Holiday Season Savvy

In preparing for the Radio pod-cast which aired on December 2nd , 2010, and can be accessed via the audio link,  I share with you some of my thoughts on how to ensure that the joys of the holiday season do not become the regrets of the New Year.

A) Be more Mindful with Money – reduce the Waste.  

According to a recent CNN poll released on November 29th, 2010 I was astonished to learn that: –

  • $30 Billion dollars in US wasted on Unwanted Gifts
  • $25 Billion dollars Worldwide, wasted on Unwanted gifts

It called up for me memories of how I too had added to that statistic. I too had fallen into the trap of frantically spending/wasting money on gifts for people who really didn’t want them, and memories of me receiving unwanted gifts that I knew would be wasted.

B) Choosing Mindfully and with Attention. 

Five things that might be helpful for us to keep in mind: –

  1. Prioritize: Identify singly or as a family (getting buy-in from all parties concerned), what takes precedence; to whom you’ll like to give a gift, so that you’re not adding to the above statistics.
  2. Set a Limit for Yourself: I notice that stores now have selections of goods/gifts within specific price ranges, such as “Gifts for Her Under $100” or “Gifts for Him Under $50” or “Under $25” or “Under $10” whatever the limit that you’ve set for yourself.
  3. Make the List and check it Twice: given the often times “limited resources” of money &/or time. 
  4. Be Smart about what’s important to You:  Don’t get caught up in blindly running the habit of what ought to be done (out of an often misguided sense of duty or obligation); running the habit of trying to be what other people want us to be, to do or to say. Instead, we should “pause” to ask ourselves questions such as: (a) “Is this really important to me?”  (b) “Who am I anyway? ….merely ‘the buffet’ for everyone else to come and feed off, both literally & figuratively?” (c) Am I being myself or am I doing and doing and doing and doing; mindlessly performing some act of noble self-sacrifice and martyrdom because that’s what I’ve always done in the past and that’s what’s ‘expected of me’?” (d) “When do I count?” or (e) “When does my voice matter?”

It is not so much in trying to find the answers, but rather it is in having the courage to stop, to pause and to consider the questions in the first place. It is like remembering “to put the oxygen-mask on ourselves first!”

For me, it is remembering that my life is not about finding or having all the answers or about doing the “right” thing. Rather, my life is about being . . . being courageous to tell myself the truth about my experiences.  It is being honest with myself that, by the choices that I have made, that by the habits that I have run, that by my reactions and my beliefs, I have created it all! Then the questions for me became, “do I like the results that I am getting? “Am I mindfully paying attention and realize that I have created it all?” “Do I have the courage to change my mind and therefore change what I have created?” “Are my habits, reactions, beliefs working for me?” “Are they serving and supporting who I am becoming? “Who am I becoming anyway?”

It is not good, bad, right or wrong, however, the whole point of our “being smart and noticing our habituated responses,” is that we wake up to ourselves.  We wake up from our deep sleep; out of our coma, and start to pay attention to some of the crazy-making stuff that we’re doing to ourselves.

When we can pause; “catch ourselves” and begin to mindfully make choices that are meaningful to us, we start to get our lives back. It is important that we remember that we do have choices and yes there are consequences (even when we do nothing, there are still consequences). The name of the game for me is to be mindfully aware of the choices that I’m making so that I’m not left with the headache of feeling angry, bitter, resentful or full of remorse or regret; sometimes making myself physically ill over this or that event, person or situation.

I share a quick side-bar story:  An elderly lady wanted to sell her diamond engagement ring that she treasured from her deceased husband, in order to buy Christmas gifts for her grandchildren. For her, the pull to do this was so strong that she allowed herself to be enticed by an advertisement and sent off her precious ring (which she’d had for over 50 years) in an envelope hoping to get a lump sum of cash in which to buy the Christmas presents. She was hoping to receive about $800 to $1,000 back in the mail; instead she received a cheque for $8.36. A Police Investigative Report under the heading of Mail-Order Fraud brought her situation (along with many others) to light in the News. The victim was even hoping to sue the company for the return of her ring, but neither the company nor the ring exists any longer.

I relate this story not as a judgment about this unfortunate lady’s actions (good, bad, etc) rather it is a harsh reminder to us all to “pay attention” to the things and situations that we create in our lives when the “pull of expectations”, that we place on ourselves, can be so strong that we do things that we may later regret.

5.      Get Creative: -

  • By sometimes delving into the attic or rummaging in the basement we can amaze ourselves by what we can create: perhaps making a collage of childhood or old family photographs to give as gifts.
  • Perhaps doing some holiday-season baking (cookies, cakes, fancy breads, etc to parcel up and give as gifts).
  • Perhaps contributing to the festive meal by taking a favorite dish.
  • A friend of my mother’s as she got older and didn’t get around as much, started giving away special items of jewelry and items in her home that were meaningful to her in some way. She felt her children and grandchildren would appreciate them now, rather than when she was deceased.  The GIFT she gave herself was the sheer delight in seeing and knowing that the items she once cherished, were also meaningful in some way to her loved ones, and weren’t going to be wasted.
  • The gift of your time; the essence of YOU (e.g. writing say in a promissory note – to spend time with an older family member; say reading to them, or sharing your previous or upcoming activities with them – having meaningful conversations; chats; visits.)
  • Perhaps putting “Names in a Hat” and buying ONLY ONE gift for the person / relative selected.

C) Creating Gentle Reminders for Ourselves (in order not to lose one’s Self to the frenzy).

  • Remember to plan ahead. Envision or even script the scenario, should there be family dynamics or tensions, ahead-of-time. By listening to my “internal cues” and taking this preventative measure, I felt better prepared to steer the conversation in a different direction to alleviate some of the tension in my body.
  • Remember to breathe and to catch yourself when holding your breath. Be willing to create the “pause” for your Self, so that you give yourself permission to mindfully respond to the situation.
  • Be willing to change your mind and to say “no” without having a long drawn out explanation.
  • Remember that you’re not alone: stay connected via this website; the links via the Radio Show; subscribe to the Women Gathering Google Group on the WEL-Systems website. We welcome your participation and would love to hear from you.
Posted on: August 6th, 2011 by Noreen Mejias-Bennett No Comments