Happy Holidays 2008. The economy is tanking. Half the country is lying awake worrying about money.
Yet somehow, we're supposed to find the joy in Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or whatever other over-priced holiday you're wondering how to pay for.
How are you supposed to make merry when you're worried you might be homeless by March?
I'm sure there are still some folks spending the season nestled by the fire, knocking back hot toddies secure in the knowledge that they have 10 years worth of living expenses in the bank and that their family-owned chain of pawn shops will be doing a booming business all the way through New Year's Eve.
But for most of us; it's looking like a cheese and crackers Christmas. Forget searching for the perfect wine to compliment your Duck a la' Orange, or debating the merits of tinsel versus popcorn strands.
Most of us are wondering whether or not we have enough available credit to pretend there's still Santa.
Yet as I watch our response to the financial crisis (and I'm waist-deep in it myself because my husband and I own our own business). I'm beginning to think that we're experiencing something much bigger than an economic problem.
I think we're experiencing a spiritual problem; a crisis that has been brewing for some time and is just now showing up in our economy. And I don't think we're going to be able to fix our money problems until we fix our spiritual problem.
Which circles me back to the question - How can you find joy, when your life feels like a mess?
Here's the deal. The secret of being happy - during the holidays or any time - is a simple two part-formula: We're the happiest when we're connected to other people and we're part of something bigger than ourselves.
The best way to pull yourself out of misery - financial or otherwise - is to get yourself fully present with the people around you and to focus on the larger context of your life, the part that goes way deeper than car payments and payroll taxes. You can't wait for things to get better so that you can feel better; you have to feel better so that things will get better.
Here's the lesson we always seem to forget - You weren't sent to this planet in search of perfect house, the perfect car, or the perfect body.
You were sent to here to love and to loved; it really is that simple.
Bills, job loss, and threats of foreclosure certainly make it more difficult. But if we can learn to hold onto to love in the face of adversity, we can literally come out of this as different human beings.
Because no matter how many problems you're facing, there's probably part of your life that's still very special. That's the part you need to focus on, because that's where you'll experience the transformational power of love.
There's something waiting for us on the other side of this thing, and I can promise you, it's not more stuff.
So here's my holiday prayer.
May you experience whatever version of family fills you and whatever version of faith sustains you, and may we all lift our eyes to the heaven, and forever be grateful that, no matter what our circumstances, we can always choose love.
Now, please pass the Saltines.
Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, keynote speaker and syndicated columnist. She specializes in helping induviduals and organizations sustain their profits and productivity in the face of adversity.
Her books include Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear.