Christmas continues to be a constant surprise. This will be the first Christmas my family has spent together without my grandmother, who died earlier this year. And even though we’ve all “moved on”, I can’t help but sense a pinch of melancholy hanging in the air. A feeling that is accented by the decorated Christmas tree that is both beautifully alive and slowly dying. It’s this wonderful duality embodied by the tree that moves me towards thoughts of solemnity, longing and hope. As each moment passes I find myself caught in a swirling mixture of gratitude and loss.
The Christmas tree in my parent’s living room has been decorated with items that represent different joys from all of our lives. Angels dangle from branches as if they are soaring upwards. Starfish and seashells, purchased from the various beaches we’ve vacationed at for the last 30 years, are dispersed around the tree. And scattered in between the angels and beach ornaments are pictures of members of our family — living and deceased. The tree stands as a manifestation of our collective memory. And despite the fact that it has lost its roots, the tree continues to infuse the room with oxygen and spread its limbs tall and wide. In a sense, our Christmas tree embodies the unconditional love that surrounds the family and ties us all together. It wants us to celebrate, remember the loved ones who aren’t near, and cherish the moments we have.
This holiday season I raise a glass to my grandmother and all the loved ones who I miss. And as I raise, I remember that sometimes we just need a good cry to reset our souls. Sometimes we need to embrace the sadness until it all disappears. All emotions are gifts that are guiding us towards the ability to feel alive and present to the world around us. When we stop trying to “hold back” our emotions or pretend they don’t exist, something deep inside us takes over. We become engulfed in whatever emotion is there, and then something magical happens — we find our inner-selves. We release all the physical and psychological tensions that we use to “survive” in the world, and we become in-tune with the universe. At that moment we expereince a wave of love and appreciation for life, and all of our petty judgements, grudges and fears appear trivial and small. We move from a state of survival to a state of “thrive-al”.
As you move through this holiday season, I hope you are filled with a sense of love and gratitude. And whatever emotions may come, remember that they are all opportunities to reconnect with the spirit within. All you need to do is embrace what you are feeling and let it be okay. We often pick out the “perfect gift” for our loved ones. But we forget that the “perfect gift” is often our time spent with others. Allow yourself to be emotionally present in the moment of giving and sharing. And know that when you give the gift of gratitude you bring joy to the world.