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The Urgency of the Holidays

After yesterday’s rant and becoming keenly attuned to everyone else’s demeanor and attitude around me today, I began to wonder if the mayhem that the holidays bring do more harm than good.  As I was waiting in line at the post office to mail gifts I watched everyone as they scrambled to hurry up and wait, get things packaged up and sent off completely stressed out and on tenterhooks.  There was a young couple loading up wrapped gifts into a box and taping it up to beat the looming deadline.  The guy looked out of place and resigned as the girl took charge of the task at hand in the ‘proper’ way.  He asked her a question and she snapped at him, whipped out her checkbook to pay for the delivery charge and rolled her eyes, the guy looking helpless like he wanted to dig a hole into the ground.  Ah, the holiday spirit.  Is the irony of this picture lost on anyone? 

I am not in any way judging this couple because I think we all are participants (or victims) of the season.  I stood in line annoyed, resentful and hurried and found myself also getting snippy with the woman behind the counter because of what I perceived to be her incompetence and glacial speed. Or maybe I was just projecting onto her all of the stress and resentment I was feeling around the holidays.  It is an intense time; we live in a stress-saturated society as it is.  Many of us do not have the awareness of the constant state of alarm and pressure our society brings.  Meaning, we just accept it as “that’s just the way life is.”  We think the way we operate in society is perfectly normal with our competitive nature, deadline-soaked corporate world, obsession with image and the lie that says we need to run around at Mach speed filling up our calendar with 28 hours worth of activities every day to be successful or legitimate.  If we were to go to other countries – countries where societies value being cooperative over being competitive, countries where nature is worshipped over the dollar, countries where priorities are the veritable opposite of ours, we might begin to see just how crazy and unnecessary this mode of operation is.

There seems to me to be an obvious answer.  Every time around Thanksgiving I just want to fly away and escape it all.  Maybe it is the gray winter in part, maybe it is how everyone seems to get a little more on edge and pushy.  After witnessing the “holiday spirit” around me and after my Scrooge-like meltdown yesterday, I wonder if it isn’t valuable – during this season more than ever – to take some extra time to go within, recalibrate our priorities and do a check-in as to whether we’ve got it right and try to be a locus of calm in the middle of the holiday storm.  If we really do believe that that is what the ‘holiday spirit’ is all about – love and giving, we will have a hard time convincing ourselves that we are doing any good by rushing around in over-caffeinated states, snapping at others like crocodiles, barking at perfect strangers, raging at drivers or losing sleep over unfinished shopping lists.

The irony is, in an effort to make this season about love and giving we are in many cases taking more than we are giving.  If the holidays were about throwing money at people, we would probably all pass the test with flying colors.  If we believe it is about more than that, it would behoove us all to take a moment, relax and look at where we are taking peace and love from the people around us, and how , instead, we can better share it.

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