Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

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Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

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Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Paradox of Winter

December often conjures up complaints about the cold, snow shoveling, and dangers of falling on ice, but just as often I am awestruck by winter’s beauty contrasted against a backdrop of barren starkness. And so is life. One is necessary for the other.

So, rather than more of the usual holiday hype for this month, I’m focusing instead on Mother Nature’s vivid gifts.  What comes to your mind this season…?

 

 

One Gift to Return

Have you noticed how many smiles you see?  Or don’t, in this overly busy time of year when buzzing around making returns, shopping, doing errands, or whatever tasks need to be done.   I counted only one smile today.  And it was a wide one as another customer and I passed each other at the store.

One priceless gift to return is take one second and smile — at whomever you encounter.  It’s a gift to yourself as well.  You don’t have to say anything, although a pleasant word is a bonus.  As is a smile returned.

 

When you smile, your face muscles trigger a release of endorphins.  Helping to reduce stress levels, they are responsible for making you — and others — feel happy.

So the next time you see someone, offer up a smile.  Like a breadth of fresh air in a weary day, notice how much lighter you feel too and it didn’t cost you a penny.  Just one…second…of conscious…thought.  A gift you can be happy to return.

It’s true.  Smile and the whole world smiles with you.

 

Set the energy in motion…Let it begin with you.happy dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Still

“To be still, get still,” popped into my head while feeling dizzily over-stimulated from noisy store crowds, parties, and meandering traffic this week.   The holidays can drain anyone and especially with technology’s hastened pace and constant bombardment.

For many years I’ve chosen to celebrate the holidays through the beauty of the land.  Whether it’s gathering aromatic pine boughs on the morning of Christmas Eve or breathlessly climbing a steep slope of evergreens to gain fresh perspective on New Year’s Day — intimately connecting with Mother Nature is my holiday spirit.  It is the quiet, the crunch of my boots in the snow, the sun warming my face, and breathing in fresh pine, that speaks to me deep within.  Glowing candlelight and a poinsettia paint the mellow ambience I love.   Add in laughter, healthy food and hand drumming with friends, and voila’; I’ve created a non-traditional holiday out of love, not stressful obligation.  And as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I want for nothing more.

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This year, I’ve received wise words from unexpected sources — women I’ve never met but with whom I share a Nature-focused spiritual path:

  • Particularly comforting in the midst of losing so many trees to pipeline construction are the words of a Yoruba priest: “Nature is resilient. The trees will come and go – some naturally and some by the needs and destructiveness of man.  Don’t cry for the trees.  They have served their purpose and they have planted their seeds.  They have helped those of the earth in many ways – the humans, the animals, the air, the soil, and other nature beings. Their spirit is resilient and they will be reborn in other forms and once again, serve their purpose. Perhaps one of them lies in you.  This is the nature of life.” 

pine candle

 

 

 

The Sacred Science Pinecone Meditation

Find a pine cone and place it in front of you. Gaze at the pinecone for a full minute, then close your eyes and imagine the pinecone-shape behind your third eye. Envision the scales of the pinecone unfolding and opening to take in nourishment from Divine Light, and see your pinecone-shaped pineal gland energized and radiant. In this space, consider all the benefits of pine medicine and imagine this energy as a white light healing your mind, body, and spirit.

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The wisdom of the land is why I love it so.Santa Key Smile  It teaches me about living life.

 

Presents

Madison Avenue says Christmas is about presents. Lots of them.

christmas presents galore

I say that’s a typo.  It’s about presence — lots of it.  Be present with yourself, loved ones, and each moment you (hopefully) come in contact with someone.  Well, anyone for that matter.  This is more than sitting next to someone while staring into a device.  It’s about being mentally present, focused on your interaction with that person.  Giving someone your attention is as true a gift as it gets.

It’s easy to “buy” some thing and hand it to someone or the more recent scenario of leaving it on someone’s desk or at their door.  How many obligatory gifts have you received that were a pre-packaged something-for-anyone that you didn’t use? same gift Note:  “re-gifting” was created for a reason.  Yes, some will say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  I counter, “How much thought was there?”  A sincere kind word or sentiment means more.  At least to me.

More precious and worthy than material gifts, giving time is a gift so large it can’t be wrapped in any box yet overflows the heart. Ask a soldier being deployed or a dying patient.  Ask your spouse.  Do they wish they had more time?  Do you feel overly stressed that there isn’t enough time?  Stopping the distraction and being present is the most generous gift of and to thyself.  (Hard lesson learned — see prior post “Meager.”)

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You can give yourself the gift of time by being in Nature.  Whether planting the season’s garden or trekking through the woods, time seems to slow without the constant pings of phones or e-mail.  The stillness of  Nature’s tranquil beauty reaches the soul.  Gift your time by being present with others this holiday season.  Play with your children.  Visit an elderly person.  Smile at the store clerk.

Feel the isolation and loneliness disappear as you put down your device and look into someone’s eyes when they speak to you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Offer something in return.  Maybe it’s just a hug, or thank you to Nature.

 Time – The Perfect Gift for You and Everyone on Your List white-male-1740707_1280

 

Daily Prompt: Meager

There they were,  in plain sight — my car keys laying on the driver’s seat and cell phone plugged into the charger.  In the midst of holiday shopping, with several more stops to go, I wanted to get home before heavy traffic stole more time.  Oh well.

The biting cold stung my uncovered ears and head — my hat lay on the passenger seat too.  Walking back into the dollar store, I asked the cashier if I could use the phone because I locked my keys in the car.   The skinny, high-school looking girl asked her manager if I could use the phone.   I dialed home.  Busy.  Now what?

girl looking up blurReading my anxiety over tieing up the store’s phone and her time, the girl’s colossal black olive eyes looked up at me, “Do you have Triple A?” she asked.

“No.  No, I don’t.”  I didn’t tell her I gave it up years ago when the price kept increasing and they appeared more interested in selling travel plans than providing road side assistance.  Instead, I’d obtained the same service through my car insurance but alas, that information was also in my locked car.  Sigh.

“Well, I do.   You can use mine,” she said while reaching for her purse under the checkout stand.

“I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“It’s okay.  I’ve been through this.  I know what it’s like,” she smiled, her teeth jutting  from sunken cheekbones confined by strands of fine hair barely warming her bony shoulders.  Pulling out her AAA card, she showed me the account number and phone number to call.  I felt surprised and relieved all at once.

Someone finally responded at Triple AAA and after I provided the required information, told me they would arrive in 45 minutes to an hour.  The young clerk told me to just sign her name when the serviceman arrived but that I should wait inside the warm store.  I don’t know if I was more stunned by her blind trust in me or her thoughtfulness in today’s self-involved world.

“Thank you.  Thank you for your kindness.  I so appreciate it,” I said.  She waved off my offer of a $20 bill even though she most likely earns a $7.25 minimum wage.  I insisted, “Please.  You’ve been so generous in helping me.”  Her wide smile reappeared, and I walked away thinking…

Isn’t life interesting how our needs are met?

grateful help outline

via Daily Prompt:  Meager

Featured image:  unsplash-logoMitchel Lensink

Original image (modified) of girl:unsplash-logoAlexander Mils