Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Whether you and your family celebrates Christmas or not, I am hoping you have been able to enjoy the company of loved ones, take in the gorgeous decorations, and enjoy some good food. Some of you may be reading this early in the morning before diving into your day, some of you may be reading this in the evening after your day --- whatever point in your day you are at, I'd just like to say, "Merry Christmas Babyyy" (sung in the voice of the boss, Bruuuuucee).
Not too long ago, I was talking to Hannah and Sierra about our upcoming retreat, we were catching up about our own lives too. It seemed to be a theme that we were barely treading water to make it to a break, okay maybe that was more me than them who have their lives a little more together than I, but we began talking about our plans which across the board had us ready to relax, but I stopped them and said, I'm not going to lie though, sometimes this time of year is the hardest for me.
Why? I'm surrounded by people I love, having the time to do things I don't normally do, eating kickass meals by my mom, myself and friends. It is ideal, in theory. I asked the girls if we could do a challenge that would somehow tie into our retreat this coming June. I said not a physical challenge but a mental one, even if it is just for us. I find this time of year to be of extreme highs and extreme lows. It is a time of reliving memories and creating new ones. It is a time thinking of loved ones who have died, left our lives, or simply moved. It is a time of running around in chaos trying to make up for lost time, accomplish what we normally can't, and somehow, by some grace of God, RELAX?! Ha... That's rare for me. Now don't get me wrong, I do find time to sleep in and relax, but most holiday seasons, I'm more physically and emotionally drained than when the "break" began. We agreed that a Mindfulness Challenge would be a really nice way of giving ourselves and those interested to find new approaches to being present, to shift our intention, etc. We came up with 12 different tricks that might help do just that but also found that many of these "hacks" aligned with much of our mission for our retreat which is to Renew and Restore ourselves, to offer physical and mental practices that can aid shifting your perspective. Increasingly excited as we went through them, we narrowed down our 12 days and decided instead of having cookie cutter captions, we would be able to reflect on each challenge from our own perspective - the more perspectives you have, might inspired you may find yourself. Sometimes one perspective leaves a singular interpretation but that is not our aim because we know we all respond to stimuli, questions, challenges, our thoughts and emotions differently. By having three perspectives AND ALL OF YOURS, we are able to be inspired by a community of people who are looking to find more intention behind their actions.
DAY 1 of 12: Give a non-material gift
Reflect on your day, and explain one gift you were able to give that had nothing to do with material objects. How did this touch both your lives? Was this gift one you intentionally gave? Or did someone share that they were touched by your gift and come to realize it wasn't really a gift but an action that you wanted to do without prompting?
Since I'm posting really early this morning, I have a few non-material gifts I hope to be able to give without drawing attention to them. First and foremost, I'd really like to be more helpful. Every Christmas, my parents host my Mom's side of the family (fourteen people). We cook a big brunch style meal and my parents slave preparing the house, cleaning, cooking, getting gifts for everyone, wrapping them, keeping the magic of Christmas alive while trying to keep their heads on straight, be merry and bright and allow the family to sit back and relax. How they do it, I still don't know.
That said, I am hoping to be more receptive to things I can do around the house without being asked - get the wooden plates out making sure they are clean and set out, same with utensils, help by prepping food that is a Rawls staple (shred cheese for the garlic cheese grits, tend to the three to five different sausages that meet the dietary needs of our family, help get the egg cups prepped...) or even help after things are used in the kitchen and placed in the sink, to wash dry and put them away to create more space and more time together.
Now we don't have any little munchkins running around in our family, for the last time because in just a few weeks, I become Auntie-Sauras Rex, Jess becomes Uncle Scruff Chuff, and Mom and Dad become grandparents (names to be determined). I will look for ways to make Dylan and Laura the parents to be have their last Christmas as just a married couple special and bright. I will try to find ways to connect with each family member in a new way. Instead of spending time on my phone, I want to be fully present. When our family opens stockings, it is really a nice quiet time with just the immediate family. Jess and Dylan are typically making everyone laugh and sharing their humor. Instead of pushing to have something to contribute, I'll just enjoy and listen and react. Once guests arrive there are so many ways to give my time and energy to them. Asking about new interests, helping carry gifts from the car, taking coats, inviting them in grabbing them something to drink. Shoot there are so many little seemingly insignificant things that I could "gift" . After brunch, helping clean all the dishes and put the leftovers away shouldn't be done by my parents though usually it is something they have to ask for help with (at least from us kids).
Now I'm not saying, become the house maid on your holiday... I'm simply suggesting ways that you could be gifting someone else time that day. Bringing Mom coffee on the couch and maintaining a conversation so she is able to find stillness and relaxation is one way of spending quality time together, giving her a break and allowing yourself to be absolutely truly present.
If the weather is nice and people seem to be getting antsy, why not suggest an outdoor game or walk. (If someone is on bed rest but everyone else wants to go, offer to hang back and go later).
My Aunt Sweetie for months has been asking to learn the basic merengue steps, so part of Christmas day this year will be spent trying to teach the lot of my family in the midst of the uncontrollable laughter and silliness is a great way to give the gift of my job/passion teaching dance but also again to be present and enjoy each of my family members and their talents (whether they be to dance or not)...
Maybe your non-material gift this year is thanks. Find someone that has given you something non-material and thanking them. You also need to realize, these gifts you recognize from others might not have been intentional either, but merely because they wanted to do something for you but sometimes showing gratitude and acknowledging those little things people do out loud is a gift in and of itself.
Maybe it is patience while driving. We all are getting places and people get distracted at a stop light, maybe their baby is fussing and the parents are trying to calm them down? Maybe there is a duck crossing the road you can't see? Maybe the gift is to everyone by choosing words before speaking them, or making decisions to be with family to drink and to uber home or to stay the night. That gift is one you may never receive thanks for personally but every parent out there is thanking God every time their loved ones make it home safely. There are so many small seemingly insignificant actions and choices that could have a bigger impact than you'll ever know.
Share with us your gift, what gift did you give that was not an item? Was it a hug? Why did you choose to share this individual story! Let us in, let us be inspired by the gifts you are giving this holiday season.