Post Holiday Presents or Presence?

The Boxing Day sales have been on.  It’s so easy to want to sweep in and exchange gifts or buy an excess of clothing with the exorbitant discounts.  But before you drop your paycheck at the stores, did you really feel gratitude for what you already have?

I admit I am guilty of this.  Generally when I receive gifts I have been so mentally busy, that although I verbalize appreciation, I do not even get to utilize the gifts that are given to me.  And then without remembering, I buy more stuff.  This is not only the case with what other people buy me but with what I have bought myself.  I am not present to appreciate the presents.

These past several months, I’ve been traveling to numerous countries, while maintaining a full time job.  Each time I return home from a brief trip, I throw my luggage to the side, keeping souvenirs in them, along with gifts I receive, or mail I need to go through. My things simply seem to accumulate, and they are “things” because I cannot totally recall what is in there.

Years ago I read Maria Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up, and although I tried to implement her method of organization, it did not stick.  The main principle in the book is that our home should be filled with items that only spark joy, if it doesn’t get rid of it.  We must feel each item in our hand, notice if it brings this feeling, and if not thank the item aloud, and discard of it.  It served it’s purpose, even if it was never used, it reminded you of what you do like.

Now with some holiday time off, I am starting to sift through what I do have, and seeing what sparks joy.  Instead of re-gifting a present that doesn’t suit me, exchanging it, or waiting for the right moment to use it, I am going to embrace it now. It’s endless the amount of things we have excess of that we may not use or appreciate to the extent that is possible : food, jewelry, clothing, books, music, podcasts, or social media sites.

One example I noticed yesterday is when sifting through Facebook, I found a humorous pet video enduring and want to share this with my husband.  In the meantime, I was  ignoring the pawing of my dog who was longing for attention.  She simply wants my presence, and I wasn’t available to give it to her.

As I create new goals for 2018, I know one of them will be Be Grateful for What I Have and Utilize It.  But this is hard to quantify.  Goals should be specific and measurable.  Therefore, what I am going to do is commit to writing one Thank You card per month.  These will not be combined with birthday wishes or holiday greetings.  They will be separate thank you’s to 12 different people that have assisted me in some way.

Do you live in excess? Do all of your belongings spark joy? How do you express sincere gratitude for those who have helped you in some capacity?  I hope this holiday season brings you reflection in how you want to live your life next year.

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Christmas Sucks or Socks?

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.-Plato

Holidays can be depressing. It brings up memories of those we have lost, reflections of where we want to be, and discomfort if you are spending it alone.

There are advent calendars to countdown to this day, and which could be the pinnacle of misery. Or perhaps not.

My husband is working 100 hours during this holiday week and therefore I am alone. But yesterday I wasn’t.

On Xmas Eve, I spent several hours carrying around goodies to give the homeless in London. My brother John Paul, who lives in Los Angeles, came up with the idea. We are both alone this December 25th on opposite sides of the world. , and instead of wallowing we will serve others.

When he told me of this idea, I agreed how great it was and asked what we should call it. “Christmas Socks.” Pun intended.

Although I have lived in England for several years, I admit I didn’t know where to find loads of homeless people. My brother offered to find a shelter, “it won’t be listed on tripsdvisor.”

And so I purchased 50 Socks , placed a granola bar in each of them , and a Hafiz quote that says “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being .”

My journey began, taking the hour long tube ride to Shoreditch.

Within several minutes, I delivered my first pair, and then another. I had no direct path to follow. I was simply searching for the homeless on the street. I realised what an active process it was seeking out people I usually tried to hide my eyes from. It saddened me as I did this, sometimes from far away I couldn’t distinguish if I was seeing trash or a person. How awful so many of us choose to turn away versus turn towards. I know I am generally guilty of this.

Sometimes when I offered Socks they were alert and could say thank you , other times they were asleep trying to stay warm under layers of shirts and blankets.

After delivering 10 Socks, I realised how exhausting it was to search and scan for people who are trying to not be seen. I stopped in Spitafields Market, where I knew volunteers would be who sold calendars to support the homeless. All photographers featured in the calendar were local homeless people.

I informed them of my activity for the day and asked where the homeless lived. They said, “let’s ask Richard, he’s homeless.” Richard was excited of the idea I had and offered additional places I could go. His face lit up when I informed him that my brother out in California was doing this too and spoke of his time he lived in the West Coast. The volunteers even offered me a gift of a calendar as a thank you for the work I was doing. Richard was excited that I could send this to my brother and autographed the calendar. I wasn’t expecting anything from anyone, and was so grateful for this kind gesture. I was trying to give, and didn’t expect to receive.

My journey continued, as I delivered a total of 29 pairs of socks. I wish I could have delivered all 50. I felt this was not enough , as I know there is more I could do to serve others. With the remaining 21 pairs, I may continue this offering into the new year.

But what this small act of kindness did, was it eliminated the loneliness and self pity I had for being alone. It reminded of the larger global and local problems that are in our atmosphere. It’s true that when we are feeling depressed and want delve on a downward spiral, all we need to do is reach out to help others. This act can assist in lifting us up.

Throughout the day, I witnessed suffering, gratitude, and surprisingly more kindness. I observed a Londoner buying a meal for someone I had just delivered Socks to. He stayed and spoke with this man for an extended amount of time. If I wasn’t searching for the homeless I wouldn’t have seen it. I would have turned away, like so many do.

Can we keep our eyes open to be present for the beauty around us?

Can we turn towards this holiday season? Not just for our family and friends, but for those that are truly suffering ?

As I was transferring at the tube station, I caught one of my favourite Christmas songs and wanted to share it…

I hope this holiday season is filled with gratitude and love for you. And if possible please share some warmth to those that need it…

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.-Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

For more information on purchasing a calendar please check out the website below:

http://cafeart.org.uk

I want holiday cheer

It’s Christmas Eve Eve , and I want to be in the holiday spirit. But I am not there yet.

I have been wearing holiday jumpers, sending out holiday cards, and listening to incessant Christmas music . Despite all this, something is missing.

I am going to be alone over Xmas . I am an expat , my friends and family live overseas. My husband is working over the holidays and part of me wants to exude sadness. Who likes to be alone on Xmas ? It’s depressing, I have not been looking forward to this at all.

But I will not let this factor of being alone shadow my world. I’ve been reflecting one way to counter this…volunteer for those less fortunate. Now the question is where .

I have been researching for weeks, and have not found the right fit to be on Xmas eve or day. I told this to my brother , who lives in Los Angeles. Oddly he said he will be alone too. Upon further reflection and inspired by this idea of serving others, he has decided to give socks to the homeless.

This inspired me, why must I search an organisation to serve? We can give to anyone in need. Therefore let’s see what arises for me tomorrow.

How are you spending the holidays ? If you are alone and depressed , who can you reach out to?

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Barack Obama

Awaiting Hamilton

Countdown: 2 more months till Hamilton

I landed two tickets to the traveling production of Hamilton, which ironically I will see in the United Kingdom.  I know I am one of the last Americans to get on the Hamilton train, but I believe I am excused because I live overseas.  My cousin had been singing the praises of Hamilton when I visited him a year ago in New Jersey.  He enters the daily lottery to win tickets for the show, and after exerted effort he finally won tickets.  I don’t know what took me so long to listen to the soundtrack, but once I did I was hooked.  The intensity and passion as hip hop, history, and broadway intertwine.

I always used to wish that life were musicals.  If only we could sing our pain and joys in a melodic fashion.  There’s a healing nature to it.  But since we can’t, I stumbled across this broadway carpool karaoke.  It will bring a smile and massage to your heart.