Way #1: Exuberant planning for perfect holiday celebrations, decorations, gifts AND wrapping, dinners, parties, wardrobe, cards and greetings, concerts, outings, reunions, and family relationships–all with photogenic smiles and all with impeccable outcomes. This is the approach that sells magazines. I don’t know anyone who has ever actually traveled this path. I include it as #1, recognizing that it is more of an archetypal path than a real one.
Way #2: Trying to follow path #1, only to eventually collapse in frustration, tears, anger, exhaustion, or worse. Sometimes, much worse.
Way #3: Giving up the struggle to have perfect holidays and falling into the past, into treasured memories that may or may not reflect actual events. Treasured memories can light our path and bring joy to our celebration. We can anchor our holiday frenzy in happy recollection of our early experience. This might be a step toward holidays that are a “better fit” for us as we recall what has meant most to us. This way has risks, though–not everyone has happy early memories to draw upon, and if we get stuck in “the good old days” we can get stuck in sadness and even bitterness.
Way #4 (and #5 and #6 and #10,000 and #658, 934 and on and on): Sometimes, if we are very lucky, we can open to a moment-by-moment awareness and noticing of the small and wonderful experiences that flow through our days and nights during the holidays. We can choose to watch and listen and wait and receive each moment and its gifts. Small children and very elderly adults are best at this. They practice being available and so they are able to receive whatever comes. While we may no longer be small children, we are all traveling through our lives toward the days when we will again, as we age, have the opportunity to practice being available, being open to what appears moment-by-moment, without having to plan or control what happens. What would it be like to practice being available now? We undoubtedly have responsibilities and we surely desire to do all we can to offer happy holidays to those we love. And, we always have choices. We really can choose to be intentional about our holiday practices, especially the practice of being available. Available to those we love, available to ourselves, available to the Holy One. In so doing, we become available to the world around us at a heart level. We will know sadness and frustration in some moments. We will also know love and joy. Anton Chekhov wrote “We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.”
May we find our way as we approach the holidays and as we travel through our lives all the way home.