Happy - New Year

This sentiment isn't really about wishing another person happiness as it is a directive of how we should experience this yearly event. So then the question arises: "Are you happy?" The feeling of "happiness" is hard to hold onto in times of stress - even positive stress. The holiday season is filled with expectations, disrupted schedules, and cultural pressure. For those who celebrate Christmas, we are told we should be generous, happy, and pleasant - at all times. We must meet our normal day to day demands while also writing Christmas cards, decorating, dealing with cold weather, buying gifts (we may not even be able to afford), traveling, having company, and losing sleep. For New Years we should be celebrating and setting life-changing goals for the coming year and fully expect to achieve them. PRESSURE and STRESS abound in the season. There are a lot of "shoulds" to "shoulder. (For example, Tom and I, for the first time in our lives, didn't put up our Christmas tree this year (seasonal expectation) due to busy schedules. There were several times I felt guilty about that. We should put up a tree, right? Can't I organize my life well enough to put up a tree? Everyone else is decorating, so what is wrong with me? What will people think? Are we just lacking enthusiasm? Are we lazy?) Rather than being the high time of joy, holiday season can feel more like a bag of rocks slung over our back as we try to dig ourselves out of a deep hole. THEN, if we don't meet these expectations we begin to pick up more boulders of shame, guilt, and fear. THEN, we get to beat ourselves up, engage in self-sabotage, and become victims. Wow! We are really hard on ourselves.

Actually, I do hope that your holiday season proved to be joyful and relaxing because I know a lot of you who are working on overcoming stress, overwhelm, self-depreciating behaviors, and fears to live a healthier and happier life. But the real world can have its way with us and sometimes it is hard to keep up with it all. So, what I want to say is this: Be gentle. Rest. Let the winter season of hibernation take you into the quieter rhythms of your deepest heart. Let your body and mind replenish, renew, and revitalize itself through rest, warm tea, and more sleep in these darker and colder days. Forgive yourself for any perceived deficiency or fault. Know that you are enough and whatever you did over the holidays, whatever you didn't do, whatever you accomplished, whatever goal you set or resolutions you made and whichever ones you failed to make or keep...its all okay. It is enough. You are enough right now, just as you are. Seasons come and go so you must hold "steady as you go." Make your resolution be one of self-care and acceptance. (For Tom and me, life has continued to go on even though we didn't put up a tree. The world did not end. The Christmas police never came. I realize I had no reason to self-inflicted guilt. We still celebrated the birth of Jesus, the importance of love, and the sacred nature of the work we do and life we share. We can put up a tree next year if we choose but for now we are glad we don't need to take one down! This year we needed more time to rest and be with others. While it is nice to be part of a larger cultural practice it is equally important to remember we can make our own rules and set our own boundaries to care for ourselves and those we love.) Acceptance of ourselves and our choices does not mean we stop striving, trying, or learning. If we accept ourselves now we will be more likely to accept ourselves at each stage, mis-steps and all - and let a little more happiness shine in. That is the adventure of, not only a new year, but a lifetime. HAPPY and HEALTHY New Year to you!

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