Every year comes around to a post similar to this because well it IS that time of year when so many of us are consumed with Xmas and the gifts they will buy, and how Xmas will look and really how to get it right.
In fact so long have I been writing similar words that some 10 years ago a Pastor who followed my posts ( I know right) used it as part of his sermon in church that Sunday. I bet he didn't think he was going to get busted by me being in the audience! But thats another story.
Each year as this time comes around I see, within so many clients and friends and family not joy but stress. Stress at its overload.
For many this is a joyous time, but for many more it is a time of sadness. A time where their loneliness is heightened as they look around at all they don't have. Perhaps no family, no home, no money, and for many more, it brings a heightened time for depression and anxiety.
Now the overload at this time of year comes in many guises. It comes as family. Whilst we may all smile on the outside going yayyy family are coming, it can also hold an inner scream of CRAP family are coming and you begin to think where can I hide? That, along with making sure the seating plan doesn't have the two aunties sitting together as they always argue, nor your own mother and brother sitting within any close proximity so that they can't continue the same ridiculous disagreement that has been going on for like 10 years now. It comes also withn our relationships. As limits are exceedde on credit cards or pressure to carry an expected 'image' comes to light and we are all put under enormous strain. NOt to mention the deep lonliness that many suffer.
Yes the stress that is the festive season can way override the joy that others may feel, or fake feel.
Which leads me to presence . The true meaning of xmas. And this year it dawned on me in greater aspects than ever before. But I will start from the beginning.
The very first 'days' leading up to xmas we run around to make sure everything is 'right'. Buying the right gift making the food just right and ordering way more than ever actually required. But it is what looks 'right'. On top of this we make 'right' come into the way we act, making sure we put on the smile, the image the joy so that everyone is going to have a great Xmas.
Now this isnt everyone, there are still many who don't have to perform this way, they're fortunate enough that their lives are joyous, but I guarantee you that within the realms of family, friends and office parties, long vacations, and partners and children, there will be a something that increases the stress levels in all of us beyond our normal capacity.
The closer we get to Xmas, whilst we try all our might to deny its arrival, we have to face facts of the gifts we have to buy. And this here just adds a whole new dimension to the stress that was starting to bubble. This rates as one of THE top stressful times ever, that is a constant yearly stress. (just to make clear, the others are death or divorce or moving or losing a job etc, all of which are one off events, Xmas hits us each and every year).
Now in the gift buying section we have all sorts of stresses. The is it too much stress questions? The is this even what they want stress. The do they have this already, I don't know that much about them stress. The I just have to get a gift to put under the tree to be nice gift. The office secret santa appropriate gift.
So, in amongst this we can truly hit overload and be pushed to the limit of I can't do Xmas.
BUT, if we can step back and gather a new perspective on what Xmas is about, and what we can truly gift then we can gan a whole new meaning for xmas. In this I exchange presents for presence. A time when we can take a stand for a new way forward and make the joy about being more than a gift or getting things right, rather a presence of connection and of love.
I get that some may have choked a little at that line, but it is true and you will find your ability to to sail through Xmas with so much more ease with this exchange!
So I am taking a separate inventory of each.
The family. Bringing presence to family is simple. It is about putting aside the past, and allowing everyone their own space in whatever way they show up. It simply says Listen! Allow family the time, and you just listen. Yes it may be the same story over, yes it may be that they've not moved on, yes it may be awkward information to hear, yes it may be stuff you don't agree with, but as family, we listen, and we simply allow space for each person to have their own presence. And in listening, I am asking for just that. Without reply or rebuttle or arguments or debates, even if our thoughts are very clearly not agreeing, we listen. Just give them space and sit back and watch. Don't step into it. Stay above it. You can deal with how much you disagree later. At this moment, just remember that whatever they have experienced is what brings them to their conclusion. Whilst we may not agree with all they are saying, we haven't had their experiences, and so we can allow them the gift of just listening.
The gifts. The truth is, gifts are getting harder and harder to buy. We have a see it, buy it, lifestyle these days. No one saves for xmas or bday's to gift that special something. So I literally take xmas as presence. Spend the time and money to be together. Whatever it takes to be together and hold that space, then thats what is given. If a gift must be exchanged then I gift them something that is of me. Something that reminds them of me. Something i would like them to have, to me this is a real gift. Giving a piece of you be it time - or things that come from your heart. Not gifts to please.
The relationships. A lot of pressure is placed on our relationships with our partners at Xmas. I know some couples literally batten down the hatches and just wait for the season to be over and come out to see if there's damage. What I say to this is. Begin now. Take time to air the issues that may arise. Be clear on what it is about family or situations that really impacts each other and if possible, avoid them. We don't have to show up to each others every occasion. We don't have to put each other through the agony of our own family. We don't have to please every person so that our own credit is diminished. We don't have to go into a years debt to get through one Xmas. Talk over issues that already exist so that they can be dealt with or avoided. This way you start with knowing and a clean slate for how things will come to pass.
The loneliness. This is so difficult. Xmas can be a very trying time when there is no one. And so in this I say to those of you reading this, take the time to gift somehow some of your presence to someone in need. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, chat and bring some joy. Or put a gift under a tree for those in need. Or donate some essentials to a homeless depot. Find a way in your best way to ease the loneliness of someone else at this time. Heck invite them to dinner and solve all the above problems with family!
Be present. Be the present. You. Your time. Your ability to listen. Your ability to give of you from you. Make it about being together and enjoying each other's company, make it about simplicity and laughter and memories.
It is a tough time so I will end with reminding everyone. That someone is near. That someone can listen. That it takes a call to be heard and for help to be given and that there is always a Xmas spirit to be found.