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Simple Gifts

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“Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free…..” – Joseph Brackett Jr.

This year will mark the first year that I will not be spending Thanksgiving with my immediate family. My father will be in Florida, my brother in Cape Cod and my sister, Debbie, husband and her three boys will be in London. Deb informed me this past summer that she and the boys were going to head to London for the holiday – tying in the gathering as part of a work obligation that her husband had in England. My response to her was, “Why not? It sounds like it will be an adventure!” This news of her travel was obviously before so many lives were recently lost in the Paris ISIS terrorists attacks.

Yesterday was her travel day. She and her husband flew out of Boston to meet her three grown boys in London. Each of her sons had his own, individual trek from various starting points to reach their final meeting destination. I felt unsettled. I texted her, “Safe Travels! I love you!” She texted me back this morning with a picture of her and the boys all safe and sound in London.

I still feel uneasy about them traveling to and from Europe during such an unsettling time in all of our lives. I’m also angry for being, in a way, bullied into a place of disconcert because of the recent terrorists’ attacks (as well as the pending attacks).  I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. We live in a totally different world now than the one that I grew up in as a child. There, I said it – something I never thought I’d say and something totally cliche that my grandparents probably said to me across the dinner table  at one point when I was a child.

Sometimes I want to just escape everything – The technology and all its “apps,” the constant drone of the media and the messages of fear and anger that come with it,  the “material crap” that we feel we MUST have in our lives in order to be happy or express status. I want to live a life that is simple and free, and in many ways, I do – but I could easily cut myself off from so much more.  I actually do not enjoy texting long conversations, but I do it all of the time. I should have called my sister to tell her that I loved her, not texted her. This is how glazed over technology can make our brains. I enjoy Facebook.  I like the way it connects people and I often learn things by virtue of reading an article that someone has shared. However, it’s not the same as connecting with a friend across from a dinner table. Too much of it, just like texting, can be mind numbing and a total drainage our core, deep internal energy.

I hate to continue sound like Debbie Downer, but I’m on a roll  here and it feels good to unload! Let’s talk about the commercialism of the Christmas holiday. It makes me want to barf and I know that I am not alone in this. Yet, despite the commercialism nausea and financial stress that so many families feel this time of year, we continue to buy stuff. We continue to get sucked into the “Black Friday” wheeling and dealing, the Cyber Monday (which is now Sunday), hysteria. It’s literally sucked the “joy energy” out of the holiday. Kids who are are growing up in this noise filled, constant media stimulated, warp speed-paced frenzy will only know the holiday as being about getting the best deals on the most stuff that they can get their hands on. I’m barfing as I write this.

Honestly, I don’t remember the gifts that I received when I was a child. I remember the traditions and just being together.  Shouldn’t we focus our attention and intentions on what REALLY matters in life? We need each other, more than ever now. We need to connect – more than ever! We need to foster the importance of love, listening (I mean REALLY LISTENING), sharing our time together, being absorbed in the moment with one another, laughing and touching. We don’t touch enough anymore. Why is that when most of us are starved of it? I think it’s because we’ve forgotten how to connect, or we we’re afraid of getting too close and feeling vulnerable.  Love and touch are two biggest allies we have in the war against hatred today.  If you are reading this and agreeing with me, but are not sure how to begin connecting, or re-connecting with the people in your life, let me make some suggestions;

  • Get on the floor with your child, niece, nephew or grandchild and play with Lincoln Logs – one of the best gifts that you can give a child in my book. Simply get on the floor and PLAY with them, one-on-one.
  • Tell your family members that you love them. Why is it so hard for people to say this out loud? “I LOVE YOU!”  That’s it – then follow up with a strong, full-on hug.
  • Forgive family members or people your life that have hurt you. Most of us have grown up with some form of dysfunction. Not having family dysfunction actually seems ABNORMAL to me! Forgive and resolve issues. Most of them are a result of major “chips on shoulders.” Is it worth it? Repressing all of that negative feeling energy will make you sick, if it hasn’t already. Let it go. Trust me, you’ll feel a breeze of fresh air rush through your body resulting in a sensation of weightlessness. You can do it.
  • Sit at the dinner table and listen when people talk. Sit back and listen. At the same time, notice when you are talking and what you are doing. Are you rushing to make a point or “one up” someone in a conversation? Linger over conversation at the dinner table. Step outside of the conversation for a few seconds and imagine yourself floating over the table, watching everyone. Take it all in. Take in the comfort of being with others. So many are alone. Be grateful if you are not.
  • Take a hold of someone’s hand and give it a firm loving squeeze. Hand holding is one of the deepest forms of connecting and expressing love. Not a touchy-feely person? It’s probably because you also need more hugs and hand holding. No better time than now to break through the fear and go for it.
  • Cook with your children.  Teach them a family recipe tradition.
  • Go outside and enjoy a hike or walk with a family member, a friend, or as a whole family.
  • Pull names from a piece of paper a bowl and then say something that you appreciate and love about the person who’s name that you hold in your hand. Look them in the eyes as you do so. Is that uncomfortable for you? Stay the course – you CAN connect. Feel what that is like.
  • Remember that some people are alone on holidays and can often feel depressed. Not all of us have family … or even a close friend. Open your door to someone you know that might be in this situation

I’d like to share with you a few excerpts from one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver.  Read it out loud. Share it with friend and family during this holiday period. Be kind , be gentle be loving, open your hearts, open your doors, open your arms and open your mind.

“To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”

3.

“The witchery of living
Is my whole conversation
With you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life – just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
still another.

4.

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
In the door of your comfortable house
With unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
Will you put something in it?

I would like this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.”

5.

We do one thing or another, we stay the same, or we
change.
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

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