LIVE it, Love it
Surviving the holidays with your spirit not only intact, but revitalized
Sooner or later, during the holiday season we ask ourselves, Why are we doing all of this? What does it mean? Does something need to change? Why do I not feel the passion and excitement I used to feel?
Around this time of year you may start asking yourself, does it really matter whether I use the silver or the stainless steel cutlery? Will the world really end if I set out the same linens for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Am I becoming apathetic about these sacred, traditional rituals?
Somewhere along the line, some of those long-held family rituals may have metamorphosed from being vital and generative to stale, empty and suffocating. It just takes one event, one moment, one breath, and all of a sudden you realize, “I don’t think I am having fun anymore.” You simply don’t have the energy to participate anymore in rituals that have become empty and meaningless.
It’s time to rekindle your passion.
Anything can trigger this dilemma: an affair, divorce, death, loss. Or maybe nothing specific triggers it at all. You feel like you are more than somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, an extension of somebody else. The time has finally come when you want to be fully present and authentic. At this time in our lives, we feel like we have followed many paths, but what is our true path?
Now is the time for you to get back to yourself—free yourself of the mundane details and the dull rituals. Breathe. Release. Grant your mind, body and spirit the power to right themselves, for there is great energy in equilibrium. Give life to new rituals and see how they in turn revitalize your spirit. You’ve earned the right to only do what you can do.
ONLY DO WHAT YOU CAN DO
That’s what a friend advised me last year around this time
when I was going through a difficult situation and it was the most liberating
experience of my life. I stopped worrying about cornbread dressing and
Christmas trees out of Southern Living
and allowed my daughters to take the initiative.Releasing yourself from some
of the responsibilities of the holidays liberates you and more often than not,
frees your family as well. I felt that if I didn’t make the traditional meal
that the holidays simply wouldn’t go on, that my family would suffer. The year
that I thought to discuss and share the responsibilities instead of doing it
all myself, our holidays, for the first time in a long time, became a true
family affair. The holiday season was filled with newness, excitement,
laughter, and tenderness. We developed a
new intimacy within our family. My
daughters loved the fact that they had input and you know what else? They didn’t really enjoy the “traditional”
“Mom,” they said to me, “we were so relieved when you asked us to create the celebration; we really had begun to resent the boring repetition every year.”
All the stale ritual that I had perpetuated for their sakes they had only pretended to enjoy for mine. How freeing to know that only doing what I could do wasn’t just okay, it was better.
The Christmas tree still had to be my project—I couldn’t give up all my duties because I still had to participate in the holiday experience in some way. I knew we had to have a tree—it is a symbol of life and I needed that symbol to help me persevere. It couldn’t be our traditional tree, covered with lights, ornaments, ribbons, and garland. I decided to have a very simple, small tree, not only symbolizing life, but also our family’s return to the roots of what true rituals are. Remembering who we are, what we came from, where we are going, and the choices we can create for our future.
I decorated our little tree with mementos and treasures from my meditation room, symbols of relationships, and remembrances of love in my life. My daughter’s baby ID bracelet went up, as well as the collar from my late dog who was my support system for a very long time, a photo of an AIDS patient who died in my arms, and a family vacation picture from the girls’ childhood. The tree made me aware of the important things in my life. It made me mindful of the power experienced through love and community. It was the meaningful symbol of life that I needed.
I had never thought of the holidays as a gift for me, only for everybody else. When I decided to change our focus for the holidays and I asked my family to forgo exchanging material gifts and instead give only presents that really meant something.
I wanted to shift from materialism, to something meaningful and intentional, so I gave each member of my family some paper and a length of satin ribbon. I asked my daughters and my husband to write what gift the other family members were to them, how and why. We placed these scrolls under our tree and then opened them one by one, feeling the gratitude we have for one another. As we hugged and cried and laughed, we very literally were embracing our gifts.
RENEW THE RITUAL
Ritual is the soul of the celebration of the holidays but for a lot of us, we begin to lose the power of awareness that should accompany our rituals—when they become habit, they dull our senses and become life-draining. Ritual is about tradition, but it is much more than tradition. We can revitalize our holiday rituals and renew their spirit by respecting the traditions of our past while making them more relevant to our present and our future. Ritual should invite us to understand it as something alive, tangible, and organic. It should breathe life into our experiences. Ritual should not be stagnant because life is not stagnant!
Rituals must change in perspective each year because we are different and new each year; we have accumulated an entire year of life’s experiences—sufferings and joys, losses and gains. Renewal is the intention of the holidays. In trying to exactly replicate a ritual each year it is robbed of the immense power of the creativity that gave it life in the first place.
Traditionally, women have been the ritual-makers—the makers of meals, dressers of children, buyers of gifts, and decorators of the home—enforcers of those things that we believe sacred and essential in our lives. We can foster the sanctity of our traditional rituals by maintaining their structure, while enhancing them with new ingredients to transform the experience into something unbroken, but fresh.
The holidays give us the opportunity to experience ritual as renewal. They can invite us into an adventure instead of a sentence. In allowing my daughters to plan the holiday meal, and having a different kind of tree, I was liberated from the drudgery and the daily grind that had followed me through to the holiday season; I was free to open myself to a totally different experience. That new experience opened a door to the New Year that I walked right through with my head held high and with a renewed spirit of life bubbling inside of me.
BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO OLD RITUALS
Create new rituals by enhancing your existing ones. Invigorate your rituals with changes in colors, food, music, locations, linens, flowers and people. You may be celebrating the same holiday year after year, but you can shift the emphasis each year. Vary your focus—this year concentrate on serving people in the community; for 2019, work on developing the virtue of compassion and in 2020, explore the beauty of nature.
Always celebrate life, and celebrate it with passion.
To augment, enrich and enhance an old tradition, invite children into the ritual; they bring an unimaginable freshness and newness to your holidays. Use your holidays as a time of transition. Think of your holidays and rituals in terms of this blessing, “We are grounded in the past; we celebrate the gifts of the present, and anticipate the promise of the future.”