Actually Have the "Perfect" Holiday

I am standing here in my home, the holiday season frenzy is in full swing, and I come to the sudden realization that the present I ordered for my brother-in-law has not arrived yet. We will be seeing each other in just two short days, at which point I intend to gift him the personal and thoughtful present I ordered in the nick of time (ensured by fronting the expedited shipping cost). As I am looking out the window, trying to will the UPS driver into the driveway, I resign myself to the “fact” that it is not going to get here in time. Now wait a minute, I paid for the extra shipping, it MUST be arriving soon. Where was the shipping confirmation anyway? Panic. The mail has been so slow lately, it’s going to get hung up. Anger. I paid for that bleeping expedited shipping! Righteousness. Why do I live in this rural place anyway? Defeat. Meanwhile, the soup that I had just put on the stove, mindlessly set to “high” while I fixated on my delayed gift, is now boiling away with the promises of a scorched mouth and sad belly.


This is the opportunity to practice mindful compassion. The moment of acceptance to bravely acknowledge the truth of what actually is. To give a chance for my head (and soup) to cool off.

The holidays come with the understandable temptation of achieving perfection. The perfect gift, the most peace, the greatest joy. The chance to step back into old relationship patterns and be met with grace, ease and acceptance. This will be the year that we all get along! This will be the year, that my family will understand me! This will be the year that my luggage will not get lost on the flight, there will be no travel traffic/delays, and all of the presents will arrive at their destination not only on time, but totally and completely adored by their recipient.

This is it.

As much as we want to try to control the outcome of everything (including engaging in worst-case-scenario thinking as a way to prepare ourselves for what we consider unavoidable pain)… what if we simply accept the fact that we cannot? An underlying Buddhist tenet is that pain is universal. Suffering is inevitable. While we might have the opportunity to influence the outcome (e.g. purchasing expedited shipping on a gift) we simply cannot have ultimate control over the countless other factors that come into play.

What we can control is how we choose to show up this holiday season.

It is so, so, so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday festivities. To the extent that I often have to stop and pause and ask myself… are they really feeling festive? Are they feeling light-hearted and joyful? To me, maybe because I am getting older, and maybe because I have kids now, and maybe because we are traveling a lot this year, more often than not the answer is… well… no. When I am not paying attention, the holidays feel more forced than festive. They feel like a chore on my To-Do list. I find myself looking forward to the getting beyond the fray and to the promise of space and time in the new year.

Is this really how I want to spend the “Season of Light” with my friends and family? With my creative team or with my clients? With my community?

OMG NO! We are blessed with only a finite amount of time on this earth and as much as possible I want it to be filled with joyful and easeful moments, all while enjoying appropriately warmed soup. And I know you do, too (even the soup part).

So, what if the gift you give to yourself and to the world around you this year is acceptance. Acceptance that yes, there will likely be things that are not going to go exactly as we want them to over the holidays. And yes, there will be pain, frustration and disappointment that comes along for the ride. And yes, at this point in time in our society, we are all running a little high, we are all a little more stressed than usual, and we are all a little overstimulated. And yet we are all doing the best that we can.

We already have all the time we need. We already have the space. It doesn’t have to be later, it can be right now.

From this moment forward, consider that WE get to choose how we spend that time and what qualities we bring into that space, for ourselves and for those we share our lives with. Maybe that means starting by carving out alone space to reconnect with our self amidst the turbulence the holidays creates, for a few deep breaths, a quiet walk in the fresh air, or a sweet bubble bath. From a place of connection and nourishment we have a better chance of walking through this holiday season in a way that is most important to us. We have a better chance to look around and realize that what we are all in this together. That every thing (relationship, emotion, pain, etc.) does not have to be resolved in order to experience love, acceptance, and joy. And, to quote one of my favorite holiday movies, that love actually is all around.

And when we are no longer trying to make everything happy and joyful and peaceful, we might just discover that happiness, joy and peace are already here.

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Caitlin ClarkeComment