At this time of year most of us are buying and wrapping multiple gifts. We are focused on all the happiness that the season can bring, and not much on its complications. We plan how to decorate our homes and our trees and what will accompany the roast beef for Christmas dinner.
We don’t often think of the ways we may have disappointed those we love, or how we have made them angry with us. Instead, we think of baking them cookies, loving them up, and making nice in general to all those around us. And on New Year’s Eve, perhaps, we even resolve to change any negative feelings we may have about others, and then sometimes fail with that resolution as the year progresses.
But I ask myself: why is it that we use emotional bandaids like presents and eggnog, instead of forging loving alliances and relationships today, using gratitude and the true gifts we can offer during these days of joy? Religions of all sorts, as well as psychology, teach us that forgiveness is one of the most important actions we can take. Why do we make it all so challenging for ourselves? Life is tough enough.
Wouldn’t it feel better if we could solve the old problems and move into the new year with a refreshed sense of how important these special people are to us? Wouldn’t it feel better if we could put aside the slights we felt were insults, or the angry words that we experienced as rejections? Perhaps we can’t because we don’t truly let go of the past. At this time of year, we have the opportunity to do more than buy them sweaters and toys–we have the opportunity to turn from the superficial to the heart of the matter.
I, too, sometimes find myself allowing perfunctory activities and emotions to overwhelm the holidays. I plan elaborate meals for my family and buy them too many expensive presents. This surely springs from the guilt I feel over not having had better communication with them during the past year.
Right now, I have a friend from whom I have grown increasingly distant and with whom I don’t even begin to know how to mend the fence. I have a family member whom I rarely see, even though we live only ten miles apart in neighboring towns. All this grieves me, and I do want to change it. Perhaps now, more aware of my behavior, I will be able to forgive these people for whatever pain our past relationship may have held, and take them back into my heart.
My Dalmatians seem to have it all figured out. Dogs are the most altruistic beings we know. They make no judgments about us regardless of what we do, and give us unstinting companionship and adoration. They are wonderful role models, if only we would look in their direction. What are the characteristics of our dogs that we would most like to emulate? I ask myself this now and find abundant answers: loyalty, an ability to love unconditionally and, yes, to also forgive all the people in their lives without resentment.
In a very short time we will face several holidays, with the opportunity to revamp our old relationships with the people we love. It only takes a little bit of insight into ourselves. We can make these days a little lighter, brighter and more free. We can make room for what matters most. So, let’s wrap up 2014 with more than gifts and cookies, and move on to the coming year, right around the corner.
P.S. My family and I are lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Maryland with my sister and my niece, as well as my stepdaughters and my grandchildren. I’m taking a short break from “Linda’s Newsletter,” so you won’t hear from me until January 7th.
I like to imagine we are making a trip to the North Pole to visit Santa, where the dogs would be magically transformed into his beloved reindeer and we would all be at peace. But Breeze, Cody and Mac will be staying home with a loving friend, as taking them with us is prohibitively expensive and air travel is hard on them as well. Nevertheless, it will be a happy holiday for our Dals, and that is a bit of a relief for me–to know that they will be spoiled for an entire week by someone who adores them. And that is peace indeed.