The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
“It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” was written, in 1963, by Edward Pola and George Wyle, recorded and released by pop singer Andy Williams for his first Christmas album. When I hear these words I picture a seasonal ad for Staples, the Office Supply giant. The one where a Father is skipping around the store filling a shopping cart with school supplies to the tune of the Christmas song. As soon as our children were school aged, the end of summer season became my ‘most wonderful time of the year’. By process of elimination, that makes the time from Thanksgiving preparations to New Year’s Day not my most wonderful time of the year. Even though the years of elaborate decorating and too many social obligations have passed, I still find it stressful. It probably has something to do with my ‘hopes’ that my expectations will become reality. I know I’m not alone here. Just Google ‘surviving the holidays’ and see what happens. Add even a little bit of active grief to the mix and it can turn the Wassail (an old ‘toast to drinking healths’) into Wail (“to make a loud, long, sad cry as in grief, or pain’) in an instant.
With No Disrespect To Grief
The ‘grief’ category of suffering, like all suffering, cannot be compared. Each grief is unique. Suffering, remember, is a phenomenon of the soul. We treat pain, a phenomenon of the body, with medicine and treatments for the body. Body treatments for a soul don’t usually work very well. They may dull the feeling of suffering, even distract from it, but only a soul-full intervention can mitigate a phenomenon of the soul. Dictionary definition of grief: intense emotional suffering caused as by a loss; come to grief: to fail or be ruined. Yet, I know that grief need not be over-whelming, nor debilitating because we’ve all been through it. The other day I noticed that I was grieving for my recently deceased friend and former patient. I felt it deep in my center, and it felt gratifying, as though paying homage to my friend, which I was. I also felt the depth to which one could descend into grief and I knew how out of balance that could be. Practicing Mindfulness Awareness is what develops the skill, and sensitivity, to notice these movements of our feelings and thoughts. We come to know that grief will pass, as we all will.
With Respect To Gratefulness
I first met Br. David Steindl-Rast in 1986 when he was leading a retreat at The Omega Institute. And that was where I was introduced to Gratefulness, as soul food. Gratefulness as an antidote to being ‘out of balance’. Being out of balance is when we allow one thing or feeling to dominate to our detriment. And cultivating Gratefulness is a strong soul food counter balance. I hear cynics now: “Yeah, right. Just be grateful.” So as I was noticing my grieving, as above, and I saw how deep grief could be I also noticed Gratefulness walk right in. It may not always be easy to find something you are willing to admit being grateful for, but do it anyway. If you’re having a hard time, try being grateful for ‘air’. As you actively work at being grateful, you also have to ‘soften your belly’ and open your heart. It’s so very, very important. But here’s the fascinating thing. I experienced deep grief and gratefulness at the same time. It was a surprise and it was fun.
Happy Holidays and Br. David’s TedTalk: We All Want To Be Happy Don’t We?
In the spirit of the holidays, and every day is a holiday, may I encourage you to visit Br. David’s TedTalk. Yes, he talks about Gratefulness and he talks about being happy. It’s an EXCELLENT way to spend 15 minutes. And if you need a dose of antidote, ever, visit www.Gratefulness.org.
Living gratefully means daring to live through not only good times, but even through our troubles and confusion. As Rainer Maria Rilke says in his Letters to a Young Poet, “The point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”