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Season of Giving or Sacrificing?

Welcome to the holiday season! First up, we have Thanksgiving. In America, we picture (on the surface anyway), kicking back with family or friends to watch football and eat food. Lots and lots of food. In all of the ads and social media posts, we see our fellow friends and family members happily smiling and chatting or whole-heartedly shouting at the TV for their favorite team. We see spirit, love, and fun. But, between the dry turkey and Auntie's famous "mystery casserole," we are either loving or dreading the next hour in the day.

How are YOU really feeling about the travel, spending money, and hours on your feet while cooking? Or how about juggling the kids' school activities and time off with little to no structure because, let's face it, who has time to get everything done with a smile on your face and never-ending patience in your heart?

I'm asking again you so that you can hear your own answer: How are you really feeling? If most of us are honest with ourselves, the answer would look something like stressed. I can see it when I'm driving from point A to B in less than 10 minutes on a simple car ride across town. Everyone's in a huge hurry and they don't look (or act) happy about it. Expressionless or irritated faces are mostly what I see when out and about running errands. And when I look in the mirror this time of year, I'm also that person sometimes, too. Are you? The definition of "Thanksgiving," in case you were wondering, is: "the expression of gratitude, especially to God." Reflect on that for a moment.

What makes the sacrifice of your own quality of life for this season be truly worth it? Think of the people who have to be around you. Think of your family, your friends, and your coworkers. Studies on human behavior have consistently shown for years that we are more emotionally raw and less inhibited around people we feel the closest to emotionally. They bear the brunt of your poor mood and stressed demeanor.

OK, so we can acknowledge that this may be the ugly side of the holidays, but it's all worth it, right? Or is it? If we aim to live a life of intention, that might mean taking a moment to check in with ourselves instead of furiously darting from one task to another because of the familial or social expectations placed on you, and well, everyone.

If you want to stop this chain reaction of holiday stress (which we all agree is an oxymoron, right?), I might make a suggestion that sounds more like a blend of Scrooge and the Grinch, yet I do dare because this is my blog, and you need to hear this. We all need to hear this.

My suggestion? Lower your expectations of yourself and others. Before you scoff, let yourself daydream for a moment. If you did this, what's the worst-case scenario? And would getting through the holiday season in one "peace" be your own gift to yourself and those who have to be around you while you are so constantly stretched thin?

Now, let's play a game because that's more what the holidays should be about, right? I'll give you the definition and I want you to guess what the word is:

Definition 1: "providing love or other emotional support; caring."

Definition 2: "give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations."

I'll give you a hint. The two words are "giving" and "sacrifice." Now, which one do you feel that you are embodying the most lately, if you're being honest with yourself? Even better, which one do you feel that you are embodying towards yourself? Sacrifice is good. Giving is good. Too much of either are not healthy. Without intentional, mindful living, too much of either of these are damaging. Could it be possible that your attempts to give have actually caused you to dehumanize, demoralize, or otherwise devalue what your needs are? If you are a well of love and giving, what is filling your bucket to ensure that you can continue to give of abundance, rather than sacrifice?

I'll give you one last definition for your vocabulary lesson today: "burnout". Personally, my favorite definition is one that I learned in graduate school, which is "giving more of personal resources than is being contributed back to you."

My dear reader, be kind to yourself. Give compassion to your admirable qualities and know that you don't have to make up or sacrifice for your not-so-admirable ones. Just live each day with intention. Consider the bigger picture. See how connected we all are and how hard you've been

trying to do your best with what you have.

Consider what is truly important and don't forget to widen your lens at the beginning and end of every day to help you remember to include yourself in the image. When you give from abundance, you give in gratitude for the fact that you can give at all. Give to yourself what you need. Whether it's to trust your instincts, offer forgiveness, or care for your own body. It's all worth the time it takes because others will benefit from your ability to be truly present with them. This is genuine giving in appreciation. This is thanksgiving.

I leave you with two quotes. One to project onto your interactions with others:

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John F. Kennedy

Another to project onto quiet moments you have with yourself:

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not but rejoices for those which he has." -Epictetus

Light and love to you. Take care until next time.

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