DISCLAIMER: Religion of any kind is NOT the subject here, nor will it be mentioned other than in passing. And, of course, this is MY perception.
It has been said that Life is meaningless. Not that Life has no meaning, but that it has no meaning other than what we assign to it, what we perceive it to be. Now, don’t go rushing to poo-poo that statement until you really think about it. First, think of all those sayings out there like, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure” and “When one door closes, another opens”, et cetera. Perception is key here, and perception differs from person to person. What we see something to be is true for us, and our individual truths are never wrong.
The whole idea of ‘trash/treasure’ is easy to understand, and we see it on a regular basis: the wealthy man who throws out an overcoat because of a small tear on the front pocket and the poor man who’s never owned a coat like that in his life who is happy to have something so well-made; the homeowner who puts an old entertainment center out by the side of the road because of remodeling (or a larger TV), and the crafter who quickly picks it up sees it as a future display shelf; and, sadly, it’s also the person who seems to have everything and is well-loved by many who decides his life is all wrong and takes his own life, and the person who has what appears to be nothing who struggles with day-to-day survival or illness, who treats every single day like it’s a gift. It’s all perspective, unique to each individual, based on their own knowledge of what Life is.
There is a great experiment that is very easy to do (and unnecessary to do once you’ve heard it explained—but you can try it anyway) that shows truth in perception: draw a dot in the same spot on both sides of a piece of paper. Then stand in the middle of two friends (who you trust, if you are paranoid), holding the piece of paper so that each one of them sees one side with a dot on it. Move the paper in a circle, either away from you or towards you and ask each person which direction the dot is travelling in. One of them is going to say the dot is moving clockwise, and the other is going to say the dot is moving in a counterclockwise direction. Now, which one of them is wrong? Neither one of them is wrong. They are seeing the same dot, on the same piece of paper, and they are seeing it move differently. That is Life.
That is also Christmas.
It is actually not just Christmas, but everything, however I choose to isolate and use Christmas as an example here because, well, duh, ‘tis the season. Although, Christmas is a great example just because of its sheer…size; the way it consumes people’s thoughts (for many reasons), the many different emotions evoked at the thought of it: faith, hope, joy, goodwill, cheer, greed, entitlement, inadequacy, panic, loneliness, despair …
I love Christmas, and when someone asks me why (and someone always does) I always answer, “Because of the lights.” I LOVE Christmas lights. I love shiny, sparkling, glowing things. And that pretty much sums it all up. But there is more than the surface meaning to that statement, and I realize that more and more every year.
A friend of mine recently told me he hates Christmas, and his reason was because he was always made to feel like a failure at it. Many people hate Christmas because of the ‘commercialism’ of it. Others feel lonely, or more isolated than they normally do, especially with all the hype about family and togetherness. I’m not dissing either, but to someone who is away from their family or who doesn’t have one, it’s hard to look at it any other way than hype. I waited to put all this down on paper, because I wanted to see and hear what other people were saying about Christmas and the holidays. It was quite a mix, ranging from the excitement and/or tediousness of cooking and baking to talk of travel plans with time off or having to work more, the joys/torture of sending Christmas cards, the spending of/inability to spend of money for gifts, the missing of special friends and family members, sickness and death, and ending with a simply scathing review on Facebook of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
You know what? All of these perceptions and thoughts and ideas are TRUE.
Then I look at my own “truth”. I am a financial mess. I almost lost everything this past summer. My car had been out of commission for over a month because I couldn’t afford to repair it. I got it repaired (and just got it back only a few days ago), thanks to much help from a number of people around me and it still ended up costing more than expected- my last two paychecks went towards it and my next paycheck is also owed towards it. I had no presents under the Christmas tree for my kids from me until yesterday, and they are very (very) small. I lost two very dear friends in the past two months, and I am still grieving over the death of another special friend just a year ago. I am not complaining by any means, nor am I asking for sympathy or help; I am just stating what my truth is for me right at this moment.
But I still love those Christmas lights.
Let’s go back to the “Life is meaningless” idea, and let’s substitute the word “Christmas” for “Life”.
Christmas is meaningless.
(It is here that I would like to mention again that this is NOT a religious commentary. People’s religions affect their own perceptions of Christmas, and Life, and it is the idea of perception that I am addressing.)
Now, let’s expand that sentiment to include the full context. Christmas/Life is meaningless, in the fact that it has no meaning other than what we assign to it.
“Other than what we assign to it.” Can you see how powerful that statement is? How much more power that gives us? Most of our complaints about the holiday season (outside of sickness and death, and even then only to a point), have to do with EXPECTATIONS. These can be expectations put upon us by society, family and friends, and ourselves. We shouldsend out Christmas cards, we shouldbe able to buy many gifts, we shouldbe with our families and friends. The first thing we should do is eliminate the word “should”. Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one could make us feel inferior without our consent. The same can be said about allowing yourself to feel a sense of failure to expectations, whether they are society’s, family’s or your own. You consent to feeling like a failure if you don’t cook the turkey right, get the right gift for someone, or even don’t have the ‘holiday spirit’ other people say you should have (there’s that word again). You’ve given away your power to those around you, and now that sense of failure has developed into that perception of yourself, and therefore Christmas/Life.
Christmas is also a great example in the fact that everything is so magnified. Consumerism, greed, pain, loneliness, expectations… AND goodwill, cheer, love and HOPE. You can feel it in the air, whatever it is, depending on where you are. In a busy shopping mall you can feel the hustle, the excitement, the frustration. In any venue set up to celebrate the season you can feel wonder, awe, excitement, hope. In church you feel faith, love and fellowship. Don’t deny it; you can feel it. And whatever you are feeling either adds to the general feeling, or makes you feel isolated from everyone. It’s that magnified. You see more examples of good will, more concern for the fellow man, more smiles. And children… the excitement alone that emanates from children during the holiday season is truly amazing. And hope? No one hopes like a child, because their ideas of limitations and expectationsaren’t as fully developed as an adult’s. And that is a good thing. En masse they are unstoppable. They could take over the world, if they thought about it. And one day, they will.
(Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every day were treated as special as Christmas? Or as any one holiday you deem to be special (or, if not “special,” separate from the rest)? It is not that way yet, which is why starting with Christmas is good because of the elevated positivity around, but the scale is tipping.)
Anyway, back to perceptions. What you believe is always true for you. But keep in mind that what you perceive to be true is a choice. How many times have you had something happen that you consider devastating at the time, but later on you realize that that situation helped you get somewhere/something better? In hindsight that devastation event was actually a blessing, you just decided at the time that it was a bad thing. It’s all in how you look at it, or sometimes what you choose to look at. Bad things happen. Keep in mind, too, that you would not notice what was “good” if you weren’t aware of what was “bad”, and vice versa. Lights only shine in darkness. (See what I did there? J)
So, you burnt the turkey, and there’s another family argument during the holiday dinner (and we know the family NEVER argues any other day of the year), you didn’t get your future wife the exact ring she wanted…blah blah blah. You disappointed everyone else. You disappointed society. You disappointed yourself. You choose to believe that. You are not in control of other people’s expectations. You are not in control of society’s expectations (but you can contribute to them). If you feel disappointed in yourself, it is because you are choosing to let the expectations and perceptions of what other people believe should be control how you feel about yourself. You have given your consent to that feeling, and you focus on that.
Your perceptions beget your thoughts, and your thoughts beget your actions. Perception is what we see, what we focus on. Why not begin choosing what we look at? Why not put our eyes on what we want to see? At Christmas the easiest to see is goodwill and hope. Yes, you may have to pull your head out of your own ass to do this, but I promise it will be worth it. And, yes, this is something that I have to work on myself. At least consider the fact that the view will be different. Won’t that be a nice break?
The most contagious thing is a smile (well, that and puking). Laughter is infectious. There are more people sharing more smiles and laughter during the holiday season. Look at that. Look at them. They may even have less than you, but they can smile. Try it. It even gets easier the more you do it. But don’t strain yourself; faking it is exhausting. Stop and look at someone who is genuinely smiling; you can’t help but smile in response (at least the corners of your lips might turn up a little). Can’t find anyone around you like that? Head to the internet. (You can even do this in private). YouTube is great. I recommend “Britain’s Got Talent” featuring any contestant who surprised Simon Cowell (I still go back to Susan Boyle’s first audition, or the 80 year old grandmother Janey Cutler). Facebook and UpWorthy post wonderful, feel-good and moving stories. Inundate yourself with that. Find a smile anywhere you can. Realizing you are still able to smile or laugh is a great feeling. Your own happiness starts and ends with you.
Listen to Christmas music—NOT the sad stuff. The music of hope and happiness. Listen to “The Hallelujah Chorus”—really listen to it; there is perfection in that harmony. Listen to “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo” by the TranSiberian Orchestra (and listen to it REALLY loud in your car) and enjoy again the blend of old and new, with the clarity of each individual instrument. Stop in the mall and watch the kids when they sit on Santa’s lap (do NOT watch them in line waiting!). Watch the face of a child who is singing Christmas songs, or talking about Christmas Eve. See the light in their eyes and the awe in their voices. Focus on that. You may smile. You may laugh. The light of that good feeling becomes a part of you for as long as you look at it, and the memory of that good feeling stays with you. Notice strangers helping each other, helping someone up if they fall, ‘paying it forward’ with random acts of kindness like buying the next customer in line’s coffee, assisting someone in need, or just smiling at people they pass on the street. These are also ‘lights’, lights that shine in darkness, on a rainy day, during hard times. No smile, no light is too small to shine and cast warmth, especially in darkness and cold.
Take a drive and look at the ‘other’ lights. The lights decorating houses, shrubbery, and trees. The lights that illuminate the night, putting sparkles in snow, reflecting in raindrops and puddles. Cheerful bright spots that draw the eye on even the gloomiest of days.
Or don’t. Those may not be things that make you smile. But try to look for things that do. Focus on them. No, they will not remove any of the negative in your life, nor will they change anything about those around you. But it will make the bad easier to deal with and it will change your perception, and it will change you, thereby changing your Christmas…and your Life.
Use your powers for good; see the good and be the good, and create your own meaning of everything around you. Use the force. Be the light. (I love those.)
And have a Merry Christmas!
(So perceiveth the Fucking Cheerleader)