From Holiday Numb to Holiday Fun

From the title, you may be expecting a post about the best way to frost holiday cookies, or a debate about if a candy cane or bell is a better shape for a cookie.  I apologize if I disappoint, but the only thing I know about holiday cookies is how to eat them.  (And I must say I’m very good at that.)

I’ve been thinking about this subject because I’m in San Diego, until this Thursday when I’m excited to travel back to South Dakota, where I lived most of my life, to spend the holiday with family and friends from back home.

The same thing that struck me last year, when I spent some of my first December in California, strikes me now.  Where’s the snow?  Where’s the cold?  Why am I not shivering?  Why don’t I have to dress in layers? Why is there nothing to shovel?

So much goes into our experience of the holidays: often decorating, feasting, shopping for gifts, listening to special music, gathering with friends and family, maybe the religious celebrations we choose to attend, and even the weather.

We sometimes deal with this mass of activities around the holidays by choosing to go Holiday Numb. Especially if something about this year’s holiday seems very different from our experience of the holidays in years past.   Sometimes this experience of difference can be uncomfortable or even painful.

Last year, palm trees, rain and warmth didn’t square with my experience of past holidays, so I went Holiday Numb.

Did my decision to go Holiday Numb mean that the holidays weren’t alive and well in San Diego last December?  No, I simply choose to go Holiday Numb.

This December, now that I feel far more settled, I’m allowing myself to look around and feel the holiday on San Diego terms, instead of numbing the holiday out because it doesn’t match the look and feel of past holidays in my memory.

The holiday was all around last year, I was just unwilling to look and feel it.

The wonder of this time of year comes from looking for and being open to feeling Holiday Fun.

However, remember that we are in no way obligated to always feel Holiday Fun during this season.  For example, I think of the means of having fun suggested in the carol “Jingle Bells.”  “Dashing through the snow on a one-horse open sleigh,” sounds more akin to being miserably cold than fun to me.  And this is OK.  We are always free to choose what we find fun and meaningful during the holidays, while letting go of the rest.

As changes come into our lives, may we acknowledge the newness of these changes, even the difficult ones.  At the same time, may we look, feel and even savor the fresh, newness of this holiday.  And may we, most of all, each actively create our own definition of Holiday Fun.

(OK, now I’m going to buy some cookies.)

Game of the Day

Are there any holiday activities that you do not find Holiday Fun that you want to choose not to participate in this year?

How are you going to create your own definition of Holiday Fun this year?

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The San Diego Levity Project: A Celebration of Simplicity and Technology

Have you ever done anything like this?

Last weekend a group of over seventy people boarded a double-decker bus and embarked on a journey to unknown places to do unknown activities for the purpose of bringing laughter, play and celebration into public places.

Our first stop was San Diego’s Old Town where the group of us blended into the crowd, that is, until we suddenly pulled out balloons and started joyfully hitting them around.  We created a spontaneous game of Keep the Balloon Afloat, and all kinds of people joined in.

Next, our wonderful tour guide, Ina Lukas, took us to Balboa Park. We were instructed to walk silently in wonder, while doing a Smile Meditation along the long El Prado walk, between grand old buildings and many park goers, and just notice the beauty around us.   Then we sat around a huge fountain and laughed, not for the purpose of engaging others, but just for the thrill of laughing.   Others joined in.

Finally, Seaport Village, where we walked along the harbor and danced for no reason.  Just simply for the joy of being alive.

I was moved by the simplicity of the activities on this adventure, the simplicity of joy, how joy doesn’t have to cost great sums of money.

Joy can be as simple as blowing up a balloon and keeping it afloat and laughing at how the wind has so much to say about where the balloon goes.

Modern technology also added to the joy of The Levity Project.  We were carried between the project’s simple events by a double-decker bus. When a group of us were going to be late returning to the bus, I texted on my cell phone.  People could sign up for The Levity Project on-line.  The Levity Project connects agents of social change all over the world via their website, email newsletters, YouTube, and social media.

We have a wider array of ways to experience joy than ever before in history.  Just because we have iPhones doesn’t mean that we have to give up laughing and keeping balloons afloat.

Living in this time offers us the most amazing opportunities because we can enjoy simple experiences of joy such as walking and admiring the scenery as people have done since ancient times, and we can also have experiences of joy involving our newest technology, like our iPhones.

Game of the Day

Write down five very simple things or activities you enjoy that don’t involve technology. Then write down five things you enjoy that involve technology created relatively recently.  Savor the freedom you have to enjoy both types of experiences.

The View

When my wonderful friends Dan and Jill came to visit for the All-American Laughter Yoga Conference, I had the opportunity to show them my apartment.  After that, I immediately took them up to my building’s rooftop deck that overlooks downtown San Diego and The Big Bay.

Dan said that he would always be up on the rooftop savoring the view and watching planes fly overhead on their way to land at the airport.

I changed the subject, not wanting to admit that I had not been up there for months, even though the rooftop deck is literally a two-minute walk from my apartment.

I felt like a person who owned a Beverly Hills mansion with an Olympic sized pool and hadn’t used the pool all summer.

What are the breathtaking aspects of your life that you often don’t make time to fully enjoy?

We can become achievement junkies constantly looking towards the next achievement in life and never enjoying the view from where we are.

Living in an apartment with a rooftop deck is very exciting and part of what I achieved when I moved to San Diego.   However, unless I make use of my building rooftop deck by savoring and celebrating it, I do not allow myself to feel the power of this achievement.

Let’s become our own excited visitors.  Let’s notice how amazing our lives are.

Game of the Day

Have fun looking at your life through the eyes of an excited visitor.

January Weather And Being Too Short

Some years ago, there was a young man who “ tried out for the high school varsity basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5’11 he was deemed too short to play.”*   How frustrating to be excluded from playing based on a physical characteristic that a person can’t change.

Also some years back, there was a kid who understood that people are unable to change the weather.  During January, it most often snowed and was windy and frigid, as in subzero cold.  He soon realized that there was nothing to do about January weather besides keeping the heat turned up and bundling up when he went outside.  What was he to do?  The weather was responsible for what the weather did, not him.

In the forward to Prisoner Of Our Thoughts by Alex Pattakos, Steven Covey shares this quote he once read:

            Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

            In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

            In our response lies our growth and happiness.**

In the past, I have often thought that responsibility was a thing to be avoided. This is because I wasn’t taking the responsibility to “choose my response,” but instead feeling that I had to respond to the circumstances life presented me in set ways.

The more of life that we say is completely beyond our control, the less power we have to transform.

After dealing with setbacks, the guy who was too short and the kid who was freezing in January both actively chose how they created their lives.

In fact, years later they are still writing about that kid who was rejected by his high school basketball team based on his height.  For example, “the National Basketball Association (NBA) website states, ‘ By acclamation [he] is the greatest basketball player of all time.’” *  In addition, this man is a household name.  His name is Michael Jordan.

And what of that kid who was shivering in January and depressed about the snow.   After living in South Dakota most of his adult life, that kid finally took responsibility for the weather he chose to experience in January and moved to San Diego, California.

I’m quite pleased with this kid’s choice because that kid is me.

Isn’t it exciting that we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the circumstances of our lives, even the ones that seem unchangeable and beyond our control?

* Wikipedia

** Prisoner Of Our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work by Alex Pattakos, Berrett-Koeler Publishers, 2010.

Game of the Day

What do you want to choose today?