When I was growing up, my recollection is that Christmas decorations didn’t go up until Thanksgiving. That may or may not be true, but I know that over the course of the last three or four decades, I’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s “wrong” for holiday decorating (and marketing) to start earlier and earlier.
For as long as I can remember now, my body would tense up when I saw the first Christmas decorations of the season. “That’s WRONG!” I would tell myself. “The holidays have become so commercial!” Then I would spend a few more minutes getting pulled into that story, resisting the decorations, pushing back against the holiday spirit that was being offered to me sooner than I was ready for.
A few years ago, though, after attending a talk by mindfulness instructor Trisha Stotler, I started to approach the holidays with intention. I gave thought to what mattered most to me during the holidays, what I enjoyed about the season and traditions, what I didn’t enjoy, which holiday experiences in the past made me feel good, which didn’t, and what all of that gave rise to in my body.
I clarified what type of holiday experience I wanted to create for myself and my family, how I wanted to feel, and embraced the activities that supported those intentions and positive feelings. Just as importantly, I gave myself permission to say “no” to things that didn’t illicit a joyful feeling in my body.
And guess what? I realized that I like holiday decorations. I like the feeling of joy these cultural traditions bring with them year after year. I know now that my joy is infectious, as are my emotions on the negative end of the spectrum as well. I have a choice, and I choose joy.
I have absolutely no control when businesses begin their holiday marketing campaigns. Choosing to focus my attention on “It’s wrong for them to commercialize the holidays earlier and earlier,” is wasted energy that creates stress and resentment in my body. Why give it that power when the reality is that the only power I have is to not buy from that vendor (a decision I make sometimes but with no judgment).
Mindfulness trains us to respond to life situations from the standpoint of reality in the present moment. Situations and experiences don’t change, but our mindset does.
So I was super proud of myself last week when I noticed my autopilot response upon entering Michaels and finding the aisles filled with Christmas tree ornaments. “WRONG! Too soon!” the old tapes in my head blared. But it only took a second for me to ground myself, bring my attention to where my feet were standing so that I could bring my mind to that place of reality as well.
“You like the holidays,” my deeper wisdom, or what I sometimes call my motivational girlfriend voice, reminded me.
“You like Christmas decorations, but no, you don’t have to buy Christmas decorations today or even think about getting out your own decorations. Why not allow yourself to embrace the holiday spirit, even in the midst of everything else going on in your life?”
“Use this moment to take yourself out of autopilot and transmute your energy from resistance to joy,” she advised.
It’s never too soon for that. And it’s never too late.
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Reprint (Photo by Martha Brettschneider)