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The Holiday Blues

This post originally appeared on on 12/21/2010.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Well, what do you do when it’s not?

For me, the holidays are a struggle this year. Since last Christmas, I’ve lost three members of my family – my brother, my father and my aunt. Yes, 2010 was not a good one. In fact, I am officially naming it my “worst year ever”.

When you take that reality and add some endless rain to the mix, it can make for the holiday blues for sure.

The thought of the first Christmas of my life without my dad is a difficult one to wrap my head around. I thought about mixing it up this year by going away and just doing everything different. But, I thought better of it and decided to go ahead with our traditional Christmas celebration. Instead of running away from my feelings, I’m going to stay and tackle them head on.

I know that I am far from alone. There are many people who are having a tough holiday for a number of reasons: death of loved ones, illness, unemployment, loss of a home, divorce or a host of other reasons.

For those of you who may also have the holiday blues, I wanted to share some things that I’m doing to help get through:

  • Doing for others – Everything from giving money to help feed those who don’t have a hot meal, to helping out a neighbor or a friend who is also struggling – all of this helps take the focus of my own little pity party.
  • Keeping busy – baking with the kids, shopping, hosting friends and family, attending holiday parties – for me, the busier I am, and the more I’m around other people, the more I feel the holiday spirit.
  • Counting my blessings – although it’s been a tough year, I am thankful for the many blessings I do have: healthy kids, a supportive husband, a place to call home, good food on the table and great friends.
  • Exercising – I have been trying to stick to a regular exercise schedule despite the rain and holiday craziness. For me, regular exercise helps my mental health even more than my physical health.
  • Practicing moderation – I’m trying not to overindulge on food or alcohol because that just makes depression worse. And I did say trying – a couple nights of too much wine and a Peppermint Joe-Joe’s session excluded, I’ve been pretty good.
  • Confiding in someone  – the best thing you can do is find a friend, therapist, or family member to share your feelings with.  You can also talk through a game plan for how you will handle the holidays. If you think about it in advance, your feelings won’t take you by surprise and will be easier to handle.  If you have also lost a loved one this year, think about adding a new tradition into your holiday celebrations to honor their memory.

I wish you a wonderful holiday. I hope that it’s a happy one, but even if it’s not, know that there are many people out there sharing your feelings and who want to help. And the more you reach out, the more joyful your holiday will be.

Wishing peace, love and joy to you and your family and best wishes for a better year ahead!

Who Moved my “Ness”?

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your “ness”? You know, that twinkle in your eye, that spark inside, that thing that makes you, well you.

“Ness” is something I borrowed from the movie “You, Me and Dupree”, which is surprisingly touching for a critically-panned comedy. Personally, I love this movie. Owen Wilson is awesome. Here’s the clip where he introduces “ness”.

I was talking to my husband the other night, and I told him that I felt like somewhere along the way of life’s ups and downs, my “Allison-ness” got lost.

The next day, I read (and then shared) this quote on Facebook:

“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.” ― Eckhart Tolle

And I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since.

I really want this to be true. If it is, it means my “ness” is in there somewhere, just waiting to be brought back up to the surface – so others can see it’s light.

For me, part of my “ness” was this feeling:

Maybe it was the naivety of youth, but I really did feel that if I worked hard enough, was a good enough person, and had fabulous shoes :), I could do just about anything I put my mind to.

But then, things happened on the path of life – it didn’t go according to plans. Over the course of just a few years, life got hard, and sometimes ugly, and sad. Rather than putting on my cape and fighting the good fight, I found myself tired, distrustful, and overwhelmed much of the time. On too many days, I climbed into my little protective shell and didn’t want to come out. My “ness” climbed in with me, into the safety of the shell.

By posting the quote on Facebook, I sparked an enlightening discussion with a good friend. This friend, Randy, was paralyzed in an accident years ago. He offered a different perspective. His accident, he said, caused a loss of not only something that he had, but also something that he was.

He lost something that most of us take for granted every day – the sensation of sand between our toes – of being physically and spiritually connected to the earth.  Although he has accepted it and built a wonderful life, he said that the loss will always be there. “It’s like a kind of death when you wake-up one day and you realize you can no longer remember what you were born with. It changes you.”

The discussion was much longer. We messaged back and forth most of the day. It was enlightening, affirming, and a snap-back-to-reality moment for me.

Our discussion also made me see this Eckhart Tolle quote in a whole new light. I think it is possible (through the aches, pains, and tragedies of life), to lose something that you are. You can lose it physically, which can lead to a more spiritual loss; or emotionally – like loss of innocence, loss of identity, loss of relentless optimism.

Randy’s insight on all of this was invaluable. I am so grateful to him. This the very best thing about Facebook – the ability to connect with some of my favorite people who I no longer get to see regularly.

One other piece of wisdom Randy shared is a recent interview he read with Neil Peart (for all the women reading this – he’s the lyricist/drummer from the the band Rush) about evolution in his philosophical viewpoint. Here’s one of the things Neil had to say:

“Wish Them Well [offers] a very mature response to the world that it took me a long time to learn. In a lot of our early stuff, my lyrical inspiration was anger, for sure. [laughs] There’s still a lot I’m angry about, a lot of human behavior that’s appalling and despicable, but you choose what you can fight against. I always thought if I could just put something in words perfectly enough, people would get the idea and it would change things. That’s a harmless conceit. With people too, you constantly think, “If I’m nice to people and treat them well, they’ll appreciate it and behave better. They won’t, but it’s still not a bad way to live.”

So maybe the answer is that your “ness” is still there. It’s just that, like all of us, it grows up. It doesn’t go away, but rather, changes and adapts to your circumstances and challenges.

I think the important thing is that even though it evolves, you must work to keep it shiny and bright, not let it get dulled by pain and loss. That way, your “ness” is a light coming out of you, rather than a darkness sucking in.

So I am climbing out of that shell, pulling my grown up “Allison-ness” along with me. It’s needs some buffing. It’s not very shiny yet, but I’m working on it.

If your “ness” has been lost along the way as well, I encourage you to find it inside, pull it up, and buff it out. Imagine lots of shiny, positive “nesses” out in the world. Would be an awesome thing.

And I will still be trying to inspire change – but maybe instead of the world, the grown-up Allison will settle on inspiring change within a circle of friends.

As my wise friend Randy said,

“If it’s true that life is about the journey and not the destination, then our peace and happiness must be found in the effort and not the result.”