This is a rough time for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons.
It’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be joy, renewal, connection, family, togetherness, giving…but as the Buddhists say, the measure of our misery lies in the difference between the way we think things are supposed to be and the way things are.
For a lot of people, things are not the way they’re supposed to be.
It’s really inescapable; even if you think things are going your way, it’s guaranteed that there is a significant portion of your neighbors whose way it is not going. Divisions between friends, families, and even complete strangers can enrage or depress you or both. The longest, darkest night of the year just passed — and yet, there still seems to be a lot of darkness out there.
You’re Not Fooling Anyone
I’m not going to give some trite analogy like the darkness can be shattered by the flame of a single candle (except oops, I just did). I am not one of those personal-development types who believes that you have to cheer up, think positive, try these affirmations (shudder).
No. Instead, I’m going to say that this is an opportunity for you to love the dark.
I don’t mean the gushy sappy kind of love. I’m talking about the compassionate kind of love, the kind of practice that you give to someone who you know is in a bad way, who you can see doesn’t have any idea how to get out. The sunshiny PollyAnna types would say “here, let’s cheer you up!” or the one I also hate “Let’s distract you!”
Sharing the Dark
No, I’m talking about empathic love. The love that sits there in the mess with them, looking around, and agreeing. Yeah. This pretty much sucks. Because when someone is worried about deportation, saying Oh, it’ll be fine! rings kind of hollow. When someone feels bad because they can’t afford presents, that’s not the time to say It’ll get better!
Because if there’s one thing that 2017 has shown us, it is the harsh reality that: it might not.
So instead of trying to trying to deny someone’s experience, show some love by validating it. Wow. That’s rough. Or I imagine that’s no fun at all. If you want to give them a sincere compliment, try something like It’s amazing that you’re not just hiding away.
Unless they are, in which case the line is You’re really smart to hide away like that. Self-care is a great survival trait.
It’s fine to wish people happy holidays. Just keep in mind that for many, it’s not. And that’s ok, too.