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To Our Loneliness Around the Holidays

I want to speak to that loneliness in so many of us that's exacerbated during the holidays. You are not alone if you feel lonely this holiday season!

This is a time of year when I'd guess that loneliness skyrockets.  The feeling of being disconnected or dissatisfied with our relationships might be one we can ignore other timesof the year.  But come Christmas, when the expectations are elevated that everyone be jolly, merry, and surrounded by a big, loving, and healthy family, we are prone to feel the disappointment ever more obviously.

Holiday Loneliness

For some, the feeling of being alone is an annual experience.  You are used to the grief of not having a loving family, a present family, or a healthy family.  You know how to manage your expectations and you've undoubtedly created coping mechanisms and rituals to avoid sitting all alone in your apartment on Christmas Day.  But it's still noticeable.

For some, the feeling of being alone might be relatively new to you this holiday.  Perhaps you experienced a loss this last year-- a divorce, a death, or another ending-- that makes this holiday feel anything but festive.  You wonder what rituals to still do, how many times you can paint a smile over your ache, and whether you want to even try to be around others.  The pain still feels raw.  If one more grocery store clerk tries to make small talk by asking you if you've got big plans for the holidays, you might just break down and cry.

For many, you will not be alone, but you will still feel some disconnection.  It may be as you notice the absence of someone you wish were still in your life, but is noticeably gone.  It may be that you miss that your family isn't all able to get together this year.  Or, it can even happen when you're surrounded by people if you don't relate to them, don't feel close to them, or feel stress in their presence.  It's so common to look around at "family" and wish for a different experience.

Loneliness can be one of the most painful human experiences ever.

What is Loneliness?

One of my keynote talks is all about loneliness.  Because the honest truth is that we all know this feeling. It's far more universal than anyone thinks.  That's one of the ironies of loneliness is that we feel so alone in the feeling.

While we many not all face being completely alone during the holidays, we all know what it feels like to crave more connectedness.

And that's how I define loneliness-- it is your body's way of telling you that you want more meaningful connection in your life.

Much like hunger tells you that you need food, thirst tells you that you need water, and exhaustion tells you that you need sleep-- those pangs of loneliness is information to you that you wish for greater connection.

And there is no shame in that!  None at all!  I don't feel shame that my body needs to eat, drink, and sleep; and neither do I feel shame that my heart needs to connect.

Loneliness is information.  Information that shouldn't be ignored, stuffed down, fed with food, or drowned with alcohol.  Information that should be trusted, appreciated, accepted, and thanked.  Information that we shouldn't try to talk ourselves out of feeling, to buttress with cheerfulness, or to wallow in despair.  It's information.  Information that the healthiest among us will note, hold, and act upon.

My Prayer for You

If you're in this season wishing for more connection, I want you to know that you're not alone.  Not at all.  Don't let our happy Christmas card photos trick you into thinking that our lives are perfect.

So many of us have loved ones in the hospital this holiday, people missing from our family tables, financial stress and work obligations that prevent us from being with everyone, and people we have to be with that aren't meaningful.  We know, in varying degrees, what it means to not be surrounded by all the love we want.

Take the information from that and own it.  There is much beyond our control... we can't place an order for the family and the finances that would reflect what we think makes a perfect holiday.  And that has to be grieved.  We ache for whom we have lost and for whom we don't have.  And I'm so sorry.

And then ask yourself what is in your control.  Is there anything you can do that will help invite more love into your life this week?  Anyone you can reach out to?  Anything you want to schedule? Any rituals that will bring you peace or contentedness?  Any conversations you can create opportunity to have?  Any love you can give to others?

We acknowledge that few will experience this holiday the way the commercials evoke. But we also acknowledge that love is not limited to those things.  We can let go of needing it to come in a specific package, in what we think is the ideal form; and instead open ourselves up to letting it come in surprising ways.

Be someone this month, if you can muster it, where you know that love is in your hands.  You are not a victim--reliant on anyone else, or anything, to help you experience love.  You are a creator of love.

I see your pain, and I'm so sorry for it.  I also see your hunger to be loved more, and I'm so grateful for it.  Feed your hunger this holiday, more than you feed your pain.  Reach out for connection in any form, and whisper over and over, "I am connected."  For you are.

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  To launch our new year together, a year of inviting more connection into our lives in 2014, I'll be speaking on a free, live phone call about the 4 different types of loneliness we all face at different times, the 5 Circles of Friends we need, and the two most important actions we can take to invite more connection in our lives.  Friday evenings are sacred time for me-- time for family, God, and rituals that end my week and step me into peace.  So I'm picturing a call on the first Friday night of 2014-- make yourself some tea or pour yourself a glass of wine-- and join me on Jan. 3.  Sign up for this free call here.

 

 

When The Holidays Aren't Always Merry...

Happy Holidays!

Except when they aren't.

For many, this year won't live up to the Christmas dream.

This time of year the expectations are raised so high that we are ever more acutely aware of what we don't have, who's no longer with us, and how imperfect our family can look. While it's one of my favorite times of year, research shows us it's also one of the hardest and most stressful.  Loneliness sky-rockets, heart-attacks are more frequent, exhaustion is more prevalent, and finances feel most strained.

When I used to pastor churches I was acutely aware that the holidays were some of the hardest times for many in my congregation. This time of year--with the huge emphasis placed on family, travel, and being together--serves as a mile-marker that can highlight who we have lost in recent years or fear losing in the year to come. For many it was their first Christmas without a specific loved one.  For some it was a reminder that they didn't have any family.  For others who were suffering with pain, age, or uncertain health prognoses it was a time of wondering if this would be their last Christmas season. And for still others, this holiday will be spent around hospital beds as sickness, accidents, and heart-attacks are known to ignore calendars.

Even without tragedy and loss, the picture of a Norman Rockwell family holiday can seem more rare than normal. Many don't have the money or time to travel to be with family, others don't want to be with their family, and still others will go but will feel like they can't always breathe through their family dysfunction and dynamics. We find ourselves wishing that we had the soul mate we've been looking for, the baby we have been trying to have, or the divorce that we can't bring ourselves to initiate.

The Hallmark commercials showing the whole family coming home with grand kids, happy hugs, and big meals often leave us feeling like we've been robbed this illusive experience. It's hard to always feel happy when the bar gets raised.

Add to all of this the gazillion extra things we take on: shopping, holiday cards, cookie bakes, kids concerts, company parties, extra spending, shipping lines, childcare during school breaks, decorating, and all the extra activities that help us get into the spirit of the season.

Yes, I was very careful what I said up front during the holiday season to a church full of tired-looking people. For as much as we want to just say "Happy Holidays!"-- saying it doesn't always make it so.

Love's Blessing For You

This season I want to anchor us in something that we can all exude regardless of the losses, stresses, and disappointments that are sure to be there, too.

So for all of you, my GirlFriendCircles.com community, whether your weariness comes from planning the perfect holiday or whether you're mourning the holiday that won't be this year-- I invite you to a moment of rest.

Christmas heart

"Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest."-- Jesus, the Love we celebrate this season

You're weary.  I can see it.  I know it.  You weren't created to feel this anxiety, panic, stress, or fear. For one moment, can you release it, or hold it more loosely? Can you hold all your stress in your hand and symbolically open your fingers to remind yourself you don't have to cling to it? You don't have to grip it so hard.  Do you see it there in your hand?  Outside of you? It's not in you... you choose what to inhale.  But see this stress in your hand and know that you can choose what you hold, or at least how you hold it. Take another deep breath. And let it out.....

You were created to feel loved, be loved, and give love. And that you can do without dollars in your bank or extra time in your day.

Rest from your unmet expectations.

Rest from your fears.

Rest from your ache.

Rest from your sense of alone-ness.

I invite you, in this moment, to inhale love, and to exhale worry.

I invite you, in this moment, to name something you're grateful for in your life.

I invite you to look around and whisper "In this moment, I have everything I need.  I really do."

I invite you to put your hand on your heart and say "I am deeply and fully loved."  Because you are.

You can be love even when you're lonely. Release the picture of what you think you need before you can feel loved.  Let go of the limitations you've placed on what form it can take.  Be gentle with yourself and know that there is no shortage of love for you.

You are love.  You were created in the image of Love. We so often forget, but today we can remember it.  Remember that we are love.

Today, let our actions be connected to our love.  Let's make sure that the things on our to-do list come from a place of love.  And stay in a place of love.

  • Rather than bake cookies because we have this picture of ourselves as having to live up to Martha Stewart, let's bake cookies as an expression of love.
  • Rather than sit next to a hospital bed with fear and regret, let's stay in the place of love.
  • Rather than bemoan the family that isn't, let's find others to love.

Let's reach out and tell a far-away friend that we love them. Let's find a moment to remember that we love ourselves.  Let's think of someone we know who might be hurting this holiday and drop a card in the mail. Let's love.

Girlfriends, our lives may not feel perfect, happy, and perky this season.  Jolly and merry may not be within reach. But love is already in us.  We can love no matter what.  Let's be women of love-- women who exude love, women who receive love, women who give love.

May our Christmases be centered around love, no matter the circumstances. With tons of love for you!  Hugs!!!