I offer my compassion to you at this time of year. It is a season of contrasts in so many ways. The holiday season is celebrated by people of all faith traditions. Chanukah is a very special time for those of Jewish heritage. But festivals of light go beyond their religious roots. This is a time of unrealistically high expectations, based on rose colored memories, slick tv ads and sappy movies. These expectations, regardless of our faith tradition, set against our reality, set us up for a sense of disappointment. There is the brilliant sunshine and exquisitely blue skies of noontimes contrasting against the early onset of darkness. There are the glitzy ads for the gifts that are sure to bring happiness, set against the financial insecurity so many face. There is the quest for happiness using excessive alcohol and rich foods vying with a search for a deeper level of meaning and joy in our lives. The Christmas lights can feel like someone turning a search light into our eyes. There is almost a physical need to turn away.
There is the contrast of our past lives, secure within a marriage, with the prospect of lonely years ahead. With every decoration that we pull out of the attic, there is a memory. With every catalog that still comes in with her name on it, there are gifts that we no longer need to buy. There is no longer a need to make his favorite recipe, one that no one else really liked. Traditions are, by definition, the way we’ve always done things. Traditions have a staying power, and they resist any sort of change. So here we are, with a change forced upon us, and we need to figure out how to manage. It isn’t easy.
How do we develop a way of thinking about the holidays that can balance our grief? Escapism is one of my favorite strategies. Find some Jewish friends to spend Christmas with. While we’ve been decking the halls, they have developed some great traditions. That might seem like a cop out, but sometimes we need to step back and catch our breath, and there’s nothing wrong with rest. But if your tradition is Christmas, you will want to get back to your roots. When Jesus was born, the Bible says, the angels sang, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all. Personally, I think that seeking peace and goodwill is a great place to start. The best gift that you can give yourself is to be at peace with all around you. This is a good time to schedule time for a phone call or a visit with your friends and family members. Thank them for whatever support they have been able to offer, and forgive those who didn’t know how to provide the support you wanted. If there is some bone of contention, try to see it in perspective, and to resolve it if you can. Being at peace with those people who are important in your life is a true path to peace during the holidays.
Continue what traditions bring you joy. One of my traditions is an Advent candle. Lighting a candle at my dinner table demonstrates what a big difference a very small light can make in a dark room. So I accept those small kindnesses that are offered, understanding that these small gestures can make a huge difference. If you love baking, it can be hard to be without your best customer. Invite some young people in and teach your recipes, or bake for neighbors or local fundraisers. And if you love to shop, it’s okay to buy yourself a little something. Or buy blankets or pajamas for the homeless shelter. It’s all part of the Goodwill to All that connects with Peace on Earth.
We’ve worked hard to prepare articles for you that will inspire you and give you strategies for finding what good there still is in this world. We try to make you smile, and fill your kitchen with good things to share. I hope that you will find Pathfinder to be an amiable companion through the season.
Peace and Blessings,
Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,