As I was considering what to write about at the beginning of this New Year, I was going to write about reflecting on our accomplishments. I realized I had already written about that so I thought about how we see the New Year as an opportunity for change and decided to go with that. We often think that we need to make drastic changes that require tremendous effort. I want to challenge that thinking with the idea of making small changes over time to transform our lives.
This time of the year always seems to fly by at breakneck speed! There is much to do with all of the shopping, gift-wrapping, baking, Christmas cards, decorating, concerts, performances, recitals, parties, get-togethers at work or with friends and family, etc. The list seems endless and the time seems much too short to get it all done. I hate to add one more thing to your list but here goes. What about finding some time to try something new or to do something you have never done before?
I am sure you are thinking, “That’s all I need! One more thing to add to my already long list! Is she crazy? I don’t have time for that!” Hear me out. We tend to get “wrapped up” in all of the activity and expectations during the holidays. We work hard to keep family traditions alive. I love family traditions, too, but what about creating a new tradition, one of doing something different, trying something new, having a new experience? Let me give you some ideas.
There is a tradition in my family of cooking a 7 layer casserole on Christmas Eve and eating it when we return from church. We like this tradition. We follow dinner with another tradition that I grew up with and that is opening one gift. We do this while listening to Christmas music and with all of the Christmas decorations out and all of the Christmas lights on to make it more festive. Then we take a family photo by the Christmas tree. After this is when we get a little creative. When my son was little, we read Christmas stories before he went to bed. As he has grown older, we have adapted. We sometimes play a board game, or we play a game of pool, or we watch a Christmas movie. Sometimes we get out old family movies and watch them so our son can see either memories of his childhood or of ours. He gets to see his parents and grandparents much younger and makes a connection to his family and how much he is loved. He likes this time as both of his grandfathers died when he was young and he gets to see them and hear them, again. It is a nice time for us to connect as a family. We choose different movies every year or may choose different board games, but we take the time to enjoy one another as a family.
Another tradition we have carried over from my childhood is baking cookies and taking them to the neighbors. My son helps me to roll out sugar cookie dough, cut out cookies, add sprinkles or frost and then add sprinkles. He also helps me to roll peanut butter cookie dough into balls and to “smoosh” Hershey’s kisses into them when they come out of the oven. He also is the delivery elf and takes the plates of cookies to our neighbors. There is much room for creativity in baking and decorating cookies. I make some of the same ones every year, but also change it up a little bit by adding something different. This year, I am considering trying a new recipe or making something I haven’t made for many years. I don’t think I have made a peppermint roll since my Dad died nearly 10 years ago so that may be the winner.
I hope you are getting the idea I am trying to convey. Keep your traditions, enjoy them, cherish them. And consider doing something different or starting a new tradition. Maybe go out to a movie as a family, try a new recipe, eat at a restaurant you have never tried, try a family activity you have never done before like ice skating or building a snowman (if the weather is conducive to it).
Here’s an idea. Try something new that doesn’t have anything to do with the holiday season! I attended a creativity workshop last weekend and painted. It was fun to do something creative with a group of other women. I also did something interesting that I have thought of doing for ages. I had a reading done with a psychic/medium. It’s not for everybody, but it was new experience and I am glad I did it. An acquaintance invited me to attend a service at her synagogue. I have never been in a synagogue and am looking forward to a new and different experience during the holidays.
Is there something you have wanted to learn, a class you have wanted to take, something you have wanted to experience but haven’t done it, yet? What about ending the year by trying something new or different? It doesn’t have to be on your bucket list to be a fun experience. It can be anything! Get creative in your brainstorming. Take a time out from the holiday rush. Give yourself something to look forward to. It will stretch your brain and will give you some untapped energy to keep up with the high speed of the holidays. Experience something new this holiday season.
As I was pondering what to write about for this month’s blog, I thought about all of the negativity and conflict surrounding the election, all of the horrible acts of violence we see on the news, in movies and video games and all of the unspoken violence that occurs behind closed doors. I also thought about all of the conflict that arises when families get together for what is supposed to be enjoyable family time during the holidays and I thought of peace. How can we find and maintain peace during stressful times or when we are inundated with violent images, words and behaviors?
The first thing I thought of was shutting off all electronic gadgets that bombard our senses with so much violence. Our brains need a break from all of the negativity and violence. We have become so accustomed to seeing and hearing it that we have become desensitized to it. We don’t realize how much those images have been absorbed into our psyche and affect how we feel and how we respond to the world. We have become less compassionate toward ourselves and others. We have learned to shut down our feelings because if we allowed ourselves to feel the pain we witness through the media every day, we would have difficulty functioning. We may find ourselves in tears curled up in a ball with blankets over our heads, withdrawing from the world. Although we may not go to this extreme, there are many ways that we withdraw. How about those electronic gadgets that everybody carries with them, constantly looking at them and answering every little beep, buzzer, whistle or musical tone? Don’t we use them as an escape from the violence and pain? We may use them to escape, but do we find the peace we are seeking when we are scrolling through emails, social media feeds and watching YouTube videos?
The next thing I thought of was the beautiful fall weather, the crisp air, the golds, reds, purples and oranges of the leaves as they turn and let go of the branches to which they have been bound. We enjoyed a day trip to Indian Cave State Park yesterday. Although we missed the height of the fall colors, it was still relaxing to get out in the fresh air and see the natural beauty that we forget exists when we are cooped up indoors with all of our indoor comforts and distractions. The crunching leaves underfoot as we hiked up a steep trail, the smell of campfires, watching the squirrels scurry around collecting acorns and nuts for winter, the birds flying overhead, woodpeckers looking for food in dead trees, the river current carrying fallen leaves downstream, and the absence of traffic noise brought a sense of peacefulness and calm to my family. My son commented, “We need to do this more often!” He is a “millennial” and is accustomed to being on electronic gadgets, but out there, he got a break. There is no Wi-Fi and the cellular connections are limited. Disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature can offer a sense of peace.
The last thing I will address is taking time for yourself, to have fun, to have quiet time doing something you enjoy, to get lost in something creative. In other words, slow everything down, stop doing so much and just “be” in the moment. I had a professor, Kent Estes, who once said to me, “Kolleen, you are a human being, not a human doing.” I have remembered this and have used it often as a reminder to myself and to my clients. We are bombarded with so much information every second of every day that our senses have become overloaded. In order to find peace, we need to take a step back from everything, take a look inside ourselves to check in and get in touch with who we really are, breathe deeply and remind ourselves that “all is well.”
As we prepare to go to the polls next week and we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, take time to relax and connect with your inner peace. If you haven’t tried meditation, this may be a good time to try it out, even if it is just for three to five minutes a day. Unplug, literally, from all of the negative images and commentary that steal your peace of mind and spirit. As one of my childhood favorite church songs says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”