Your Intentional Holiday Season

I'm sitting at the airport on my way to Destin, Florida to spend Thanksgiving with two of my favorite people, my brother-in-law and his wife.  This year will be different than the last decade for me in many respects. For the first time in 10 years I’m single and living in a new city. In the past it would have caused me a lot of fear.  However, it isn't the past and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to create new traditions with my daughters and live a new day. Something else that appears new, at least to me, via social media, is an overwhelming amount of people sharing their thoughts on how I should act this holiday season. It seems every time I check my facebook, tumblr or twitter account, someone has posted another article or blog post telling me the attitude I’m supposed to have and the choices I’m supposed to make in order to engage the season the ‘right’ way. Don’t shop on Black Friday. Do shop on Black Friday. Don’t shop on Christmas day. Do shop on Christmas day. Affirm the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t spend it with your family. Only spend it with your family. And so on and so forth. Have you seen this abundance of judgement? Am I the only one?

I am all for people having their opinions. I believe in sharing opinions too. That’s obviously what I’m doing right now in this piece. The problem I do have is when people can only see things from one side of a story… theirs. When someone tells us not to shop on Thanksgiving day so as to not pay into the ‘consumerist’ mentality, they may not realize that Thanksgiving day is the only day some hardworking people will have free to actually shop for Christmas presents. When they tell us not to go to a restaurant on Christmas day because no one should be forced to work and be away from their family on that day, they aren’t taking into account the many hardworking people who need that shift in order to make ends meet this month. When someone tells you to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, they actually mean, their belief in the true meaning of Christmas, not necessarily your belief.

I get it. When you’re sharing your opinion, or social sharing someone else’s, you have to use strong language and make anyone who disagrees with you to look somewhat monstrous. Rarely have I found these people who are being condemned to actually be monstrous though. I’m not saying there isn’t some truth, or a lot of truth, in what is being shared. But we don’t need to own the shame that is often attached to the one-sided story being told.

Instead of feeling bad every time you read about how awful your holiday traditions are being made out to be, take a moment to reflect. Sit down with those whom you share your holiday season with and have some conversations about what you collectively think of your traditions. Don’t be afraid to be introspective together and to question what you’ve been doing for the past few years. Don’t be afraid to let go of some traditions that your family (whatever your family looks like) decides maybe doesn’t reflect your values. Don’t be afraid to let go of some traditions simply because you and the people you spend the holidays with simply don’t like the activity, or it’s lost it’s mojo. But also, don’t be afraid to continue on with your traditions just because someone with a popular voice condemns that tradition. Finally, don’t be afraid to make some new choices. Traditions all start somewhere.

So as soon as you’re done reading this and you come across the next shared post about how bad ___________________ is during the holiday season, take it with a grain of salt. The holidays are a perfect time to start being intentional… together. _____________________________________________________________________________ "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." - Steve Jobs

"Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, 'This is the real me,' and when you have found that attitude, follow it." - James Truslow Adams

Turning to People you Trust

I’m about to tell you something that you already know and may already practice.  It is going to be the simplest advice I’ve ever given.  But I’m going to share it anyways.  You can never over estimate the power of reaching out to a friend.  Reach out now to someone you trust.  No matter where you are in life today or what you are up against, reaching out to a friend will add incredible value to your life. Not just anyone mind you.  Someone you trust.  Someone that you’re pretty certain will embrace you regardless of the situation you’re in.  Reach out to that friend that you know isn’t full of trite quotes and pithy clichés.  The one that usually makes your day feel lighter after you’ve talked to them.

You might say, Brad, I don’t really reach out to friends.  I don’t really need them that much and I don’t feel comfortable sharing or being vulnerable.  If that’s the case then it really must suck to be you.  How’s that working for you by the way?

You might say, Brad, I don’t connect with people as easily as you do.  Well, that might be true.  But that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit greatly in the next 5 minutes by reaching out to a friend on the phone, sharing a bit of your heart, and feeling a bit more connected to humanity.  I’ve said it before.  If you can feel a bit more connected to humanity, you can feel a bit more connected to the Divine.  Or whatever it is that you particularly put your trust in for resource and Love

It’s not a secret that when we are accepted and loved by others we tend to feel more gracious with ourselves, with others, and more alive in general.  There is this beautiful thing that happens when we are our authentic selves and we connect with a loved one.  I only have crude letters and words, placed together to form sentences in an attempt to describe this beauty.  But it’s that  overwhelming sense that there is more to life than just our narrow perspective and view.  It’s the recognition of how valuable and precious it is to not be alone and to have the ability to share this journey with others.