Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Spirit

What is Christmas Spirit and how do we get it?

It’s not like the H1N1 virus, it doesn’t seem to spread at random. As far as my own beliefs go, Christmas is not a “Hallmark holiday”; it’s an important milestone in the Christian calendar, and other religious events (Kwaanza and Channukah for example) also occur around this time of year. Along with the winter solstice, and the general foreboding of more “Canadian” weather, it allows us to slide into more months of cold weather with a clear outlook; a resolve to do better, be better, and live better than the previous year. For me, Christmas spirit is a kind of optimism to believe that bad times can be overcome, a kind of calm blanket that comes over me, when I would rarely describe myself as calm.

I’ve heard a number of friends talking about how, this year, they have had trouble finding ‘the spirit’. What/where/who is this ‘spirit’ and how do we harness him/her/it?
For some it’s the comfort of familiar rituals—card-sending, baking, endless shopping, visiting friends and family, travel, going home. For others it’s about their children, and creating happy memories for them. For some Christmas is a bittersweet time, one where they remember the past, thinking of people who are no longer with them to enjoy this time, and from there run straight into the mysterious gamut of emotions that come into play at this time of year. Regret, reflection, restoration. Nostalgia, wistfulness, refreshment.

For me, it allows me to reflect on the year gone by, the good times, the tougher times, the level of personal growth I’ve endeavoured to achieve; what I want to achieve in the coming year, a where-do-I-want-to-go-from-here? kind of taking stock.

This year seemed to zig and zag in a peculiar, extraordinary way, and I found myself often unable to keep up with the range of emotions I needed to psychologically deal with the situations I was facing.

There were some amazing highs, and also some very sad lows, and it is the contrasts between the happy events (the wedding of a dear friend, re-uniting and ultimately, moving in with, my current boyfriend, another dear friend giving birth to her first child); and the very sad events (the loss of some very special people and the effect of that on me and on those around me, my sister’s closure of a very difficult time, people around me losing jobs and hope). Through the yo-yo up-and-down of it all I tried my best to not allow panic to seep in, because as I've dwelled on before: you are challenged to handle the difficult events in life with character and face them with bravery, but for me, I often like to self-sabotage the good events, fuelling the fire and belief that everything and anything will go wrong if it can.

I reflect on what I’ve Learned: what have I learned this year? That no amount of good behaviour can offset bad events. That it's simply not possible to control fate. That we are making our way through a city, on whatever street/subway line/sidewalk we choose, but we will end up at a destination that has already been planned. I think if ever there was a year that this has been proven to me, this was it. I've always suspected that this was the case, and I think that I have mentioned it in previous postings.

I reflect on what I would like to Change: thinking before reacting, forgiving before writing off, listening more than speaking. Being more tolerant of everyone in my life, and being tolerant of those who aren't. Being less afraid of Change itself. Which sometimes means jumping in with both feet, straight into the puddle, and maybe getting a bit wet.

I reflect on Relationships. Where can I do better? How can I be more understanding, kinder, a better friend, a better listener, what else can I give to those I love to add dimensions to how we connect and interact?

I reflect on what I've Read: what did I read this year that has stayed inside my head? What do I want to read more about? ( I promise another entry that will deal with this very subject).

Perhaps Christmas allows us all to kick off the old year, with all it’s nuances and burdens (real and imagined), and, despite what may have happened throughout , we somehow summon up the strength and sanguinity to really believe in the future, despite the past. At least I do anyway, perhaps in the naïve belief that positive thinking really does work. In some respects, it has to.
So visit people. Open your home to those who haven't been there before.

Renew your spirit.

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