Do you delight in the holiday season, or do you dread it? There is so much Goodness to be found this time of year, but it is also a time when we are united with family and confronted with the past. For some, this is a joyful time full of wonderful memories, for others it is toxic and emotionally overwhelming. It can also be a time of sadness, when the absence of important people is felt more than usual.
This year we want to offer you a strategy that can prove helpful for your survival – regardless of your feelings about the holidays. So often the trick to maneuvering through life has much to do with where we put our focus. If you allow yourself to be overcome with sorrow and dread you will lose sight of the Good that is also available to you. Fear and dread can sink your battleship before you even leave the harbor. But isolating Goodness and making it the center of your attention – now that can keep you afloat!
Before you enter the labyrinth of family dynamics this year, consider these things. What is it that makes you so wonderfully unique? There is no one else on earth that looks exactly like you; no one else has your sense of style, humor, or way of doing things. You are a miraculous and complex amalgamation of many different elements including people, places, and experiences that you have encountered.
Do you remember who taught you how to tie your shoes or ride a bike? Do you remember someone’s handwriting you admired or an accent you wanted to emulate? Do you remember “trying on” different personalities and personas, hoping to find the one that fit you? Many people have contributed to you becoming who you are. Many influences have shaped you and how you feel about yourself.
When you enter the family zone this year – come armed with a survival strategy that will keep you focused on Goodness. Even in the most overwhelming of situations there is always some Good to be found. For those who have happy memories of the past, there are still new discoveries to be made. Look for connections from the past that have helped shape you in positive ways. Look for the people who have sown some little gift of insight or understanding, knowledge or confidence in you. See if you can discover a treasure from your past that is new or had been forgotten. Gather Goodness.
When you do, write it down and begin a collection of the bits and pieces of your history that have contributed to the making of you. It is vital to know the details of who you are, the unique things that make you different, outstanding, amazing, and odd. A deep appreciation of our own uniqueness, the beauty of our own soul – that is the foundation of Goodness. We cannot love others and pass along goodness, if we do not extend goodness and love to ourselves. We all want to be known. It is critical that we first know ourselves. Explore the landscape of your own heart, and thank the people who have tilled and sown into your life. You would not be as beautiful without them.
Our guest writer, Megan, shares her own story of how a recent holiday became a source of inspiration and connection for her. Megan is a college student, blogger, photographer, and actor. She loves sushi and hanging with friends. Here is her story…As I sit in the dining room, I listen in on the conversations of my family. Some of these faces and names I only vaguely recognize and others I know well. I glance across the table to hear a discussion of our family’s traditional dessert, “Chinese Chews.” My great grandmother, I gather, made these every year for Thanksgiving and after she passed, her kids continued the tradition with her recipe. Cousin Randy says to my mom and her brother, “By the time I joined this clan, it was your mama who was making them and, boy, were they good!” My mother mentions how glad she is that Randy remembers her mom, who passed away a few years later. “Sure I do, she was a real sweet lady,” Randy replies. Curiously, this gruff, quiet man has tears in his eyes. ”Aw, y’all are gonna make me cry.” To lighten the mood, someone mentions how my grandmother folded towels in a very unique way and the whole table chimes in in agreement. Confused, I listen as Aunt Brenda describes the process of towel-folding that I have followed all of my life, thinking it was perfectly normal. Apparently my grandmother, whom I have never met, folded her towels into a rectangle so they fit on the shelf better. I learned this method from my parents but assumed this was the way most people fold their towels. I didn’t know my grandmother, but in that moment I felt connected to her as if I knew her. Now whenever I fold towels into a rectangle instead of a square, I will think of the wonderful woman who left this earth too soon and the legacy of love she left behind. Her father is another person I wish I had been able to meet. Known to everyone as “Grandaddy Sanderson,” his legacy is left in the form of music. One of my favorite traditional church hymns is “Be With Me, Lord” and it was composed by my great grandfather, L.O. Sanderson. He wrote several other hymns as well and his songs connect me to him in the same way my (apparently) unique way of folding towels connects me to my grandmother. Without his legacy of faith and music, he would simply be another relative who passed a long time ago rather than having an effect on me. During church when I was younger, I would use the index in the back of our church songbook to look up all of ‘Grandaddy Sanderson’s’ hymns and compositions and imagine his life and how his house must have been filled with music and praise. I wish I had known him! I love the holidays and this time I have for spending time with my family, but I did not expect this slice of goodness this year. Whether it’s a decadent family recipe, a simple tradition or an uplifting song on Sunday mornings, family is a good reminder of what and who has had an influence in my life, even if I didn’t realize it.
A “Good” Idea:
Think about the people in your life who have inspired goodness. See what new things you can learn next time you are with them. Who do you have to thank for contributing to your life?