Staying True to Your Values During the Holidays

I was just looking through my Facebook today and realized my feelings were jumping all around. First, I saw several happy messages about acts of kindness and also ones about cuteness—donations, helping others and some sweet pictures or children.

But, there was also some entries with high emotion expressed about religious decorations in community settings. These posts were about anger that some people would foist their beliefs on others by making the others look at these religious icons and scenes in their own communities.

These different entries in Facebook echo the complexities of the holidays. What do the holidays mean to Christians and to people of other faiths? What to do when we see something we don’t like?

The holidays involve peace, giving and light (light in the Northern Hemisphere). I choose to focus on these elements as the meaning of the holidays for my family and let the other things just be what they are.

Underlying all of the aspects of the holidays is an invitation to live your most deeply-held values. To step boldly into a way of being that becomes a reflection of how you want to live and who you want to be in the world. That sounds a bit lofty, perhaps.

What I mean is that during the holidays, we all are given an invitation to be our best selves.

If you value being social, you can invite people over or go to others people’s gatherings.

If you value generosity, you can double down on our donations—take on a family to buy gifts, clothing and food for; give to the local food bank, United Way, individual non-profits whose mission you support.

If you value tolerance, how are you exhibiting that? Are you living that tolerance in how you celebrate? Are you aware of how others might feel if their beliefs aren’t considered? Can you look at other people’s celebrations and decorations with tolerance?

If you value peace and calm, are you being peaceful and calm? Are you angry in traffic at the mall, are you yelling about other drivers (even in your own head)? Are you satisfied with the budget you set for gifts and remember that it’s not all about the amount spent, but the thought behind the gift?

If you are religious how are you incorporating that into your holiday celebrations? What is the true meaning of the holidays for you?

I think it’s important to remember that we are in charge of our own holidays and we can choose to create the ones that we want. If we are in alignment with our own values and live them, then what others do is less of an issue.

So, create light with candles, lights outside and inside and a fireplace, if you’ve got one. Create peace inside of yourself by living your values, and spreading it to your loved ones. This can truly be a magical time if you set your mind to that goal.

Love and light.

P.S. What do you do for the holidays that reflects your deeply held values? Would you share some of those things with me, by commenting?

Holiday Stress — Changing the Experience: Part 2

In the last blog, I talked about how unmet expectations for the holidays are set-ups for being disappointed. Then, there was a suggestion about changing expectations.

One reader asked me, “Why should I have to change my expectations? Why can’t my family be more respectful? Why do they argue about everything?”

These are great questions, and one we all can easily relate to. Why, indeed?

Another way to describe what happens is that we get “triggered”.

What does that actually mean?

When we get triggered, we can immediately respond in the ways that we have repeated many times before. In fact, the animal part of our brain creates the fight or flight response and we are prone to follow it.

It’s like the behavior from someone else can “make” us behave a certain way, with our brain pathways aiding and abetting our reactive behavior. We have then reacted in a familiar way, but not necessarily the way that we want to act.

Continue reading “Holiday Stress — Changing the Experience: Part 2”

Holiday Stress — Changing the Experience

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holidays are in full swing.

Let’s not forget the meaning that Thanksgiving had for our families. It likely had something to do with gratitude—what you are thankful for. The tradition that many families or friend groups have includes each person saying something that they are grateful for.

For many of us, this can be a moment that we quickly forget after Thanksgiving, and go on with our usual lives and ways of being in the world. We can do better!

Remember Thanksgiving Gratitude

This is an invitation to look again at what you are grateful for and to keep it top of mind, now and throughout the holidays (and maybe throughout the coming year!). Brain science has proven that when we think about what we’re grateful for, then our brains start focusing on gratitude rather than stress, judgment or criticism. Yes, we can actually change what our brain is focusing on and that can make us happier. And that’s goodness!

Continue reading “Holiday Stress — Changing the Experience”

The Life-Affirming Beauty of New Perspectives

I recently had the huge honor of spending three days at a small and intimate event with the Irish poet and philosopher, David Whyte. True to the Irish tradition of giving voice to the full range of human emotions in poetry and thought, he brought us more deeply into ourselves. To the place where sadness, longing and loss reside alongside love, joy and hope.

David’s thoughts and poetry reached me in exactly the place that I needed to be reached.

Recently, my beloved son moved out of my home and into the home that he has created with his fiancé. I am thrilled for them and love how they love each other.

But, back home, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my last child has left and is building a life where his “home” is not with me. I have needed to come to terms with the aloneness that this creates, and how I need to reshape my life now. This is my current story and one that I have been trying to avoid thinking about.

Continue reading “The Life-Affirming Beauty of New Perspectives”

3 Secrets to Relationship Happiness after the Birth of a Baby

Some of my friends have asked me, “How can you suggest that the birth of a baby can cause some marital problems? You might have guessed– those friends don’t have children!

I completely agree that having a baby is a joyous thing. I personally adore my children and am joyful every day that they were born and also that they have grown into amazing adults. Continue reading “3 Secrets to Relationship Happiness after the Birth of a Baby”