BEHIND THE SCENES

IF this were any other month, I wouldn’t be wondering quite so much about what is going on behind the scenes in many homes. But in all reality … many families are seriously stressed this time of year. Winter weather for one thing. The weight and the joy of traditional holiday expectations. Intense emotions that surface unbidden. A plethora of memories that frantically swim in the background as though seeking immediate expression. Insistent feelings of wanting to find the perfect balance between commercialism and the more devout aspects of the season. Under the best of circumstances, that’s a lot to contend with.

Yes, the season can be delicate and beautiful and motivating and inspiring and joyful. 

But December, and all that it entails, can also become a mixed bag of frustration, sadness, stress, and confusion. Our beliefs and values may point to one thing; society may suggest something else entirely. Cultural expectations may run deep in us, especially if we have never confronted them directly. All of this can lead to inner conflict, which is painful for many. Some, when they really stop to consider it, may realize that serious inner conflict is another form of personal suffering. A rather insidious form, at that.

“It came to him that he didn’t like holidays. . . .
They bore down on you. Each one always ended up feeling like an exam . . .”
― Lily King, The English Teacher

Sometimes we are so accustomed to our own suffering, we don’t recognize it for what it is … we brush it aside as feeling tired, disinterested, or curiously negative. Maybe we blame ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm, or force ourselves to embrace what feels robotic, senseless, redundant. If personal suffering is extremely pronounced, it wouldn’t be unusual for someone to relapse into some form of addiction (deadly or otherwise). Some individuals, as we know, even resort to suicide this time of year.

Isn’t it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for —
I don’t know what exactly, but it’s something that you don’t mind so much not having at other times. ~Kate L. Bosher

December is a tale of many realities, and so much happens behind the scenes because we’re not always eager to verbalize hesitant or painful feelings. Easier not to admit such things and risk a negative reaction from someone, right? Maybe that is why the season can start to feel like a “requirement” more than a meaningful celebration of life. On the surface … we all see the bright lights, the festive colors, the dazzling ornaments, the rush to “get everything done” in time. But the bigger story lurks in the shadows. The unspoken. The undone. The regrets and resentment that are well-hidden or even denied.

To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
~E.B. White, “The Distant Music of the Hounds,” The Second Tree from the Corner, 1954

Can you envision a unique (pleasantly tolerable) path through the December wilderness? Can you imagine a month that loses its dark shadow and becomes something less cumbersome or anxiety-filled? Most of all, can you chart a course that truly honors your life journey and those around you? Can you try to extend your “idea” of December madness, so your personal evolution isn’t completely mitigated by unseen rules of tradition (yes, tradition can begin to feel like an icy fountain of deadening rules quietly outgrown a long time ago).

Conversely, I think it’s possible to keep something of the past that also honors the present.

And that may be how the magic of the season can be teased out once more: with a new vantage point, by an updated perspective that liberates and enlivens, by letting go of what has become quietly reflexive, as opposed to “thoughtful and genuine.” Realistically speaking, habitual behavior that originated long ago may no longer communicate anything of value in the present tense. Acknowledging that dynamic can open the door to something new and creative, something that feels much more meaningful and appropriate. Not everything has to change, of course.

Which Christmas is the most vivid to me? It’s always the next Christmas.
~Joanne Woodward

      Part of our holiday tradition is putting up a tree so our 16-yr old cat, Lola, can enjoy napping under it.
She must think she is outside, because she loves having a real tree in our living room.
Wrapped packages can be nice, too, but seeing her there every morning when we get up is much better.

December can feel more viable and less onerous … it really can. Try a “less is more” approach.

Leave some room for change. Turn down the noise of the season.
Spend time in quiet reflection.
Avoid what has become tired, overworked, dull and cumbersome.
Make the holidays resonate with peace and gentle moments that will long be remembered.
Skip buying the sweater gift that is purely obligatory.
Even if it means saying “no,” find a way to integrate a deeper perspective into your activities so something new can be born.
You don’t need direction as much as the willingness to listen to the nudge within.
Honor the truth of the moment in simple ways that don’t demand more than you are able to muster.
Faking it takes great energy; authenticity creates energy.
My best to everyone this season of peace and goodwill. ~ dh

 “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.
The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

See you again in a few weeks!
Thanks so much for stopping by this creative sunny space for kindred spirits.
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