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Self-Care Minder

Exploring Womanhood > Mind, Body & Soul > Self-Care Minder

The Thanksgiving Tree
by Jennifer Louden

The holiday season is almost upon us and this year, we need the holidays to comfort us and connect us to spirit and each other like we haven't in many years. We are in deep pain at the state of the world, and the holidays offer a break in the busy burble of daily life to find sustenance and create healing. Our souls need the innocence and magic of the holidays as a path to forgiveness and a way to share our gratitude.

Here are some gorgeous thoughts on how to "be" with the holidays, written by Meg Cox, author of the wonderful book The Heart of A Family and excerpted from her free monthly email newsletter. You can subscribe by writing her at MegMaxC@aol.com. (And for those of you who don't live in America, why not take the spirit of the holiday and celebrate it as a day of giving thanks?)

"So what about the big, traditional, exclusively American holiday that is just around the corner? How will it be different this year from coast to coast? The New York Times recently reported that many people who haven't celebrated it with their kin for years are determined to do so this time. I was recently interviewed by a columnist for Ladies Home Journal online about the holidays, and talked about how rituals provide a sense of security for children and why they're especially important now. But I think many families are also struggling with the question of whether it's most fitting and meaningful to repeat their past traditions exactly, or whether they should be adding features and re-inventing the old. It's a tough dilemma, I think. If rituals are comfort food for the soul, the last thing we mothers want to do is serve tofu when our kids are craving turkey.

"At my house, I know we'll stick to the usual: turkey, stuffing with sausage, homemade cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. We'll repeat our practice of a "thankfulness tree," placing bare tree branches in a big vase and hanging on them colorful paper leaves. Each of us will take a handful of these leaves and write on them the things for which we are especially thankful this year. Though the ritual will be the same, I'm certain we're grateful for very different things from a year ago-- and we'll mean it more this year. But one of the great virtues of rituals is also their flexibility, the way they can change to match our needs and our moods and our growth.

"And I'm trying to think of a few special rituals to add this year to express grief and loss as well as thankfulness. One idea I had was to set one extra place at the table and leave the chair empty, as a symbol of all those who died on 9/11 and won't be home for Thanksgiving. It's a way of inviting them to our house, and a way of grieving without making it the sole theme of the day. I also plan for us to express our profound thankfulness to the New York Fire Department, by writing thank-you notes to the men (NYC Fire Dept., 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, New York, NY 10005).

"I think that the winter holidays, especially Christmas and Hanukkah, will also be profoundly changed this year for many people. The terrorism has shifted our priorities, in many cases for the better, I believe. And everyone I talk to seems determined to have a simpler, more meaningful Christmas. Monica Hall of Maryland, who wrote me after the last newsletter, is planning to decorate her Christmas tree this year only in red, white and blue, and I'm sure the patriotic theme will be echoed by many. At our house, we've talked for years of ending the practice of the adults in the family buying multiple gifts for one another: it had gotten out of control. But this year, we're finally going to do it, pull names out of a hat on Thanksgiving and have each adult buy one gift for one other adult. Period. With all the time I'll save by NOT running around to area malls searching for creative gifts for people who already have plenty, I plan to spend some quiet time reading and thinking about peace on earth, goodwill to men--and how I can do MY part to reach those ends."

Thank you so very much Meg! My family and I are going to spend the week of Thanksgiving thanking the people in our life who have been a help and support in the last year, taking a little time each evening to recognize them and then to call or send a card.

It doesn't have to be all about food!

AND YES, THE HOLIDAYS ARE STILL FRAUGHT WITH "issues":

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As a ontological coach, I notice that for many of us, one of the moods we settle into during the holiday season is one of resignation. Resignation settles on us like a low pressure system blocking out other possibilities that are open to us, possibilities to create more meaningful, relaxing or renewing holiday encounters.

I lovingly challenge any statements you might make in the days ahead, statements like "That is just the way it is, I have to make three kinds of stuffing, everybody expects it" or "You know, we always get into a fight on New Year's, and why should this year be any different?" Or "Nobody ever listens to what I want." Notice what you say and think in the days to come and jot these observations down. Then try this to transform your resignation:

In the past, the holidays have been this way ________ (briefly name your disappointment or struggle ) and now they could be ________ this way (what outcome would you rather create?).

In the past, I have been _______ this way around this time of the year and I could be ________.

You can choose well-being!

Little about our lives is fixed in stone. Let wonder and interdependence bloom a perfumed mosaic of acceptance and spirit. Be infused with the good, call it in, and allow it to come home to roost.

Jennifer LoudenJennifer Louden is a best-selling author of The Woman's Comfort Book, The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life and three other titles. You can visit her popular website at ComfortQueen.com where over 600 articles about self-care, an interactive Inner Organizer, and a wonderful CQ store await you. Jennifer also works with a few clients at a time as a life coach.

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