In the midst of the holiday season, it’s understandable when our minds drift down memory lane. We remember the smell of our grandmother’s zerocoolcover_gregorymanchesshouse and her cornbread dressing with lots of sage. We remember Santa always leaving us an orange in our stocking. We remember the laughter around the holiday table as cousins chattered over mashed potatoes and fruit salad.

But memory lane often brings up other stuff. Like the relative who always seemed to get the flu and couldn’t quite make the holiday gathering. Or the bickering over whose family’s celebration you would be going to. Or whether Aunt Martha’s cranberry sauce should be served instead of Aunt Peggy’s cranberry relish.

We have the nostalgia of the good memories alongside the legacy of unhappy memories.

These memories create traditions and muscle-memory type reactions to the holidays, just like the way we grew up living influences  the way we react to living our everyday lives.

Like you, I’ve had my own walks down memory lane of late.  My holiday traditions have been turned upside down in so many ways. This Thanksgiving, as I stood back and watched JB’s sister pull the (enormous) turkey out of the oven, I was able to see my history with the holiday as if I were on the other side of the looking glass.

In the Thanksgivings of my childhood and the subsequent years that followed after I married, the holidays were about survival. What to wear, what time to show up, and what specific role to play. There was no leeway to go left or right.  In fact, I didn’t believe that there was a choice in how I was to behave and what I was to do.

Despite being nostalgic for the familiar flavors of cornbread dressing and pecan pie, I am now able to see that all of those years, I was going through the motions of an unconscious existence.

In the deepest recesses of my soul, I knew that there was more the holidays – and also to the daily act of living – than I was experiencing or seeing.  But though my soul knew it, my mind couldn’t wrap around the possibility of life being different than what it was. My mind, you see, believed that it was my lot in life to just survive. To not make waves. To not wish for things to be different. To not believe in the value of my dreams, or myself. To not believe I had choices.

I see so many people spending their lives in the same way: merely going through the motions.

They move through their days trying not to make waves. They make meatloaf on Wednesdays because that’s when you always have meatloaf.  They believe this is their fate. They are certain that this is what life is supposed to behustle, hard work, doing what’s expected. They believe they have no choice, and no power to change things.

One of my favorite Chick Flicks is “The American President,” with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. There is this speech that Michael J. Fox gives about leadership and how people will crawl through the desert towards the mirage of water and drink the sand when they get there, because they long to be led.

Douglas tells him it isn’t that they drink the mirage of sand because they are so thirsty, it’s because they don’t know the difference.

Similarly, I have become convinced that many of those people living life on autopilot, just going through the motions and simply existing, and thinking they have to choice, are doing so because they also don’t know the difference.

They are drinking the proverbial sand because they believe it’s water.

They are living life unconsciously.

But, kitten, here’s the deal: you don’t have to be one of those people. You don’t have to subsist on sand when your body and soul are thirsty for water. You don’t have to live an unconscious life.

You can create a daily life that is nurturing and fulfilling. You can create a daily life that makes you excited to wake and dive into your day. Your holidays can be loving and kind.

You have a choice. Each and every moment is a choice. Life is not hopeless. Life is not about survival.

You do not have to go through any day – not the holidays, or the average days either – like the ones that came before.

You get to be the leader in your own life.

For some (me, a decade ago), that concept was so foreign that it can’t be imagined. I believed that it was only a choice for people with money or celebrity status. But, darling, it’s a choice for me. And it’s a choice for YOU.

Next week I’ll share some personal ah-has and examples for you around what conscious living is like.

For right now, darling, just go with this concept and begin pondering what that could mean to you. What could it look like? What would it feel like to wake up every morning and choose to live that day to its fullest?  How would it feel to create a holiday ritual that connects you to your own sacred self, and the sacred in the world around you?

Because, darling, you don’t have to drink the sand. You get to create a daily life that you love.

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