During the Thanksgiving holiday before I left Washington, D.C. for good, I relished my time with family and friends. I honored my contemplative spirit which needed a respite from the fast-paced, high-powered lifestyle of “have-to’s, ” “musts” and “shoulds.” Especially, I enjoyed the Friday morning following Thanksgiving when Dad and I ate our traditional post-holiday breakfast of leftover pie and ice cream.
As I savored a combination of apple-cranberry and cherry garnished with coffee ice cream, I recounted a few disappointments, including our lack of a storybook holiday. Dad, who’d worked in advertising, listened, then said: “Those only happen in movies and commercials.”
Alas, I knew he was correct. And, as a pastor, I’ve witnessed how many people feel sadness and grief in believing that everyone else has a “Hallmark-Card-I’ll Be Home for the Holidays” experience.
The truth is: Few holidays are ideal. And when we pressure ourselves to create such a fantasy, we set ourselves up for disillusionment and distress. Furthermore, the pressure to meet others’ expectations or outshine our neighbors has us saying, doing and buying things which prohibit our contentment and stress our bodies, minds, spirits and bank accounts.
So, no matter whether we’re Type A’s, travelers, homebodies, partiers, contemplatives, or a bit of each, here are some ways to stress less and rejoice more:
- Begin with the end in mind. During our prayer and meditation time, we can consider our schedules and what will most renew our spirits. This includes determining who’s most important to us. A beloved aged relative who affirms our purpose or an ill BFF who needs a boost gets priority over another cocktail party of vacuous conversation.
- When gathered with a mixed group of varying beliefs and opinions, we can strive to listen more and persuade less. Remember: A person convinced against his/her will is of the same opinion still. So, we can choose to gently disengage. When someone, especially a loved one, wants to debate, we can say something such as: “I love you. Let’s agree to disagree on this one.” Then we can change the topic to something neutral, such as shared love of a sports team or our fondness for sweet potatoes.
- If, for whatever reason, we can’t be physically present with loved ones, we can still call or video conference. Schedule a specific time of 20 minutes or more to connect and share.
- Limit the highlight reels on social media so we enjoy ourselves without comparing our holiday to someone else’s.
- Remember: Happiness occurs on a scale. This includes feeling calm, content, peaceful, relaxed and/or rested.
- Remember also: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are days on a calendar. Their true purpose isn’t for overdoing, overeating or overspending, but for celebrating rich harvests, welcoming new life, and setting intentions for greater possibilities. When we maintain this perspective, we often feel more grateful for what we have.
- And, of course, consider eating pie for breakfast.
Happy Thanksgiving, Blessed Readers!
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.