not normal – what a relief

visual journey

credit – grosenberg

I’ll admit it – I’ve been feeling a bit down and struggling to get my ‘stuff’ together. Especially my writing stuff. Here, on my blog. Remember how I wanted to post on a regular basis?

This morning I made one of my random forays onto Facebook. And LO! there were Elizabeth Lesser’s wonder-full words of wisdom. So with unabashed gratitude for the wholesale borrowing of her words (highlighted by me), here they are:

It’s that time of year again: the modern miracle known as The Holidays, when into the dark little month of December, we squeeze Hanukkah, Christmas, and a myriad of other celebrations, from ancient Solstice rituals to the more contemporary rites of school plays, office parties, and community gatherings. Throw into that mix a generous dose of unrealistic expectations, budget-busting shopping, dysfunctional family feasts, airplane flights, darker days, colder weather, excess eating and drinking, and no wonder that along with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” come seasonal stress, exhaustion, and depression.

For the next couple of weeks I am going to post some ways of relinquishing your unrealistic expectations about the holidays, so as to have yourself a merry little time.

Here’s Tip #1:
Let’s start with the word “normal”. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Normal is someone you don’t know very well.” This is a good thing to keep in mind always, but especially now, when we assume that the normal people are all having happier, healthier, and more harmonious holidays than we are. We imagine their mailboxes stuffed with Christmas cards and party invitations, their homes decorated in Martha Stewart splendor, and their intact and idyllic families primed for five full weeks of good cheer.
I don’t know these people, do you? The most effective thing you can do to reduce holiday angst is to wipe the word “normal” from your vocabulary.

The 12th century poet Rumi wrote about a phenomenon he called the “Open Secret.” He said each one of us is trying to hide the same secret from each other—not some racy or evil secret, but rather the mere fact of our flawed humanness. We expend so much energy trying to conceal our ordinary bewilderment at being human, or our loneliness in the crowd, or that nagging sense that everyone else has it more together than we do, that we miss out on the chance to really connect, which is what we ultimately long for. Especially during the holidays.

So, here’s something you can do this holiday season: Open up your Open Secret. Overcome your embarrassment at being human, and tell a friend that you didn’t get one party invitation. Maybe she will reveal the same thing, or she’ll bring you to the one party on her list, or together you’ll go to your local homeless shelter and help the kids decorate the tree . . .Tell your brother that you are worried about how much your mother drinks at the annual Christmas dinner; ask him to support you in dealing more honestly with her this year . . . Don’t just say “Fine!” when a colleague asks how you are at the office party. Say, “Sometimes all this ho-ho-ho makes me feel lonely.” You’ll be surprised by the response. Suddenly a mere acquaintance will open up his secrets to you, and soon you’ll feel more connected, not only to him, but to the real meaning of the holidays.

10 thoughts on “not normal – what a relief

  1. For years now I have stopped buying Holiday presents, and give in the name of my family and friends so several charities. We all have so much….if I do find something special brings to mind a specific friend or family, I do wrap and send it on to them. Thanks Sarah, for the work you to do connect with family with you lovely and loved baked goods. But I would be just as happy for you to take the time to sit and read and have a piece of Linzer tort for me!

  2. Sarah, this is the time of barely-contained-crazy for me. I gave up normal a long time ago, but there’s still shopping, cooking, baking to squeeze in. Just got the shopping mostly done, so now I can focus on fun–like making fudge 😉 Thank you for sharing this wise and wonderful words

    • Focus on the fudge fun, yes indeed!!! We stopped doing gifts ages ago; now we cook together and volunteer gift-wrap for four hours on Christmas Eve. It takes all the crazy out of it and just leaves the fun intact. Way to go!!! Happy holidays to you, Sara.

  3. Glad to see you back, Sarah! Wise words. I’ve never been “normal”, and I’m not planning to start any time soon. Normal people are currently running around in circles spending money on things they can’t afford to impress people they don’t know… *shrug*. They can keep it, I’m happy with my pile of second-hand books and a bit of writing time for Christmas.

    • Well said, mm!! It would be downright comical if it weren’t so desperate, this shopping frenzy. My daughter told me ‘Black Friday’ started at 8pm on Thanksgiving day this year. Absolutely senseless. Thanks for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. And a quiet uncluttered holiday to you 🙂

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