Updated: Aug 11, 2019
It’s happened again! Another year has gone by and I had really thought that this year, I’d manage to get all my work in order before the start of advent and spent December concentrating solely on my family and getting into the Christmas spirit. Seems like things – and people – come up unexpectedly and planned that make us forget this and rush some more, do some extra and before you know it, it’s nearly Christmas and you haven’t even got any presents yet, let alone decided on the menu for the family dinner.
It happens every year lately. There are Christmas parties, theatre plays, clients, friends, colds and flus, not to mention strange dreams. Dreams where I switch off my phone because I want to be all out in the here and now for my family, spend time with my children, get closer, and not have anyone buzz me on whichever messenger.
Being available is part of my job, of course, but I have also learned to set boundaries this advent season. I may not have decorated the house, but I have clearly stated where my boundaries are and how far I am willing to go – or not. Anyone who feels they can’t respect that unfortunately must learn that I am not available for them anymore.
Christmas shouldn’t be about cash registers ringing, but about spending time with those you love and care about, if you possibly can. Face to face, all out, hearts wide open. My children are still at school and they live at home with me, so I can. We can. And we spent a lot of time lately, we visited family, baked cookies at my cousin’s and I had a wonderful long conversation with my aunt whom I’ve not spoken to in this way for some years for one reason or another and she imparted some very profound wisdom during our talk.
These things don’t happen when you only send messages or communicate via third parties. In case of my aunt, who lives in another city, she usually speaks to my mum on the phone and sends her love, then my mum tells us my aunt’s news and passes on the love. The thing is, you can’t see a smiling face when someone reciprocates your warmth, your joy, but also, you cannot see how your words can hurt someone. You don’t see the pain in their face, the tears in their eyes. And when someone suffers from another’s verbal attacks, this goes unnoticed, too. Or at least, it is so easy to ignore, to reason away, to be self-righteous, sitting in your little ivory tower that is a screen and a keyboard, cut off from real people and the real world.
Christmas is not about buying things. It is about showing love, real love, and not masking your own drama as constructive criticism. It is about changing your cousin’s baby’s nappies, although they are smelly, and it is about going out there, acknowledging the homeless man sitting on the ground and saying good day, not ignoring him and looking through him as if he didn’t exist. It is about giving someone a hug and remembering you love them when they are hurt, even though you are still a bit miffed at them for something they've said and done. It is about compassion and reaching out.
No one asked you to sacrifice yourself, and if they did, it’s not love. But at the same time, looking out for yourself and your own wellbeing should not serve as shield and reason to tread on other people’s feelings and to disregard their needs. Or shut yourself off from everyone around. The reason we human beings are social animals is because we are part of the Divine, and thus, all made of the same stuff. No matter what our belief systems are, deep down, underneath all the layers of conditioning, we know, we are one. And thus, it is part of the human nature to connect to each other, to want to reach out.
All too often, we allow our differences, fears and dysfunctional social conditioning to contort this inner opening and instead of reaching out, we lash out. We condemn and we judge harshly. Christmas is about realising that we can be happy, live fulfilled and contented lives without hurting anyone or being hurt. We can be open and kind without making ourselves open to attack and abuse. We can set necessary boundaries without hatred and turning our backs.
You may not spend time with the people you love most in the world and there may not be anyone in your life you love, but there are always people out there who need some love, some show of kindness, of acknowledgement without judgement. Why not smile at someone as you pass them in the street? Why not help your old, frail neighbour carry her shopping bags to her door? It’s on your way, anyhow. And when someone smiles back at you, thanks you for accepting them without judgement, even for a moment, you’ll be amazed how good that feels.