Originally published for City of Tenants
Holiday survival guide:
When did the Christmas story become an absurdist play? Did it start with those three wise dudes following a shining star across a sky and Jesus proclaiming that we should give each other gifts for his birthday? Who gives other people gifts on their birthday? There was once an idea of celebrating a return of sunlight around the darkest time of the physical year, in the northern hemisphere, December. I find the holidays around December now are darker than the skies, corrupted by this idea of meaningless giving for the sake of giving that it has taken away from the value of celebrating.
This year I am actively changing my Christmas Story and I invite you join me in returning a meaning to this holiday with these 3 gifts those wise dudes should have brought.
# 1 Let go of perfection.
The holidays shouldn’t require a filter. Perfection is focused on what you think others care about you. Leave the selfie stick and mirror behind. Can you imagine Mary and Joseph with a selfie stick showing off their child smiling in a bucket of grass? What filter do you think they would choose? Hashtag bigbabyjesus. Sadly, 51% of the population will share their selfie on IG and hide behind some filter disguised as normal to achieve a look of ‘perfection.’ A disturbing 90% of all phone photos these days are selfies which accounts for 30% of all photos taken. Jesus is dying on the cross trying to get his selfie so that you don’t have to worry about being perfect.
It’s not enough to only accept your imperfections. Accept that others are imperfect also. Forgive that shit.
This holiday show up feeling less than adequate, less than prepared, out of touch and shape. Stop wasting another min on finding the ‘perfect’ gift for someone special. Be present in the moment with them via phone, FaceTime, or in their presence, and allow that to be your present. Put away the tows and gadgets, the laundry and dishes. Pour yourself a cup of tea (or red wine) and be with that person. You will not be showing up empty handed without a gift. You were present. A gift is a present that no one wants anyway and will probably end up in the trash. Give them you.
# 2 Receive. Simple. Not so simple.
When was the last time you fully received a gift? A gift without any expectations for following up or even saying thank you. Typically when someone gives me a gift I feel compelled to get that person a gift in return. At the very least I feel guilty for not thinking of bringing them the same forethought that they brought to me.
Sometimes I can let it go but often I end up at a store or shopping online anxious about ‘gift giving’ wanting to outdo or one-up the gift we received. It wasn’t enough to simply say ‘Thank You.’ But even that simple phrase can trip me up.
Someone says, Thank you and I can’t let that go either. I feel obligated to say, ‘Thank you’ in return or risk feeling like I’m left holding the hot potato. This childish game of hot potato manors is ridiculous! Is it possible to say ‘You are welcome’ and not feel like I’m left holding the spud?
The game that I’m giving this holiday is practicing to receive. The rules are pretty simple.
Someone gives you a ‘Thank you’ this holiday and into the new year and you simply say, ‘received.’ You get taken out to dinner, someone gives you a gift, gives you the space to fall apart, gives you the ‘hot potato’ . . . mash that guy up add a dab of butter, please pass the salt. Enjoy.
Receiving allows the person who gave you a gift to feel appreciated, acknowledged and respected. This gives back to that person, it gives them the feeling that you valued their time, effort, and thoughtfulness.
Now of course if the gift is shit, toss it, but receive it first, unless it is hate, nobody deserves receiving that guy.
# 3 Serve yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup. You also can’t receive anything if your cup is already full.
The holiday’s are exhausting. Every place is filled with Shiny Happy People from an REM song singing Fa-La-La-La-La. Even the hardware store traded Queens of the Stone Age for Mariah Christmas. Not to mention traveling and returning home wanting vacation from the experience. There seems to be no rest until sometime after the new year when the hangover wears off and it’s 4 o’clock on a Monday back at work. In the time between the first holiday lights and songs to that day back in the office after the madness did you remember to do you?
Take care of yourself first. A massage, a whiskey, a piece of chocolate cake for the inner fat kid? After filling the cup, serving yourself, there will be no expectations on others to fill the cup. And after you have filled your cup you can give to others without expectations or burdens. Giving from a place of fulfillment then becomes a gift of value and compassion. A gift that will be received.
The Christmas Story doesn’t need to be a 3 part absurdest play or circus, but it certainly can if we allow ourselves to be taken away by expectations, guilt, and perfection. This holiday accept yourself and be the exception to the holiday fruitcake.