I am just going to put this out there, and then we can move on…
I have never been more attracted to flannel, beards, arm-sleeve tattoos, kids in coffee shops, and the idea of jogging with a dog, as I have now following the 48 hours I just spent in Portland, Oregon. I digress.
If you are living under the same rock I have been occupying this past few weeks, you will agree that a blink was all it took for November to come and go. And let’s be honest, December is now in full swing. December is a roller-coaster of a month, and since I have returned from China and have now already experienced two major US cities, I am starting to pause and remember all the baggage that comes with this exciting month.
Yes, I said, “baggage.”
Baggage. Scary, right?
It’s real. It can be raw. And it’s comically surrounded by some of the most intended-to-be joyous holidays. We all have baggage, and it looks very different for each of us. And regardless of context or ways in which one navigates through their baggage, it’s also always there for all of us. But there is hope. And as I have been in reflection mode in how to effectively journey through my own baggage during this time of year, I have come up with a few strategies which might be the wave I ride on into the holidays.
Winter and seasonal change often bring up a lot for people. And more times than not, all we really want is for someone to stop what they are doing, be fully present, and give us their undivided attention. Consequently, we need to adapt to a need for the same response. People just want to be heard. If a friend or family member asks for an ear, listen. Pause your own moment, and give them a chance to have theirs. And, of course, this comes with the caveat that judgement is the worst strategy when providing this space for someone. Actually hear someone. Connect.
If someone wants your opinion, your experience, or your perspective, they will let you know (and if they don’t, ask). I recently had lunch with a good friend while I was in Seattle, and while we were talking about my current job search, he casually asked me, “What do you need from me while you are searching?” This was particularly relevant because said-friend is actually a seasoned and skilled career advisor. But in that moment, he knew that I didn’t need a coaching session, and rather just someone to process with. A friend. And that, he provided. It was great, because I’m in a good place, and as I shared with him, when I’m ready for the advising session, I’ll let him know. And he listened in the best and most beautiful way.
Difference often rears its beautiful head this time of year, and conversations around change and progress will more than likely take center stage. And before you freak out about the possibility of telling your parents you converted to a new religion, quit your job, are dating someone ten years older than you, or that simply you support or don’t support all things anti-their political beliefs, please remember to pause. Seriously, just pause. December and the holidays are often a time where real and raw world and life shit is/are brought up (more baggage, if you will), and families around the globe will engage in un/healthy debate around some of the very things which light a fire under our passions, emotions, heart, etc. But again, please pause.
Embrace this dissonance (as, “dissonance is learning,” and other related sentiments). Find some sense of appreciation for those who you are engaging. Learn from them. And aside from the big picture moments which will certainly be a part of this reprieve, also remember that individuals have small, subtle moments happening which should also still be validated and appreciated. Validate. Appreciate. Pause. Listen. And more than anything for others, find some sense of appreciation for yourself. Validate your own experiences and big and small life moments. Define these moments for yourself. Write your story. Paint your picture. Love yourself a little harder.
My first day in Seattle came with an attempt to bunker down at a coffee shop and work on some emails and blog posts. Soon, I realized that every plug in the joint was actually covered and that there were no opportunities to re/charge my technology. When I asked, the response was related to squatters and people who ordered a small tea and then nursed the cup all day so they could capitalize on the generously free wifi. Of course, I instantly texted my friend with frustration, and an, I-can’t-believe-they-would-take-electricity-away-from-me-I-deserve-more, aggressive message. Needless to say, he was in solidarity with the coffee shop.
Apparently, this is not uncommon. My friend went on to tell me about another place he knew near his campus in Florida, where they did the same thing. But instead of technology-blocking young writers just trying to share their experiences with the world, they blocked technology to encourage their patrons to disconnect more. They wanted people to read the old-fashioned way, to talk with friends, and to take a breather from technology. I was stunned, and obviously intrigued. How often do we do this? I have previously posted about technology and disconnecting, but in this moment, it became a reality as a result of my newfound limitation. And I was no longer mad about it. And as a result of this reminder, I am using today’s post as an additional push to live a life more disconnected from technology – if anything, around the holidays. A detox never hurt anyone. And while you disconnect from technology, reconnect with old friends and family members. That has been one of the best experiences from my travels thus far. Hell, last night, I had dinner and drinks with a friend I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years. It was a blast, and our phones were barely present while we dined and hung out with his partner and a few friends. Detox a bit. Be free.
Finally, it’s as simple as this: find some music and jam out. Music is so good for the soul, and these days, finding community around music has been a nice reprieve from all the other nutty life moments occurring for me. Several years ago, I drove around for three hours and played Tupac’s, “Changes,” over and over until I learned the entire song. It was perfect, and now I have a great go-to song when I need to feel like a total bad ass. But this moment was all about me, and there are other ways to engage with music where others can find some love and light as well. Specifically, ’tis the season to do some caroling. And for all the non-observers of Christmas, caroling as a concept is still relevant whether it is Christmas music or not. In fact, I love nothing more than gathering a group of friends and going door-to-door with our favorite early-2000’s hits (“Bye, Bye, Bye,” “Genie in a Bottle,” to name a few). Have fun. Pull out a guitar. Play music if you don’t want to sing. Just be around the moving moment which music can create.
These aren’t fireproof, however they serve as a good start. I feel satisfied, going all-in in an attempt to survive some of the December woes which come with transition and “home.” And although these points may come off as an easy reprieve from the baggage initially introduced in this post, I would be a fool to believe that all baggage is this easy to work through. And as I sift through these tips, I should also pause to validate all those friends and followers who have lost a loved one this year or any year. In fact, I even hate referring to losing a loved one as, “baggage.” This is real life, and for many, the grieving never ends. Sure, holidays may bring up individual moments which can be easily worked through, however the holidays also bring up real and raw grieving processes that may get easier with each year, yet still never truly go away.
And to those friends who are continuing to grieve: I support you, you are loved. And, although these times are tough, please find solidarity with those around you. Be supported. Be loved. And if you don’t feel as though you have anyone around you, please pick up the phone and call or text me. I am here, and will be. Be supported this holiday season. And above all else, know that you are loved.