Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New 2006! Wouldn’t the holiday season just be weird if it were in the middle of the year? Celebrate the big gift-giving holidays and then, “back to work, you’ve got 6 more months until the New Year’s party – ” Yick! There’s just something about having Christmas, and Hanukkah stacked next to the new year that gives it such an expectation.
I suppose it doesn’t hurt that throughout our childhood lives, the holiday season not only meant gifts, it meant 2 weeks away from school and free time. For me, though, it was the time with my extended family that made all the difference. I could celebrate the holidays with my immediate family of four, but there was just something completely incomplete about not having the grandparents, cousins, arguments, laughing, and food-binge-fests around. And I miss it.
Now that all of my grandparents and half of my Aunts and Uncles are gone, I find my holidays (Thanksgiving included) to be really sad affairs. I in fact have so dreaded the holidays that I wait to put the tree and lights up until the last minute, I take as many playing gigs as I can to stay busy, I refuse to send Christmas cards or go to holiday parties – humbug! I find that I cry during the tale of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Grinch that Stole Christmas.” I relate with the protagonists in those redemptive stories. Strangely, I find that once I get the Christmas tree up along with the lights and paraphernalia, it occurs to me that I should just leave them up all year, because it makes the house so cheery.
So you’re saying, “Mark, I’m confused. Do you or do you not like Christmas?” I say, I can’t live without it. What has made it so powerful to me, however, has nothing to do with gifts, or lights: it has to do with the grandest of all excuses for a mass familial get together – that I no longer have. Thus, when the holiday season rolls around, it hurts. It doesn’t help that I’m single either. Worse yet, I live in Los Angeles, and like the rest of you Angelinos, I don’t even know my neighbors. The more I look, the more I find that lots of people feel the same way that I do. I hate that.
So now you’re saying, “Okay Mark, now I’m depressed too. Get to the ‘fix it’ part.” See, I am the “possibility” of creating miracles in other people’s lives and whether through the use of film, music, or just a conversation, I love to inspire people to live more powerful lives. Unfortunately, to be able to do that, I have to create some miracles for my life first. Specifically, I have transformed the conversation that I’ve had about the holidays: “The holidays make me sad, I don’t have extended family anymore, I hate the holidays.” So here’s the fix it part:
To transform your holidays this season, I recommend the following steps:
One: Distinguish the part of the holidays that makes you sad. Now, granted, this very first step might be considered the hardest step of all, but if you can’t figure out what “disempowering conversation” you’re having with the holidays, it makes transforming your view of the holidays tougher. You may find that at first, the realization of what makes the holidays sad brings up more sadness. This is actually a great sign, because it means that you’ve finally allowed some healing to come to a wound that has been unable to heal. Nice work.
Two: Decide what you want your holiday season to look like. Create this “new, perfect” holiday season without reservation or censorship. For me, I created simply having a holiday season where the warmth of a small family is more than sufficient for my emotional holiday expectations. Maybe for you, it’s creating a holiday where your family enjoys the company of each other, or that your pain about not having a loved one present is trumped by the love that friends have for you, or perhaps even that more homeless feel loved and considered this Christmas than at any Christmas in your past. I don’t know, but you do. Create it and own it.
Three: Determine that nothing will stop your creation from transpiring. “Mark, now I know you are a part of a cult! That’s not possible.” Okay, in conventional thinking, yes. But since the holidays are a time for the miraculous, consider the following postulate: I have created that my holidays are painful. Me alone. No one made me do it. I could be the last person on the earth on December 25th. So what? Am I alone? Yes. Does that mean that I have to be lonely? No. What does family really have to do with happiness on Christmas day? Nothing. Now, it’s easy for me to create unhappiness. I’m good at it, and so are you: “Who am I going to share my life with?” “I miss the old days” “I wish my cousins were here” “I wish I had a girlfriend to snuggle with.” I’m creating those stories independent of my circumstances – nothing to do with what’s really happening. Where we get hung up is in the fact that we have been duped into thinking that what has happened or what is creates our upset. Nuh-uh.
Is it true that I don’t have a big family any more? That I miss the old days? Yes. But that is also true for the rest of the year. Why the holiday season? Simple: expectation. Upset is based on simple unrealized expectation. If you lose the expectation (which is solely based on your past,) you can create a future that is nothing like you could have experienced otherwise: miraculous.
Case in point: last Turkey day. I hate Thanksgiving. Boring. Platitudes. Heartless conversations with my family historically. Not this year. This Thanksgiving, for the first time in my adult life, one of the most creative and talented musical families ever assembled actually sang songs in harmony together. In fact, this is the first time in my adult life that we spontaneously did anything together that we all had fun doing – much less having fun doing what we are most gifted at. Incredible! Was it solely because of my “creation” of a Thanksgiving dinner that would be a warm, fun time with a family that is typically cold and trying? Maybe. But even if we hadn’t sung songs, it is compelling to realize that I was going to love being with my family regardless of the outcome.
It’s a powerful way of being! I call it, “living into my future.” Now before you get weird on me, consider this example: you’ve just bought your plane tickets to your Maui vacation in two weeks. Tell me, how do feel at your loser job? Better right? There’s a spring in your step, you smile all the time. Why? Because you’re living into your vacation in two weeks – but you’re living into it now. Are you on vacation? No. Are you assured of going on vacation? No. You could die in the plane crash for all you know! Now, put yourself three days before you have to go home. Oops, you remember that you’re going to have to be at work on Monday. Crap. Now how do you feel? Bad right? Are you still on vacation? Sure. Then why are you feeling lousy in Maui? Because the fact is, we live into our futures every day. It has nothing to do with our circumstances, it only has to do with how we perceive them. So, if you can live into a vacation, why can’t you live into a great time with your family during the holidays? Are you guaranteed to have a great time with them? No. You could die in the plane crash. But boy, what great time you had for the three days before the plane crashed – or your Dad yelled at you after Christmas dinner. And even if he does, or the emotions of your loved one not being there get the best of you, you’ll be in a place to see what’s happening to you. Grieve. Buy more plane tickets. By the way, you can’t go to Maui without taking the initiative and courage to first give up your life the way it is, and buy some tickets.
Thus, this holiday, if my cousins don’t come, or what if they do come and they are jerks, or what if my parents yell at me, it doesn’t change how I choose to view my holidays. My view of the holidays is independent from my holiday circumstances if I’m really interested in being happy. So, I can have the meaningful, fun, loving, warm holidays with my small family, because I chose to throw out the “I d
on’t have what I want, so I can’t be happy” baloney, and I choose to “be” and believe that I’m going to have a great time with my family, period. You could say that I’m “creating” it in my mind before I go. You also may be surprised to find how much of your creation happens in the real world simply by you being and living into the future you’re creating!
Four: Demonstrate that since you have created your holidays to be everything you want them to be, you can create that everyone around you will have great holidays too. We are never truly happy in our lives unless those around us are happy as well. Reach out to those who are experiencing much the same sadness as you are. Be great for them. Help them create a holiday season that they can love regardless of their circumstances. It may mean more than just telling them how to create it as a mental discipline i.e. you may have do something, but it’s critical to understand that if those in your community are sad, being successful in your creation is more difficult.
So, this Christmas, I’m going to have a great holiday. Not because anything different is going to happen – although I know it will – but because of how I choose to see it. What’s more, I’m already looking forward to it. I’ve bought my tickets and the tickets of several other people in my life. It’s my hope that your holidays are the same.
Feel free to drop me a line if you’re not clear about how the power of “creating” your holiday can change a “Scrooge” view of an inevitable holiday into a new view of positive possibility.
Mark Edward Lewis