We are officially in the holiday season, everyone.
It’s happening. Pumpkin Spice flavored everything.
Scarves, coats, and gloves... that we don’t need in California, but we wear them anyway.
We’re coming up on Thanksgiving this week; and tis the season for messages of gratitude, love, bounty, sharing, and cheer. You’ll see TV commercials depicting families in sweaters sharing food by fireplaces. I cannot personally wait for all the Hallmark Movies about Thanksgiving blessings, pumpkin spice lattes, family values, and giving thanks. Most people are writing about being grateful, lovingly gathering with family, and counting your blessings.
You may have noticed I’m not like most people. I have no intention to talk about ooey gooey familial love, and counting your blessings.
I’m not drinking that pumpkin spice flavored Koolaid this year, and I will tell you why….
After almost two decades of working with the public, food service, retail, sales...when it comes to the holiday season….none of my customers were or are talking about ooey gooey Hallmark Movie topics.
Not once, has one of my customers said, “OOOoooOoh, I can’t wait to wear matching sweaters with my family, and drink pumpkin spice flavored eggnog by a fireplace, then discuss our mutual love while listening to Bing Crosby.”
Never have I ever had a conversation with someone who says….”I am elated to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and then take turns saying what we’re grateful for.”
"I can tell you what I have heard, over the course of 19 years working with the public:
I can’t afford to buy all this food, or all these presents! I’m so broke.
I have no family here, I’m just so lonely during the holidays.
I am so butthurt I have to sit in traffic for 4 hours to get to Thanksgiving dinner with my family...my family that I do not EVEN want to be with, AGH!
My aunt starts political fights at the dinner table, and someone cries every year.
Dude, my Uncle Jerry gets wasted every time the family gets together. Last year he puked on the christmas presents.
I waited in line at the supermarket for 45 minutes to get pumpkin spice flavored spaghetti today.
I’m afraid to see my family. I don’t want to deal with my family. I always fight with my family. My family judges me. My family is dysfunctional. My family has so much drama."
This is the standard holiday season quibble I hear.
Sooooo...It didn’t seem right for me to come forward to offer you the same holiday cheer pumpkin spice flavored Koolaid we’re forced to drink every year. I didn’t want to fill you up with redundant messages about Thanksgiving, or the rest of the holiday season for that matter. I wanted to come forward with a different message, that may give you a different perspective this holiday season.
I asked myself; what’s the lesson in all this pumpkin spice flavored holiday drama? What are we supposed to be learning while enduring long lines, conflicting family members, heinous traffic, loneliness, and extra expenses? Obviously we’re always learning the giving and receiving of love, that lesson applies to everything; but ...that’s not the main lesson here…
Gratitude is important in all this Christmas tree, pumpkin spice, mashed potato gravy drama too; but we’re skipping a step, a lesson, to get to gratitude.
That’s why the Thanksgiving media message is so awkward, so hard to achieve. Gratitude is an important lesson….be grateful, give thanks...but it’s kind of hard to go from “My family screams and yells at Thanksgiving, drinks too much, and throws dishes across the room every year, and I end up broke from buying this food” to “I am so grateful for my family, and this lovely food.” There’s a step missing, like we’re jumping to level 3 without passing level 2. Gratitude feels like...a reward for learning the lesson we’re skipping in all this.
So I asked myself...what are we missing? What step are we skipping?
Aaaaaaand I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked spirit, and heard, “Acceptance”.
Acceptance. Oh yea, acceptance. That feels right.
How do you transition from “I can’t afford all this g-darn food for Thanksgiving! This is stressful!”, to, “I’m so grateful I spent all this money I shouldn’t have on Pumpkin Spice flavored toothpaste.” That’s awkward, right? Because you’re not actually grateful you spent too much money on Pumpkin Spice flavored utensils, right?
There’s no easy transition from:
“It’s going to take me 3 hours to get to Orange County for Thanksgiving dinner, I hate traffic!!!", to, “I am so grateful for this traffic, I really enjoy it.”
“I don’t want to deal with drunk Uncle Larry puking on things!”, to, “I am so grateful for Uncle Larry’s vomit adventures.”
It’s comical, the Thanksgiving Holiday Message, as it applies to ...reality. It’s a fabulous message, and we should apply the message and attitude of gratitude to our everyday lives...always. However, for all the stress, drama, lines, and pumpkin spice flavored soda of the holiday season...the much more applicable lesson is acceptance. We can’t control other people, not even drunk Uncle Larry. We can’t control the traffic. We can’t control lines at Grocery Stores or at the Mall. So, why does it drive us so crazy? Because we’re not practicing and learning acceptance. The only thing we can control is our minds; and it’s in our favor to use our minds to focus on accepting reality.
“Uncle Larry, man, he is who he is! And that’s that. And that’s okay. I’m just going to accept him for who he is, he’s on his own path...he’s swerving around a bit; but hey, that’s none of my business.”
Once we accept... authentically accept Uncle Larry for the person he is, and stop thinking about fixing him, or how he shouldn’t be this way...it’s all of a sudden easier to be around Uncle Larry. Acceptance makes it possible to have gratitude for Uncle Larry. The Uncle Larry’s of the world have taught us a lot! Patience, tolerance, agility training from dodging drunken pumpkin spice vomit… Those are invaluable lessons!
“These long lines, all the grumpy people and screaming children, they are what they are. This happens every year...Oh well! I know I’m going to have to wait in them, and that’s okay...it’s just time. We made time up, it’s not even real.”
All of a sudden, waiting in line is not so miserable anymore, just a very very natural part of our holiday season...and life in general. Once we’re not so darn irritated by being in a long line (waiting to buy our pumpkin spice candles), and we let that irritation go- we make space for gratitude.
“I have the financial opportunity to purchase this pumpkin spice ice cream, pumpkin spice gum, and pumpkin spice deodorant! I am grateful!“
You have to make space for gratitude; and if irritation is taking up too much space...gratitude can’t come in.
We need to take that step, learning acceptance, to get to the next step- gratitude. Giving thanks.
Acceptance….practicing acceptance seems like it would make everything else easier too, huh? Accepting drunk Uncle Larry would make it a lot easier to love him, wouldn’t it? Practicing love. Accepting traffic and long lines might make it easier to not get so distracted by them, right? No distractions- then we can focus on what matters, what’s now.
Accepting that we might not have enough money to buy a metric ton of Pumpkin Spice Flavored Thanksgiving food or presents, might keep us from spending too much money. Practicing moderation.
The holiday season is a beautiful opportunity to learn and practice acceptance.
The holiday season is like a crash course in acceptance!
I’m going to challenge you to not make it a crash and burn course.