1. REASON FOR THE SEASON -- Holidays are about giving and giving back, which is the cornerstone of every thriving belief system. Giving begins with me remembering my first Christmas home for the holidays; I had been in rehab for a year and came home penniless with no gifts. The only thing I had to offer my family was a handwritten letter, asking them to forgive my transgressions and walk with me as I undertook my arduous journey out from the nightmare of addiction and back into the waking world. Needless to say, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, but the love and support they gave me have helped me to remember that whether it be toys, baubles or Love, the real gift is in the giving, not the receiving.
2. ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE -- It's easy to lose sight of the important things in life. I mean, if you turn on the television, you are bombarded with commercials that tell you that only this product or that product can make you happy. But, the sad truth is, although things are nice, they aren't what you need to feel good about yourself, and they certainly aren't what you need to feel happy. For me, it's family. That's what I'm most grateful for. When the holidays get you down in the dumps find a quiet place and figure out what you are most grateful for, and hold onto it whatever it is. The holidays are more than just Santa Claus and menorahs. The holidays are about finding your center in the eye of the storm, and the quickest means to that end is always gratitude.
3. NEVER FORGET THEIR NAMES -- This one is one of my favorites. It's part of a quote made by President John F. Kennedy that reads, "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names," and it's a great one for people dreading the trip home for the holidays. Because, you see, the lie we were spoon-fed while we were growing up was that families needed to be and act a certain way and, when ours did not, we felt short-changed or betrayed. No one told us that Father Knows Best was just a television show and that The Cosby Show was actually just a bunch of writers sitting in a room playing make-believe. Our parents weren't given owner's manuals when we were born -- they were just men and women who found themselves saddled with children that society demanded they care for in a specific way. The trick to forgiving your family lies in acknowledging that you are an adult now, and that you are capable of making your own decisions that have nothing to do with the insanity you grew up around. Is your dad domineering or controlling? Is your mother passive-aggressive? So what? In and of yourself, you are perfect, and everything is unfolding as it should. Liking your relatives and forgiving them go hand in hand.
4. THE VALUE OF "ME" TIME -- I was vacationing with my wife and kids in Hawaii and at some point in time, we stepped out to get his and her massages. I'm sure you could imagine how mortified I was to discover that I couldn't relax. It was awful. I'd become so tense in my day-to-day dealings that being "bunched up" had become my natural state. The holidays can be stressful. But, for me, sometimes 15 minutes alone in my backyard watching the clouds drift lazily by are enough to help me get centered and relaxed. Your body is like your soul and it needs to be unwound, too, from time to time. Let your spirit breathe. Let your body relax.
5. INVENT OPTIMISM -- I'll admit, I'm not good at processing bad drivers on the road. More often than not, I'll have my kids in the car when someone decides to cut me off or make a left-hand turn from the right-hand lane and it's enough to make me want to shout obscenities. Instead of reacting, my kids have become fond of inventing reasons for the interruption of my serenity. "He's late for his son's baseball game!" my daughter will gleefully exclaim. Or, "He has to get to the hospital because his wife is having a baby!" my son will report. My personal favorite, however, is hands down, my youngest daughter's, "SHE HAS TO GET TO THE BATHROOM AND SHE'S RUNNING OUT OF TIME!" Haha. These tiny glimpses into the lives of other people are a great way to diffuse frustration and anger with other people. The point is, there are eight billion of us swarming all over the planet, and each and every one of us has stuff going on.
6. LIGHTEN UP -- I used to hate holiday parties. I used to be the guy who went to holiday parties and used them to underline the fact that I was single. You shouldn't go to parties to feel even more alone; parties are about people coming together to laugh and eat and exchange ideas. And I realized really early on that I couldn't spend the rest of my life not knowing how to deal with social situations; I had to put my hand out and try to be the example I wanted to see. I had to reach out to other people and discover what their unique experiences were, and do you know what I found out? I discovered that I wasn't as alone as I thought I was. Shouting over the holiday music and sipping egg nog with friends and business associates, I learned how to live in the moment and laugh at anecdotes and wives tales. Holiday parties can be hard. But so was your first day at school, and a lot of our first dates. It's hard to want people to like you. But spirituality is about removing yourself from the equation. This way, you can focus on what the other person's first impression is. Because, when all is said and done, holidays are really all about connecting with other people.