It’s hard not to feel pressured to try to capture the perfect holidays…

It can seem that there is too much to do with shopping, writing cards, getting together with family and friends, parties and decorating. I’ve found myself in past holidays trying to push a year’s worth of get togethers with loved ones and friends into a month or so.

Gradually I have learned to avoid trying to achieve “holiday perfection” and comparisons to the Hallmark greeting card images of the holidays. I have learned not to compare my circumstances to magazine touched up images or to be assimilated by consumerism. And I have learned that holiday happiness doesn’t come gift wrapped.

I have learned to focus on what is truly meaningful to me. By staying true to my heart, I have found that joy comes to me during this time, in spite of stress.

I believe the holidays are not just meant for children (as some believe), but for all of us. I believe they are not about having to make it through “another stressful family get together” or stuffing ourselves with goodies and sweets. In so far as holiday obligations go: who put these obligations on us? If we are independent adults and prefer not to go to a gathering, we may simply choose not to go. Our presence is not a gift if we do not want to be there. It doesn’t mean we are bad people, it means we need to celebrate in a way that feels genuine to us.

I believe the holidays are a time to find something spiritual and special about yourself, your life and the people in it. I believe the real secret and gift of the holidays is love and joy shared with one another.

I believe feeling grateful is an important part of the holidays. Thinking about what you are thankful for, perhaps sharing it with loved ones or even making a simple list goes a long way. I little Linda and tree_croprealize, it will not cure such things as health or money troubles, but never the less gratitude brings a magic of its own. The holidays and impending New Year bring an opportunity to have a “gratitude fest”.

There is no need to spend a lot of money during the holidays, especially if you don’t have it. You would be better off spending a little if even only time, to help others who have less. You might choose to volunteer at a food bank or for another organization you support. Donating toys or your time will go a long way to make someone else’s holiday special.

The holidays at best, should symbolize hope, generosity, good will and efforts to replace any “darkness” with “light”.

I am going to do my best this holiday season to keep the ultimate meaning of the holidays in my heart. I encourage you to take the time this season to give thanks to your loved ones (including pets!) and to pay it forward.