A friend recently bought me a shirt that reads Obsessive Christmas Disorder and people have started to post the countdown to Christmas messages on my Facebook Page, while others are simply rolling their eyes and moaning that the holidays are approaching.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I am that person. You know, the one who can't wait for the creepy Halloween costumes to be put back in storage where they belong so attention can be directed to the adventures of black Friday shopping. The one who always has at least one Christmas "decoration" placed in a discreet place in the house but definitely visible all year long and who believes that Christmas music can be enjoyed anytime the mood seems right. And I am the 52-year-old woman who still believes in Santa. There I said it.
Of course, as a psychologist, I recognize that the holidays for many is a time of great sadness, pain and overwhelming stress. It is a time when the loss of family and friend who have passed on is most acutely felt. There is often great stress created by spending too much, eating too much and the prospects of spending time with relatives that we may or may not enjoy. It is certainly a time when feelings of loneliness and isolation can become unbearable for so many.
But it is also that time when we see people at their best, their most generous, and their most giving selves. It is a time when we are forced to step out of ourselves and reflect on what matters. It is a time of renewing our spirit of believing. It is a tremendous opportunity to look at each other and see, really see pain and need and then do something about it.
When I was a little girl, I remember one day on the bus Johnny telling me that there was no Santa. I was so angry that I turned around and punched him in the stomach. Then walking home I clearly remember thinking, "Poor Johnny he doesn't believe." The power of believing is what sustains us -- whether it is a belief in our God, in each other or simply a belief that we are here for a purpose. Believing keeps us resilient in the face of despair. It is the gateway to hope and inspiration. The power of believing keeps our spirit alive.
On Sept 21. 1897, when Virginia O'Hanlon wrote her letter to the editor of the New York Sun newspaper, nobody could have anticipated that the simple question and the editorial response would still be as relevant and inspiring this many years later.
"Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge."
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence."
On average, most of us will live on this earth approximately 87 years or 32,000 days which is considered a long life. However, keeping in perspective that this earth has been around for 4.55 billion years, we are really only temporary visitors. The challenge of living a fulfilled life is understanding our purpose. I would argue that the holidays, despite all of its crazy, busy, hectic pace, also gives us a chance to be better human beings.
The holiday season is a time when more people volunteer at the homeless shelters, donations to food pantries increase, toys and gift are purchased and shared with children and seniors who may be in need. It is a time when people give of their time in greater proportion making friendly visits to lonely seniors and offering to help those less fortunate. Whether it is somebody buying the coffee for the car behind them in the line at Starbucks or leaving a more generous tip for their servers, the holiday makes us feel compelled to give. And in return we feel inspired--we find our purpose. How can we not feel excited to celebrate that?
My wish for all of you this holiday season is that you stop thinking about it as just one more hassle of life to "get through". That instead you see it as an amazing opportunity for reflection and inspiration. Take a leap of faith this holiday season. Look around, really look around you and see the need and the power within you to make a difference.
If you take a deep breath, pause and inhale the moments of this holiday season, I am confident that you will hear music differently, see acts of kindness and generosity all around you, you will not only see the needs and sadness of others but you will feel compelled to act. The holiday season will become a gift that you give yourself.
Remember to hold tight to your belief, as it is the truest, strongest thing we will ever possess. It is the one thing that can never be taken or controlled by others. It is ours and only ours.