The Gift of Presence for the Holidays

By Lesley Huff, Licensed Psychologist

October, September, August … I forget when the stores start putting up their holiday decorations. Sometimes the marketers even like to sneak in a “Christmas in July” event, just in case we have forgotten about the end of year frenzy.

When I think about the holidays, seasonal music comes to mind with its messages of peace and good will.

So why is it that our minds are overwhelmed by the growing to-do list, endless obligations, and the pressure to have a “perfect” holiday?

What is the ‘perfect’ holiday?

Unfortunately, it tends to be the barrage of external messages we receive from advertisements, Facebook posts, Pinterest ideas and even our own family. So, what about that peace and good will?

In my clinical work and the Change Through Compassion seminar, we try to identify all of those external messages (the “shoulds”) and set them aside to clear space for this elusive peace and good will.

We try to reclaim the word “perfect” by focusing on what we can control — our intention and effort — and not on the unmanageable outcome.

Gilles Clément, a French Botanist known for his design of public parks, writes: “All management generates an abandoned area.”

In other words, we cannot manage everything. Something’s gotta give.

What deserves our effort?

So how do we decide where to put our intention and effort? What do we “abandon”?

To answer these questions, it is helpful to consider what we value. When so many external messages are bombarding us to the point that our head feels too crowded, it’s helpful to stop for a moment to reflect internally, and to find that small voice in each of us that says, “This is important to me.”

It is this voice that knows the truth, our truth. It knows what will bring us a smile when we will look back on this holiday season or the next.

And for many of us, it is the connection with those around us, with nature, with our faith and with ourselves. It is the gift of presence.



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