"Let not your heart be troubled". If you are starting to feel the pressure of the holidays, read on. I've always found that to be such an odd phrase,though...."the pressure of the holidays". Holidays are supposed to be fun, aren't they? Parties! Visitors! Family and friends! Presents! Presents! PRESENTS! Oh wait, no pressure there, right? Take a deep breath...
In spite of myself I still feel the occasional panic when I think of the holidays. And now that I'm on my own, money is the potential panic button here. I've learned in years past the value of paring down the excesses in my life, but that came after I learned some lessons and saw my own desperate need to fill my life with "stuff". There was a time when I never had to think of money. It was just there. I didn't even need to keep track of spending in my checking account. Money was just always there. I became a little irresponsible in this area. While never becoming a total spendthrift, I just had the assurance that no matter what was needed, no matter the holiday, I could go and shop! There were the necessities the holidays bring, (especially if you host a party, and we did, oh how we did!), but I always felt they were in reason and necessary....but still done with a sense of obligation, with a need "keep up" with what our friends were doing, and I saw our Christmases grow grander and grander in scale each year because of it. *And as a little side note here, as my marriage began it's slow decline, the "stuff" under the tree got to be more and more...a bandaid on my bleeding soul, really* The year I saw just how much was under the tree, and we're talking no leg room was to be found in our living room, the "stuff" came out that far from under the tree, I just stood there that Christmas Eve in 2009 and felt a definite twinge of "Oh God, what have we done....and why"? That was the year I started to reassess my life, and come January I began the paring down phase. That February was when I became suddenly on my own....so, good timing, I'd say!
If truth be known, your loved ones simply want your time. They want your love. They want your hugs and kisses. Simple, really. They want the gift of you. But let me say here, there is nothing wrong with gifts, I love to get a present, who doesn't? But I would urge the exploration of why we buy presents. Many times in this current culture of ours, bombarded with commercial ads telling us about everything we need, making us feel like we're not complete without the newest whiz bang gizmo, I would suggest to stop and consider if the gift is from your heart. Is it bought with intention and forethought? Did you take the time to consider the value and meaning behind the gift? So many times we buy out of boredom, or our own unhappiness with our life. Same goes for overeating. There is a disconnect that happens when we seek validation and worth through money, food, and excitement. Is it true joy behind the things we do, or just a bandaid for our discontent?
Here's some of the things I have found as wonderful substitutes for the need to buy "stuff". Do you have a passion for creating art or crafts? Do you love baking? Are you a fabulous cook? What are your talents, and who would benefit from the gift of your time in sharing these talents with friends and family, who would truly be touched by the simple gift of you? I would much rather spend money on ingredients and supplies to create a gift for someone instead of buying a gift out at a store. That's just me, and if you feel someone would love a special gift from a department store, then by all means, buy it, give it with love and watch their faces glow. It's all good. I simply feel that we sometimes tend to buy out of obligation, or guilt, or because, well, it's expected! This is where the stress comes, I think. Expectations. Theirs, ours, and society. Maybe we can take a second look at the lists we make? Is it possible to look over your list and check it twice? Not supplying all the gifts you have supplied before may rankle some folks, but they'll get over it if you explain you are focusing on the deeper meaning of Christmas....whatever that means to you. I think an evening spent with family or friends at home is a wonderful gift. Set the mood, light candles (something I must have in my home and what I buy with complete abandon....it's the lovely light they cast, the calming atmosphere they create....so, it's about choice and what's meaningful to you). Play some music, create an evening of joy, simplicity, show love for your friends buy preparing simple food, play some games, laugh....lighten up, let people know the gift of your time and your home allows them a place where they can come and just be themselves. No pressure. An evening like that will be long remembered, trust me. Another thing we love to do is sponsor a family. I like to set aside a certain amount of money and show my children the value of reaching out to others less fortunate. The first purchases we make in December go for other folks, and it's a very fun afternoon spent collecting items together that we know will be used and enjoyed. The greatest joy comes from giving and blessing others. There are small ways to contribute if you are unable to buy for a family. Look into contributing to a fund, or supplying small items. It all adds up. I am always greatly moved when there is a story on the news of people banding together to help someone else. In great and small ways, there is always an opportunity to share your love and compassion.
When an atmosphere of abundance gets rolling....the abundance that comes from your heart....you are setting the stage for even more abundance to come flowing into your life. When we realize we are here to give, to bless, and to serve, everything that supports that kind of giving will appear.....and that kind of gifting will long surpass the fleeting excitement of ripping open a box wrapped in pretty paper. But again, and please know I am not against store bought gifts, it's the intention behind the giving that I am concerned with. There can be great joy and satisfaction in wrapping a present! It's a pleasurable experience to spend an evening wrapping gifts. Choosing the paper, the ribbon, making something look beautiful. It's all good. I just like to reexamine, for my own life, the point and purpose behind the things I do at the holidays. Maybe you will too, maybe you'll find a way to take the stress off yourself, to reset your priorities, or maybe you'll find a whole new way to give from your heart and home.
However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a blessed December! Take a deep breath and let your heart be light. Hold those you love close to you. In opening yourself to the greater possibilities there are for giving, you'll find that your best "gift guide" comes from a calmer and more meaningful place. And that's true joy...
Until next time....blessings upon you heart