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How to Have a Conscious Holiday

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Confession:  I am a sucker for “The Chrismas Carol.” I don’t care what version it is: Muppets, old-school Dickens, kids in 4th grade with homemade costumes. I always want to burst into tears when Scrooge leans out his window and asks the little child outside his window “What day is it!?” And then when he finds out he hasn’t missed it, that it’s still Christmas Day. That he still has the chance to make his life anew, to make holiday magic for Tiny Tim and his community, that he can finally use his power to change the world for the better. Yes, that’s me loudly sobbing in the audience. I live for that moment: That moment of choice. That moment of power. That moment when Scrooge–when we all–realize that we have time, we have power, we have meaning and we can make a difference RIGHT.NOW.

You know what makes me cry so hard about that scene? Yes, Michael Caine is a great actor (okay, I admit it, the Muppets version is my favorite). But what really makes me sob is the fact that we DO all have that power. We can all make that choice. We can all be that holiday magic that changes everything, that touches everyone, that transforms a regular Christmas day into something that changes lives and hearts the whole year long. 

If you desire a ‘conscious Christmas,’ a holiday season that comes regardless of packages tied up with string, consider my tips for how you can create a holiday season with meaning, sans price tags and excess tinsel:

Get outside. Listen, I know we don’t all love the outdoors. Maybe you hate bugs or you don’t like exercise or you just are a ‘housecat’ by choice. But nature is the surest and fastest way to level up your vibrations. Nature is always vibrating at the highest, truest form of energy. It is never decreased by fear or doubt or financial anxiety. The tides keep going in and out each day and evening without stress. The trees continue reaching toward the sky. The wild animals continue living, and loving, and surviving. Against all odds, nature breathes on. No mistakes mar it. No missed acorns leave squirrels wracked with guilt and self-loathing. No death decreases its beauty. Every felled tree, every dying plant makes way for something else to grow and thrive and blossom.

There is something so incredible about being immersed in that energy. It is so freeing to release into the timeless, unchanging wisdom that teaches you that you are just a speck in this beautiful universe and that, all around you, all the time, little miracles are always happening. Little determined sprouts are popping out of the pavement. Little birds are feathering their nests against the brutal winter winds. Determined deer are snuffling through near-barren grass. Mother foxes are snuggling their kits in their burrows. Rose-gold sunrises keep coming every morning. And you, my friend, you are part of it: You’re made of the very same stuff.

 Yes, you really are. Our DNA is 85% identical to that of mice. 82% identical to dogs. 50% with trees. 44% with honey bees. So much of what we are made of can be found in Mother Nature, so much of we are is built into the beautiful ecosystem that takes our breath away if we just pause and take note. No wonder we feel like sh*& if we aren’t outside noticing that. No wonder we feel lost and disconnected if we’re staring at a screen and not a sunset. If you want to feel holiday magic, I am telling you: Turn off “Elf” and go spend time in nature. You are sacred and beautiful and brave, and you have so much inside of you that was destined to change this world.

Stop buyingat least a little bit. If you have a ‘must-buy’ gift on your shopping list for your granddaughter or your son, buy it. But then take a breath. Don’t get caught up in the next big holiday deal or the next must-have item. Instead, think to yourself: What can I do, right now, to show this person how much I dearly love them?

The answer to that question probably won’t be a pair of airpods. But it may be a book of poetry or a work of art, maybe even one you make yourself. It may mean gifting someone with a membership to a museum or planning a family trip instead of dropping thousands on the next must-have gadgets and name-brand clothes. You can give, but do so thoughtfully.

Ask yourself: How can I show up and be the magic I want to feel right now? Stop waiting for holiday magic to land in your lap. You’re the creator of your reality. You’re such a powerful force in your community and in your family and in the universe itself. If you want to spread holiday joy in your community, right now, how can you do it? Really ask yourself this question and ponder it. Meditate about it. Journal about it. See what comes up for you when you examine your own talents and how best your talents can serve the world.

Are you good with your hands and physically fit? Maybe you can put lights up on your elderly neighbor’s roof. Are you a baker?  Maybe you can organize a cookie swap that gets friends together and spreads the joy of home-baked goods.

Are you a planner? Maybe you can organize a Zoom game night with your family all around the world. Are you a nurturer? Maybe you can babysit or dogsit for that harried neighbor who needs a few hours to themselves.

You have gifts that are uniquely yours. They were given to you for a reason. This is the season to let that reason shine.

Let yourself be pissed off. Yep, really. If you’re angry, scared, anxious or downright despairing this holiday season, let that be okay. Honor those emotions. Talk about them with your friends. Share what’s really happening inside of faking like this is the best Christmas ever. Authenticity is the BEST gift you can give to the people in your life. Be honest with the people who love you. Say, “I am really struggling right now,” or “I am scared about what is going to happen next in 2022,” or just “I’m having a hard time.” And then release that into the world without expectation or demands. Maybe your friends won’t have the right words. Maybe your family isn’t ready to hear that you’re not as merry as Santa Claus right now. That’s okay. You still gave an amazing gift, to them and, most importantly, to you. You let your real self show and you did so with bravery and vulnerability. You SHOWED UP. You were present. You were real. And that is so invaluable.

And I get it. I get that you are so mad right now. I am filled with rage and sorrow that my second son isn’t here to decorate my tree with me. He was my partner in crime when it came to making our house a mirthful place with stockings and garland and snowflakes. He’s not here now. He was robbed from me. I can barely breathe when I consider this sometimes. I don’t want to get out of bed sometimes. I want to run from the grocery store when they play holiday songs that were his favorite to sing along with the rude verision of the lyrics. A pit in my belly comes when I see his empty place at the table. 

Bereaved soul-friends: I see you. I feel your pain alongside you. I know this darkness so well that it almost scares me. My familiarity with this pain is beyond anything I ever thought my brain or my heart could take.

But how do I take it? Because I tell my loved ones. I tell you. I talk about it. I say, “THIS FU*&KING SUCKS!” and “HE SHOULD BE HERE RIGHT NOW” and I scream and cry and beat pillows and paint and write poetry and dance and sob.

And I hold myself, my broken, terrified self, in my loving arms and I let it happen. I let the grief rip holes into my heart. Why? Because I know those tattered holes are where he gets in. The cracks are where my light comes in. I know that if I stay with the pain, that if I feel the pain and am honest about it, that if I tend to my wounds the way I would tend to a crying newborn baby, that I can find connection. I can find healing. I can find Sammy. I can even find joy.

I can find magic.

I have realized that if I left myself fully feel the depths of my pain, I am also (later) capable of that much joy as well. 

 And, no, it’s not the holiday magic and joy I ever would have designed for myself. My holiday magic would have been my three boys around my tree. I can’t have that now. I know that. But my grief is the other side of all the love I gave and felt from my whole soul to another being, a being I can’t see or hold any more in person. I had no power over that choice. I had no power to stop death. But I still have the power to use my pain to connect with other people. I have the power to consciously create the Christmas my Sammy would have wished for me to create.

So, for me, now: When I talk about holiday magic, I am talking about how I am consciously, intentionally making choices everyday during the holiday season to be the North Star that led the Magi. How can I be the light that guides people, that comforts people, that shines unconditional love? And how can I do that in a way that also protects my energy and allows me to rest?

How can I be the gift of grace and mercy, not only for others, but for myself? How can I show up and show love, without needing it be to ‘deserved’ or ‘earned,’ especially when it comes to my own broken heart? How can I be the Scrooge, not the Scrooge who counts shillings and berates his workers, but the Scrooge who leans out his window and cries desperately “What day is it!??” 

Holiday magic never came in boxes or bows. It always came from the *pause*, that sacred pause when the whole world stopped, when the Scrooge inside of us stopped and said “I CAN CHANGE, I can change, I can change, it’s not too late!” It’s not too late. It’s not too late. 

I love that moment. Gonzo and Rizzo and Miss Piggy aside. I love that moment. It’s not too late for us. If you’re reading this, it’s not too late. We’re here. We can change. We can make anew. We can be the sprouts coming out of the sidewalk. The brave birds feathering our nests and standing together against every odd. The tide that keeps coming in. The magic that never quits, never abates, never diminishes. 

As Dickens famously wrote: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” 

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