Gather up

I’m completely shocked that it’s the holiday season already, partly because the longest year ever is somehow managing to move forward at a startling clip, and partly because so much about the winter holidays looks different this year. 

Actually, maybe I’m wrong on that. Plenty of people spend the holidays quietly, or even alone, each year, and I’m not sure if the fact that more of us are doing that this year changes anything for them. Food for thought.

This year, I’m really having to flex my mindfulness muscles, though…

as I listen to story after story about people who “just can’t imagine” a holiday without this or that large gathering, or extended travel experience. I know there are ways to do those things safely, but is everyone taking those steps? 

I don’t get to know. That’s where the mindfulness comes in. I walked by a packed restaurant a few days ago, and saw a large-ish group of (liquid) diners wearing “ugly” holiday sweaters (no fashion critiques here! You know what I mean. The kind people wear on purpose to complete on whose is “ugliest. Yes, it’s actually a thing.). They all seemed to be about the same age. I made a quick assumption that they were a bunch of friends who refused to renege on a tradition, and I started silently fuming inside. 

How dare they?? You can’t see people’s hideous multi-colored, overly-decorated clothing on Zoom? I bet they’re also planning to fly to see family in the next few weeks, and they’re gonna spread this pandemic to their susceptible loved ones, and keep this going into 2022….

And so it went, the whirling dervish of judgment in my mind. Fortunately, then something else happened. 

My mindfulness started working. Wow, Shannon, that’s a lot of judgment. That’s a lot of anger. What’s that about? Do you know anything about these people? Do you know they haven’t been super-testing for weeks for this gathering? Do you know for sure that they don’t all live together in some giant group-house-mansion, “Real World” style? That they’re not planning to self-quarantine for the duration after today?

No, I don’t. Even more, can I control any of their behavior? Nope. What can I control? My own experience. How’s that going right now? Not great, thanks. Lots of judgment and anger. 

Ah, then maybe, let’s breathe and try to change that. 

Mindfulness changes our brains, and how they respond in daily life well before the practice ever feels “easy.” Heck, it’ll probably never get easy. But life? That gets better, one practice at a time. 

That’s something I don’t mind trying to control. 

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