...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Friday, December 18, 2009

On Giving Others a Break

December is a perfect time to cut everyone in your life some slack, because much of what fuels our struggle with the season is GUILT. How else can you explain the unreasonable amount of effort and money and time that goes into our preparation with buying, decorating, sending, and cooking? Why are we surprised when we find our Christmas has been stolen? We did it to ourselves.

Are we bums if we leave our perfect Christmas behind? If I don't feel happy or even joyful, and I am not overflowing with kindness, does that mean that I might as well expect a visit from Marley's ghost or sojourn in the cave on Mt. Crumpet with the Grinch himself?

Classes on managing holiday stress go a long way toward helping us set realistic goals for the season. Once these are written down, it's easier to stay true to them, to be intentional and not just well-intentioned. If we don't do something like this, we tend to measure everything by how we happen to be feeling at that moment. It's easy to lose focus of how we're implementing the small changes of reducing guilt and anxiety.

Talk of hating Christmas is more about hating the guilt and heroic expectations that come with not giving ourselves and others a break. If we need anything, it's first to be released so that we can let others go. Allow yourself and others NOT to be perfect. And if somehow, you don't measure up to your own ideals, then be gentle with yourself.

Allow for some breaks for rest and recovery. That is what Advent is supposed to be: a time to wait, to listen to God, to cease from doing and obsessing about doing. It's supposed to be a respite from the guilt that each December, we're not magically transformed into an ideal version of ourselves.

How can I make it easier for one other person today? That, to me, is the better way to prepare for Jesus' coming.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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