Happy yet? Yes, I believe that I am.

Today is Christmas, a day in which much of the western world wishes each other joy. We do this while congregating together for hours on end while eating too much, often drinking too much and sometimes setting unrealistic expectations about gifts, camaraderie and good cheer.

mind unleashed 1It was in the midst of such a Christmas day today, with my second Kentucky Mule in hand, my signature dish boiling over on the stove and a pile of dirty dishes that would daunt a restaurant staff in front of me, that I realized I was happy.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a blinding revelation. I’m generally content, and I understand that I’ve been blessed with too many blessings to count. It was just one of those moments when one realizes that these are the good times. My family is here and healthy. A new boyfriend, included today as a first time guest, is not only pleasant, but he’s a great cook. Our problems are tiny, our love is big, and all the little hassles of the day are just that. They don’t matter.

sungazing6It’s true that drama makes for a more memorable holiday.  We all remember the Christmas when Aunt Dorothy …. Whether we laugh or still wince about that memory is up to us. Today left us with little to remark upon in later years, because great food and kind remarks don’t make huge inroads into your recollections. They just describe a day that goes well.

The happy realization came when it occurred to me that someday, maybe in the far future, when I am searching my memories for the times that were really good, this will be one of them.

Three years ago I wrote a blog post called Happy Now? I started with this:

When I was in grade school, they told me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wrote down happy.
They told me I didn’t understand the assignment,
I told them they didn’t understand life.
—  author unknown

(Voted #6 in the list of best happiness quotes ever over at The Board of Wisdom. Check them out here)

I still think it is a great quote, and I’m inclined to agree with the author. And you know what? I’m all grown up now and it looks like today, I got to be want I wanted.

 

Read my original post Happy Now? written after the 2012 holidays.

Comfort and Joy

Thanks Hippie Peace Freaks

Thanks Hippie Peace Freaks

A big part of the holidays is about being joyful. Food, drink, decorations and presents are all designed to make children and grownups squeal with delight. We want those that we care about to be happy, and many of us will spend more money and time than we should trying to make that so.

Somewhere along the way, life offers up the lesson that there is no way to make someone else happy. You can make them more comfortable, or maybe make them smile for a minute. But no amount of gifts or favorite foods can make a sick child well, a grieving parent joyful, or a worried spouse content. You cannot cure the ennui in another soul, no matter how much you want to do so.

Thanks Sungazing

Thanks Sungazing

You also cannot make people behave thoughtfully. You simply can’t force them to get along, much less to like each other, if they don’t want to, no matter what day of the year it is. At best you can try to model patience and tolerance, and probably manage to keep from making an inflamed situation even worse. At worst, you get to learn the hard way that chastising family or guests for acting like children is a notoriously unsuccessful way to bring on the holiday cheer.

What can you do? I like the twin holiday concepts of comfort and joy. Offer comfort widely, liberally, and with lots of love. It won’t make everybody happy, of course. But it will make everybody more comfortable, and that may well lead to more joy. Just do what you can.

fireworks croppedAs to joy, let yourself feel it. You don’t do a single other soul any sort of favor by suffering along with them. Misery really does not like company. Rather, we are all a little contagious. If you are filled with happiness, you encourage others to allow themselves to find cheer within their own hearts. Embracing the joy inside yourself is the best gift you can give, both to yourself and to others.

Holiday stress? Celebrate in your own way

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click to visit The Dalai Lama on Facebook

I recently was part of a group who was asked to explain what about the holidays makes them so stressful. Others responded with very reasonable answers. Holidays bring back memories of those they miss. Holidays push them to spend money they don’t have, or take in calories they don’t need. I can identify with all of these, of course, as can most. But what popped into my mind first was that holidays push me to celebrate in ways I don’t particularly enjoy.

Odd. I am a grown woman and nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do, at least not these days. Yet I feel pushed to honor traditions that don’t resonate with me. I don’t particularly like turkey, but will make one because some of the family cannot image Thanksgiving without this traditional dish. I will put up a tree because all three grown children will be home and how can we not have a Christmas tree. I will buy presents because everyone gets presents for Christmas, even though as a family we have all that we need, and so much of what we want, that we have trouble coming up with gift ideas.

Click to visit SpiritualShit on Facebook

Click to visit SpiritualShit on Facebook

Don’t misunderstand. There are holiday traditions at my house that I do love. We will have fresh artichokes and lobster for both feasts. We will each pick a game to play and hand out our presents after the family has humored us and played our game. That means I get to play ping pong AND eat lobster in the same day. I like my twinkly lights lining the porch, even while I find other decorations annoying. My expressions of Christmas spirit may have shrunk down to a short list over the years, but I don’t begrudge those few things I do love the time and energy that they require.

Click to visit Hippie Peace Freaks

Click to visit Hippie Peace Freaks

So how can I make the holidays more my own? No cards again. Ran out of oomph on those about four years ago when I started to write novels, and I don’t think a soul out there minds. Okay, I’ll do a small turkey. And a little tree. Some simple presents that are usable.

Why should I bother? Because the holidays are a time for love and I want all of my family to have some of what is special to them also. I’ll try to find that middle ground. I’ll try to learn which traditions, if any, the rest of family is every bit as happy as I am to forgo. I’ll try to fill the season with things that bring me joy. I’ll try to be cheerful about the compromises I choose to make, remembering that smiles on the faces of the people that I care about are one the greatest joys of the season.