Giving Presents and Being Present
N.B. Wrote this days ago but.. well… procrastination.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and the man in red brought you all some nice things. I’m stretched out on the sofa in exhaustion from the festivities over the past three days. It’s been wonderful to spend so much quality time with my family. We have really had a special Christmas together so far and with the arrival on my twin and her family, the fun is going to continue. The joyfulness of the season has got me thinking about what’s helped me to be more present this year?
First, let’s rewind to last Christmas (“I gave you my heart but the very next day… okay, I’ll stop). I was struggling with a pretty constant and severe period of depression in the lead up to the holiday season. Added to that, I worried about everything and anything to do with Christmas; will my kids like their presents? Have I spent enough on them? Have I put too much emphasis on getting presents? Is my house/cake/present wrapping/ Christmas spirit etc. etc. good enough? I’m sure these concerns are pretty normal but I managed to let them consume me; I was so preoccupied with being perfect that there was no room left for anything else.
Anyone reading this who hasn’t suffered with depression or anxiety. Might be wondering how anyone could struggle to be happy at the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. It’s hard to describe really, if that black cloud of thick fog is over you, it’s extremely hard to emerge from it, whatever time of year it is.
To be specific to my situation, and to provide you with a picture of last year, I’ll share something I haven’t told many people; last Christmas day at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I went to bed for an hour because I couldn’t wear my happy face for any longer and was exhausted from
fighting. I felt both ashamed and pathetic that I couldn’t be happy when everyone else was.
Back to this year, I would say first off that I have had a pretty good month or so with my feelings of anxiety and depression. So anything I’ve done to enjoy this year has been easier to do because of that. I neither take that for granted nor do I take full credit for it. Tender mercies!
Away, I digress, well, not really because that’s pretty relevant background information. Anyway, how was I more present this year? Here are the three reasons I’ve come up with:
My therapist introduced me to the concept of mindfulness. To me it means, just being in the moment in my mind and not thinking about anything else. Or if anything does pop into my mind, it doesn’t distract me from where I am right at that moment.
This has been so important for me over the past couple of weeks. It’s been really hard at times because with all the festive preparations, it’s easier for my mind to become full to the point of exploding. Yesterday it was at the forefront of my mind because I was determined not to repeat last year’s experience. I was attempting to describe this to my very patient hubbie, I explained to him that I was even trying to mindfully discard all of the wrapping paper that was strewn across my entire living room floor.
I wasn’t putting the paper in the rubbish bag and meanwhile worrying whether that my kids weren’t enjoying their toys. I was just putting the paper in the rubbish bag. Don’t ask me the science behind this but it works for me. I felt joy and peace by just being in the moment. Try it next time you’re washing up.
My first thought as I began to write this section was, “this reason should be first”, but to be honest, without a somewhat clear mind, this bit would have been near impossible.
This year more than any other year, we have attempted as a family, to focus more on the reason for the season. We have read the scriptures, sang songs about Jesus and tried to follow His example. I say this not to boast but to include this in the list of things that have definitely helped me to find joy. I have felt such peace come from adjusting my focus.
I know my therapist would be pleased to see this is my list. This year I have tried not to hide my shortcomings and emotional tendencies but to accept and even embrace them. Okay, so I have a tendency to worry a significant amount about whether my contributions are good enough but doesn’t that just mean I care.
Accepting means I don’t try to fight myself to change and when I don’t fight with myself, these tendencies don’t seem to become extreme.
I really feel very grateful to have had these past few days with my family. I remember talking with a very dear friend of mine about depression and asked her how she had overcome it, to which she very wisely responded, “I haven’t overcome it, I just have a lot more good days than bad days now.” Now I really understand her comment. I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely ‘cured’ but at this moment in time I’m just grateful to have more good days than bad days.
Maybe next week/ next month/next year it’ll be different. But right now I’m in the present and it feels good.
So may the remainder of your Christmas holidays been mindful and bright! (See what I did there?).
Now, here’s some more Christmas snaps for my friends and family near and far…