. It nourishes your Best Self. But it first starts within.
What do you want? I loved that text message because that short message was so laden with love and meaning — that spoke to me in so many ways.
In our family there are certain traditions that are scheduled like clockwork — and there’s something truly wonderful about that. But there are other things (like the way we decorate, when we decorate, where we go for the holidays) that I have allowed to shift. Sometimes those appear in seemingly small ways, but they reap great benefit. For example, Bill and I decided to not put ANY ornaments on the Christmas tree this year. GASP. I know.
Each year when we first bring our tree into the house we allow it to settle and just gaze upon it for a few days. After Bill adds the white lights his mother taught him how to “properly” string (hint: go deep within the branches), we always sit back and admire how beautiful it looks. This year, I even stated, “I love it so much just like this. Too bad we can’t leave it like this.”
“We can. I love it like this too,” he responded.
And there we left it…exactly as we loved it, devoid of ornaments and the tradition of the past. So simple and yet it felt like a renegade move! It makes me smile every time I walk by it. Who knows what next year will bring — perhaps its branches will once again be weighed down with decorations, but for now this is perfect and my heart is happy. As an addendum to that, I must admit that I have since added a red cardinal ornament that represents my Dad (aka, the king of Christmas). There he is honored and missed and remembered for his Christmas spirit.
Making a different choice is that easy when we allow ourselves to get out of our head (and our way).
I think that when we follow our hearts throughout the day, allowing it to inform our decisions, we string together a thread of connection and happiness. Our minimal tree was such a effortless choice and yet, it brought such great delight and relief in its own way. Where could you insert a bit of this into your own life?
This year, I’m craving more of that — more presence in my own decisions and interactions with others from the big ones to the small. It feels soothing just thinking about it, but it requires reducing the pace. Our presence isn’t found in a drive by. No, it’s more like pulling a chair up to the table for a nourishing 4-course meal. Try infusing this into your life as you are moving towards the holidays and see what comes up.
We have been living in an upside-down world of much disruption and divisiveness. Life has felt hard for some, fearful and unsettled for others. Maybe you can’t gather with family this year (maybe you don’t want to). Maybe you’ve lost someone. Maybe you don’t feel all fa la la. Give yourself permission to seek refuge within your heart — to be present to its whisper — and to follow its lead.
What does being present mean to you? What could you let go of or do differently to produce a result that would allow you to sink into your Best Self? I say put more of that on Santa’s list this year and release the rest. There will be no gift to self more precious.
And btw, how is your heart?
Where could you nourish your Best Self this holiday season — and share the gift of your presence? Please share your musings with us in the comments below, where we connect with our hearts…