Just picture yourself sitting by the fireplace, sipping a hot cocoa with your family, listening to those timeless classic Christmas carols while enjoying the warmth and comfort of your beautifully decorated house. The tree sparkles with the lights, and the sweet aromas of apple, cinnamon, cloves and oranges permeate the air from all the scented candles and fragrant potpourri you carefully selected for the occasion. The presents are laid out around the tree, and the table is set up for a nice supper. It is Christmas.
It is Christmas, yet a nagging melancholy feeling, from the depths of our inner world, keeps asking for our attention as if telling us that something is missing. The most joyous of times also reveals to be the most dreaded and the most stress-causing of all. No wonder so many people are quick to express vehemently their dislike for the second half of December. No Christmas lights, snow, glitter, sweater or delicious food are able to end the anxiety of the holidays.
We seem to be missing something important in the middle of all the preparations. Wasn’t the food cooked to perfection? Wasn’t everyone included in the gift list? Aren’t the lights blinking and the decorations in place? We can’t quite figure out what could possibly be missing since it took hours of anxiety and stress to make it all perfect this time.
Ten years ago, on December 26th, a massive undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a catastrophic tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. This was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. It took the lives of over 200,000 people. Families across the globe were still basking in the joyous atmosphere of the lights, gifts and the spirit of Christmas. In a few days, the world would get festive again to welcome the New Year. It just did not make any sense. How can events like that take place during worldwide celebrations? How can people die during the holidays? They just do. And, in this case, death happened in a large-scale. The world got together to help those who needed at that moment. But, the world also got together, each living individual with their families and friends, and celebrated. While we ate, and danced and laughed and did our count-down, thousands searched in the dark for their loved ones; thousands had gone missing, thousands were dead. All over the world, TV screens broadcast images of fireworks and celebrations interspersed with images of absolute devastation and suffering in those areas hit by the tsunami.
Fast-forward ten years to where we are now and our celebrations continue to repeat a pattern that seems to reveal some level of incongruity with the reality of the world we live in. The news are still grim on our state-of-the-art digital TV screens: natural disasters are still beckoning our attention to environmental issues, and social injustice and violence still increase in unprecedented and wide-ranging degrees. We continue to shop and get busy for the holidays, and life goes on. We maintain this frenzy as if we were in a trance-like state induced by some potent drug that forces us to behave with outbursts of euphoria fused with a latent and well-concealed forlorn apathy for the celebration we have been anticipating all along. We are alone with ourselves, and we turn to gadgets and things galore to fill in that space between ourselves and others. But, we miss the connection.
We only need to look around and pay attention and be with the world, and be with each other. We need to pay attention and see our own ways and how we also are a part of it all. How we contribute to the disharmony and instability. We are not simply characters in a story, but powerful co-creators of the reality we dream of becoming. We need to stop for a minute to reboot our lives and re-wire our way of perceiving reality. We need to reevaluate our choices, our decisions and our answers. We need to change our ways every day we wake up in the morning. That’s our opportunity to make change happen for ourselves and for others. It’s a constant process of death and rebirth that we go through every day. We’ve got to let go of the old habits and replace them with something different, and if that still doesn’t quite work, we have the following day, and the day after the following, to keep on making changes and trying a new approach. To me, that is the spirit of life. We should not be afraid to try.
How many times we act or respond with impatience, anger, indifference, envy, and hatred towards ourselves or another? At times, we are not even completely aware, except for the fact that we leave a bit heavy after an encounter with another person, closely-related or not. At the end of the day, as we retire to sleep, we need only a few minutes with ourselves to review the day and the feelings and emotions that got triggered. This is our moment to break the pattern, delete the template, and redesign a new way to respond the next day. No self-pity, guilt or regret, just acknowledgment, and a rewiring of our brains with awareness are needed. It’s an ongoing process for all of us, and we are far from finished. That’s the beauty of it.
In this world, in our lives, we all have freedom of choice. We can choose. It’s such an amazing gift, but one that is also replete with anxiety-provoking wild imaginings. I might be wrong on this, but we seem to be the only species that are able to consciously decide to live in one minute, or end our own lives in the next. We create our stories and we believe them. Imagine over 7 billion people in the world with the possibility of creating their own stories about the reality of life as they experience it; over 7 billion different perspectives. No wonder we cannot understand one another. We only see the differences and we feel afraid to reach out and get closer. It is a survival mechanism, pure instinct. We need a leap of faith here. We need to trust, to look in the eyes of the one next to us with kindness, for the burden we all carry is exhausting. We all respond to pain and love the same way. We need one another to survive.
Maybe it’s time we tried something different for the holidays. Maybe we should just try something simple instead. We can still eat and celebrate and be merry, but instead of focusing on the preparations and the presents we should just look around at each other and really listen. We should smile and be grateful in our hearts that we are alive and that we have each other. We can always change and we are certainly trying our best every day. There are no formulas or handbooks. We just follow the rhythm of this dance. That’s the spirit of Christmas. That’s the spirit of the holiday season. That’s the spirit of Life.