Sunday, December 31, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - Make Kindred This Year

   Retail sales were up this Christmas. Good news, I suppose. Some say it's because we have more consumer confidence this year. But I’m not so sure. I think Christmas presents are a different category of retail altogether. They represent something more communal, more human. I suspect we bought more presents this year because we needed more Christmas this year. I think we gave more gifts because we need to enhance our sense of belonging right now.
    This is not to discount the religious reasons for Christmas or even choose one tradition over another. But not all parts of of Christmas belong to Christ. Gift giving and tree trimming among them.
    What are we saying to someone when we buy or make and give a holiday present? To some we are making a gesture of professional courtesy with a gift, like to a coworker or the mail carrier. Other gifts are so profound they could bind together an entire village.
    But in the most basic, traditional holiday exchange it is a gift of simple love—a token of thoughtfulness on purpose. A symbol of family. Of welcoming. Of kindred. It’s powerful.
    What will you do with that power? For we each possess it and not just at Christmas. The power to cheer, to embrace, to notice one another, to offer belonging. That last one is where it all matters most. And it is what we have been taught by the masters. We all have the ability to offer belonging to another person. Who do you know that might be in great need of a little sense of belonging right now? Who on your radar is struggling? You don’t have to save the whole world, just the starfish right in front of your own beach towel will do fine.
    This year, consider becoming observant of the state of belonging. Notice it where it exists and where it doesn't. Get a keychain or a mug with the word ‘belong’ written on it. Pay attention to people who feel lost, lonely, even angry. Don’t let anger fool you. Anger is always fear masquerading as hostility. It is more frightened of you than you should be of it. It wants to remain just as it is. You want things to change. Fear does whatever it must to remain in power. Offer belonging right to its face. Belonging knows on its own what to do with fear. Don’t worry about it. Stay focused.
    Who do you want to be this new year? We hold up as sacred this somewhat arbitrary demarcation point separating ‘old’ year from ‘new’ year. A clean slate. A symbolic new start. More than at any other time of the year we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we are capable of more. We hold out hope that we will have greater will power, be kinder, exercise more, eat less, quit smoking, start volunteering. We expect to become super-versions of our former, weaker selves.
    Usually by around January 3 many of us have abandoned our resolutions. Nearly all of us will have failed by January 21. Only around 8% of people actually keep them all year. We shoot for the moon and end up missing it. We attach ourselves to the outcome when we should attach ourselves to the journey, and as a result we feel like failures
    Keep it simple, sweetheart.
    Don’t worry about specific resolutions. Resolve to make a change beneath the level of your fear. Then your wounded psyche can’t get in the way and sabotage it. It won’t even see what you're doing until it’s too late. Good.
    Heal yourself through your choice to seek and offer belonging. Join a club. Start a club. Email friends and relatives who haven’t heard from you in a while. Remind yourself who your tribe is and how much they love you.
    Then go out and deliberately do that for someone else. Make more tribe. More kindred. More chosen family. You'll find this new year may be the best of your life. So far.

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