As we move further into December and the season gets busier, I hope you are saving time for yourself. Sundays always seem like a good day to do that. Reserve some special time for you.
I got a call from one of my sisters-in-love, my husband’s sister, Mary. Hearing that I’m not the only one struggling made a big difference. Knowing that other women resonated with my battle to get into the holiday mood, albeit for very different reasons, somehow allowed me to release the hold it had on me.
Here are some of the things I heard that are keeping others from fully enjoying this time of year:
“Our children grow up—they move away—they make choices that would not be what we’d choose for them—family relationships become strained—and traditions are broken.
“Spouses get sick—caregiving drains us—the decorations are stored in a place we can’t get them ourselves—we could ask for help to get them down but the sheer idea of decorating is daunting—maybe next year will be better.
“Relocations are difficult enough when we don’t know anyone in our new neighborhood—celebrating just doesn’t feel the same—we find ourselves wishing the days would just fly by—staying home alone feels like the best thing right now.
We’re not alone—we’re never alone—we just need to reach out for the comfort that comes from others’ understanding who we are and how we feel.
Some of us may shift our feelings before the holidays are done, and some may not. What I know for sure is, whatever we feel like doing is okay. We get to decide. We get to take care of ourselves in the best way we know how right now.
If other people don’t understand, that’s on them. We don’t even have to explain ourselves, unless we want to. If you’re feeling like you need to explain, I encourage you to be honest and stand your ground—getting coerced into something you don’t want to do will just make you feel worse. Ask for understanding.
The Reason for the Season
As I continue to struggle to get into the spirit myself, I keep wondering what, if anything, might tip me over the edge. I actually do want to change how I’m feeling. Just so you know, I still have not decorated the house. That’s so not me!
And, something Mary said struck a chord: “I need to remember the Reason for the Season.”
Yes. It’s not about me. It’s not about Mary. It’s not about any of us. It’s about the Spirit within us. This Spirit is in all of us. It may be hidden under our own malaise right now. When we choose to look beneath it, we’ll rediscover what’s there. And when we share our Spirit, everyone around us benefits.
This Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Tolerance, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. It’s Happiness and Gratitude. Empathy and Compassion, too.
I believe sharing these are the Reason for the Season. Which means stepping outside of ourselves for a time and walking in this Spirit.
In that spirit, I came up with some ideas that might help my spirit-struggling sisters to find a different way to get into the spirit of the season.
12 Ways to Walk in the Spirit
Since there are 12 Days of Christmas, I came up with 12 ways to walk in the Spirit. If you come up with more, please share your ideas with me and I’ll expand this list!
1. Volunteering Your Time—Have you ever “felt the gift” of giving time to someone in need? You feel it in your heart. Helping others makes my heart feel really good. Do you have a passion for helping the elderly, the homeless, our veterans, children, a food bank, a shelter? Pick a passion and do something for them that you’ve never done before. Set your intention, put a date on your calendar and keep that date. The Joy you will bring can’t be measured.
2. Sharing Stories with Children—Whose heart isn’t affected by seeing the Happiness on small human faces? What if you offered your time at the local library to read to children? Holiday stories can create wonderful discussions about what’s important at this time of year. And hearing it from a small person’s perspective can open your eyes, too.
3. Random Acts of Kindness—This could take so many forms. Paying for the order of the person behind you in the drive-through line. Having prepared boxes or bags in your car, filled with nutritious treats and a bottle of water, to hand to anyone standing on a corner looking for a kind gesture. What other ideas have you done that you can share with us?
4. Gifts of Your Baking or Cooking—I don’t know of anyone who would not appreciate good food given with Love and Gratitude. Children at hospitals. First responders at police stations and firehouses. 911 operators. Who else can you think of?
5. Charitable Donations—Especially at this time of year, those not-for-profit organizations who support the less fortunate can use money or food or clothing. In the Phoenix area, my favorites are OCJ Kids, ValleyLife, A New Leaf and Fresh Start for Women. Don’t forget to check with your accountant about the tax advantages offered for charitable donations of cash.
6. Adopt a Family for the Holiday—Many local schools are aware of families who struggle to give their children a special holiday. Offer to adopt one of them (or more if you are able), get a list of the sizes for each member of the family and a list of necessities. Have a wonderful time shopping and wrapping to brighten someone else’s holiday. From the Goodness of your Heart.
7. Recruit other Families and Adopt a Nursing Home—So often our older generation are living in nursing homes and are without their own families. Recruit neighbors and friends and choose a local elder-care facility to support. Learn their needs and likes so you can bring homemade goodies, toiletries, shawls, and lap blankets. Create a holiday party atmosphere when you deliver your donations. Watch the smiles. Feel the Love.
8. Bless our Military with Your Wishes—Contact a local military base, the VFW or American Legion to obtain a list of their military men and women who cannot be home for the holidays. Write cards. Send goodies. Let them know you have not forgotten them and you are grateful for their service.
9. Host a Holiday Dinner for Widows & Widowers—Many of our local churches have grief counseling groups for their congregation who have lost a spouse. This is an especially hard time for them as they recognize that old traditions passed on with their loved one. Bringing them together in the Spirit of the Season may help them to know they are not alone, and they are understood. Ask your neighbors and friends to help you host a lovely dinner and share your compassion. Invite those guests who are able to share a favorite memory about the holidays with their loved one, so others can feel the joy too.
10. Smile For a Day—How many times has someone you don’t know smiled and given you a nod hello? How did it make you feel? I’ve come to realize that we never really know someone else’s story by just looking at them. We can’t tell if they are happy, sad, well-off, or destitute. Walk in the Spirit of Tolerance. Set an intention to withhold all judgment of others for a day, smile at everyone you meet and nod, or say hello. Wish them a blessed holiday season. From your heart to theirs.
11. Clear Your Closet Clutter—One woman’s trash is another’s treasure. What’s in your closet? Do you love it? Does it bring you Joy? If not, perhaps it is something that would bring Joy to someone else. Consider donating it to a local shelter. Did you know that Fresh Start for Women has a boutique and allows their members to “shop” for free on certain days? And, on the other days, the items for sale are immensely affordable. Hope’s Closet is another option. There are so many in each community. One just has to look.
12. Books Bring Blessings—Do you love to read? Do you get absorbed in the stories that take you away to another place and another time? You could bring that same blessing to others. If your bookshelf looks anything like mine, there are many books that you’ve read and are not likely to read again. They are collecting dust and taking up space. What if you shared those blessings with others? Donate to a used bookstore. A library. A shelter. A church.
As I’m compiling these ideas and thinking about each one, I’m feeling so much better just knowing there are so many options to share a little bit of me this season. I’ll step out of myself. Leave my struggle of spirit behind. I’m choosing to Walk in the Spirit of Sharing Me in some ways this holiday season so I can help others to feel the Spirit. So what if my home is not decorated as usual. So what. If I can make another person feel better, I will have done something great.