Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Holidays Hurt

This can be a lonely season. You may feel emotionally alienated from friends and family. This may be your first Christmas after the death of a loved one. Or your first after a divorce. 

It may be the first without your children, or with a mixed family whom you find challenging.


You may be coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, or poor health. 

You may be suffering financially.

When the holidays hurt, here are some ways of coping:

1. Try letting go of expectations. This is one year of many, and if you allow yourself to accept that it WILL be different, you can open yourself to pleasant surprises. All alone this year? Time to catch up that Netflix show, or discover a new author, or learn the guitar. Didn't get around to sending cards? A New Year's letter may be even better.

2. Be kind to your body so it will be kind to you. Take time to exercise, eat well, get outdoors, and breathe. Rich foods used to be rare and expensive, which is why they became associated with the holidays, but they do us no favors in excess. Salmon chowder and kale salad make delicious "special" foods. (Avoid alcohol altogether if you are feeling down. It's a depressant and will make you feel worse.)

3. Widen your circle. Invite a neighbor over, accept an invitation to a party, attend a local arts event. If you have never volunteered before, it's a powerful way of getting perspective, as there is always someone whose needs are greater than yours, and service is a sure cure for depression.

4. Give yourself permission to say no. If you are stressed by work or family gatherings, it's okay to limit your time at them, or opt out altogether. If unhealthy competition arises (sibling or otherwise), practice grace by benching yourself. Observe, admire (or not), but remain quiet. Don't take the bait! And remember that there you are not alone in your discomfort; it's the stuff comedy shows are built on.

5. Focus on the people you enjoy and who bring out the best in you. Minimize contact with faultfinders, gossips, and other toxic people in your family. Practice being pleasant but brief.

6. If you are feeling broke and/or fed up with consumerism, consider a "three hands" holiday: second-hand, hand-me-down, or handmade. We all have items that would bring more pleasure to someone else than us. Too late for gifts? Give a certificate that can be redeemed for a service, or for time together in the future. 

For loved ones, time together is the most valuable gift. The older we get, the more we know how limited it is.

7. Unplug more often. Turn off the news. For most of us, our active/passive, create/recreate balance could stand some recalibrating. As humans we are all creative beings (even if we never write a song or paint a picture) whose brains, if not solving puzzles or learning new patterns or concepts, can become depressingly dull, even to ourselves. So turn off the news and turn up some inspiring music and make something. 

Wishing you happiness and health now and in the new year. 

Thank you for the gift of your attention. 

Love,
Free


Thursday, December 03, 2015

A Culture of Encounter Not Hatred

Pope Francis called fundamentalism “a disease of all religions” while being interviewed last week on a trip to Africa.

“Fundamentalism is always a tragedy. It is not religious, it lacks God, it is idolatrous,” the pontiff told journalists.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics called on Christian and Muslim “brothers and sisters” to end sectarian conflict.

“Together, we must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” he said.

On the need for inter-religious dialogue, Francis said in a radio interview in September that “in our weaknesses we foster a culture of enmity . . . from the horrors of war to damaging gossip in the workplace, we must work for a culture of encounter.”

How can we foster a culture of encounter in our daily lives? Ideas?