So many families celebrate holidays this winter, whether it's Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Beltaine, or New Year's Eve. There's a deeply entrenched need to celebrate the good fortune of the past year, express gratitude and love for our family and friends, and shout out into the darkness that there will be a day when the sun returns with life. And there are as many ways to celebrate as there are families and individuals. Many people have a large traditional family gathering; some forgo the hoopla as they use winter as a time to reflect on their past year and their coming one, whether through formal New Year's Resolutions or through their chosen religious or spiritual practices.
In our family, Christmas was celebrated at no fewer than 5 houses, due to divorce and extended family celebrations. As exciting and energizing as the constant whirlwind of holidays with lots of cousins, even more presents, and even MORE treats, it was also quite a hassle for our parents to spend the majority of the holiday driving to the next place. As a teenager, holidays held the promise of getting to see family members I had a special connection with but were also the cause of much sighing and eye-rolling, and not a few tears as I struggled with an awkward adolescence and never seemed to be able to buy the right thing, dress the right way, or say the proper words. As a young adult, in school for an eternity, I was never able to afford the gifts I wanted to give. Rarely did Christmas measure up to the memories of my childhood (when, of course, my parents did the shopping, everyone else did the cooking, scheduling, cleaning, and party preparations). Lately, holidays seem to be about running through the stores at the last minute to cross another item off of my gift list, fighting traffic, and trying to make sure I can spend time with family and still see enough patients to make the January rent.
I'm fortunate in so many ways. To have my beautiful family, my beautiful clinic, wonderful friends and mentors who support me throughout the ugly business of birthing a dream is such a gift. I now, like many people before me, have lost friends and family who meant so much to me. Not only do I miss them every day, but their loss gives me another reminder that what I have is so precious. The past few years have been rough, but at least I'm still around to celebrate. This year, I'm planning to immerse myself in family (hold the politics & religion, please), show each of my friends how much they mean to me, not with gifts necessarily but by striving to be fully present with them and letting how much I cherish them shine through, and take some time to assess the past year both professionally and personally so that next year can be even better. What do you do for the holidays? Do you enjoy it? If not, what would you rather be doing and why?