The holidays can be a tough time of year – the stark reality of our lives juxtaposed against glossy magazine spreads of sumptuous perfection; TV commercials portraying cheerful, cozy families; Facebook filled with evidence of lively, festive parties. I know this jangle in the heart and mind when visions and expectations are not aligned with what actually is present.
Making peace with the holidays meant giving up the ache in my heart for all the things that would not be: baking Christmas cookies with my wee ones; stockings stuffed and hung on the mantle in support of Santa; a family in matching flannel pajamas unwrapping presents (an icky-sweet vision, I know). Life circumstances being what they were – infertility and divorce – radically altered what was hoped for and what is. For the last number of years I have woken up on Christmas morning in a family of two. My guy is not likely to be persuaded to wear matching flannel pajamas any time soon, not even for me.
The Four Fs: Funds, Family, Food, and Feelings
Funds: It is easy to feel inadequate when looking at our bank account compared to the catalogs filled with things we wish we could buy, believing perhaps, if we had the funds to acquire those items, we’d feel safe, secure, and adequate.
Family: It is easy to feel frustrated when our extended family doesn’t naturally fall into line creating the “warm family feeling” we crave. If only our brother, or in-laws, or crazy Aunt didn’t pull those stunts, say mean things, or cause more than their fair share of the family drama.
Food: It is easy to feel nervous or fearful or reckless about eating too much and breaking our vow to not over eat, over drink, and simply over indulge.
Feelings: When we feel inadequate, frustrated, and fearful, we are focused nearly completely on what is lacking.
The question becomes, how, can we turn our focus to feeling ample, adequate, sufficient, trusting, in other words, “enough?” How can we generate that ever elusive sense of “enough-ness”; the feeling of having and being enough?
4 Strategies of Enough
Gratitude (you saw that one coming, didn’t you?): Gratitude is that feeling we are able to generate when we direct focused attention to all the good things which exist in our lives – and most often, the things which we take for granted: running water, electricity, the Internet. During the holiday season, it means for me, putting away the Pottery Barn catalog; it means turning my focus squarely on the man who is in my life and the fantastic life we are building, instead of mourning all that isn’t.
LovingKindness: The beauty of this strategy rests in the fact that each of us truly do want the same things: to be safe, to be healthy, to be happy. And, yes, you may need to do some major boundary setting with Aunt Zelda, and you can also send her love, in spite of her penchant for drama. LovingKindness opens up our hearts to let our families be adequate and our love be ample and enough.
Savoring: This strategy simply gives us permission to enjoy all the little moments between now and January 1st (and beyond). When we are able to stop and savor white lights and greenery, a delectable cookie, a hand-written note on a holiday card, the glitter of the first snow fall, steam rising on a mug of coffee, all of these small moments strung together, like pearls on a necklace, allow our life to unfold as ample, sufficient, enough.
Self-Compassion: And, just in case we can’t manage the above three strategies with perfection, there is always the lovely practice of self-compassion. This doesn’t mean you let yourself completely off the hook for your “out-of-integrity” actions which don’t match up with your holiday intentions, like eating absolutely the entire Tupperware container of cookies, or responding to Cousin Lucy with equally sneering comments; it simply means you don’t have to spend endless hours beating yourself up – you can make corrections and move on from there.
Yes, you truly are enough.