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Thanks-living

In It's a long story...

By Trey Wood
Nov. 22, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.
Updated Nov. 22, 2016 at 12:30 p.m.


    The holidays are upon us. It seems like just yesterday that it was arguing season and time to worry about who’s upset with you and why.

 You must be prepared just in case you encounter an angry family member or coworker at one of the many events you’ll be attending. Tis the season to practice that apology in the mirror and have it ready when the inevitable meeting takes place. Kidding… kind of.

 This year, the season comes with a political additive that makes it all-the-more potent and increases the odds of a LEVEL 10 family shouting match of epic proportions. How lucky for us all!

 It’s a time-honored tradition to become depressed and resentfully dwell upon the negative aspects of your life just as Thanksgiving approaches. By the time Christmas arrives, I’m quite sure that many who are “celebrating” and “in the spirit” will have reached peak levels of frustration and found a new and well deserving family member to relentlessly hate on every single day of the coming New Year… All 365 of ‘em!

 I have always found that last seasonal syndrome to be a favorite of my “tight knit” and loving family. We’re particularly good at it due to the fact we tended to practice hard and often between the Januaries. Plus, I’ve come to understand a passive aggressiveness nature is a genetic trait. Therefore!: Not “our” fault!

 It’s the fault of those who came before us and selected a most terrible mate. (Sometimes for life!) And, this unwanted domino effect likely began at some friend’s Christmas party, of long ago, because their own family kept the date and location of grandma’s celebration from them like it were a state secret.

 Anyway. Whatever. I digress.

 For a few years now, I’ve thought about new ways to attack the merry and the miserable, those fraternal twins that rear their heads simultaneously just about the time the leaves begin to change. I’ve come to the same conclusion that I always do when finding a solution to a problem: I think outside the proverbial Dollar Store wrapping paper and mismatched bow covered box.

 Now, when it’s time to be thankful, I intentionally concentrate on the negative events in my life and I do so with gusto! I make a conscience effort to remember all the “bad” that has taken place over my years. I do what I must to remind myself, sometimes at a price, that it could always be worse and chances are it probably will be at some point. I think upon the days that weren’t “great times” and I lock them in my mind as if they were a treasure chest that all the world was seeking.

 In other words, I don’t cozy up to a warm and gently flickering fire complete with chestnuts roasting away. (What the heck is a chestnut anyway?) I get as close as one can to a roaring bonfire of reality.

 This, I’ve found, tends to bring about a merry mood much more quickly than sticking my head down a chimney and pretending “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

 Personally, I use the days just before Thanksgiving and right up to New Years as a time of reflection. I use those weeks to embrace all the “badness” that’s taken place in my life and all the terrible events, past and present, taking place in the world. Then, and only then, can I think about real and honest change.

 To many, this seems an absolutely ridiculous practice and downright contradictory as to why the holidays exist. I understand. I was once on that same side of the barbwire fence.

 Early in life, I was told of a guy in a red suit that brought you a bunch of items, wrapped up with care, only if you managed to keep your room clean and avoided setting anything on fire during the previous year.

 Next, I was let in on the “real” secret that involved a baby, a barn and a bright star. Confused? Yeah, I was.

 But, who cares… I ate well and I received some “stuff” that might or might’ve not been on a list or circled in some catalog found next to the toilet.

 So, like many over a childhood November and December, I was relatively happy while being force-fed fantasy. And, it seems, it lasted a good while before an unexpected tsunami found my mind’s shores.

 Out of nowhere, came my adult mind and it was struggling to pull an extremely heavy load full of life’s truths. “What the heck is this?” I said to myself. “What happened to the red suit days and grandma’s homemade rolls?”

 The fantasy was gone and I didn’t have a clue as to how to live because I didn’t know how to deal well with reality. I was totally unprepared for the “badness” to come. This, to me, is why people often get depressed during the holidays.

 Buddhism is not a religion. I repeat: Buddhism is not a religion. It is, however, a worldview. With that being said, I admit to following some of the teachings of Buddha. And, I’ll tell anyone how it’s helped me in ways that I once thought to be impossible for a mind such as mine.

 If you know the story behind Buddha’s early life, you will know that he was an overly coddled prince who wanted for nothing. Upon the orders of his family, he wasn’t allowed to leave the palace. And, to distract him from his constant curiosity, he was immersed in unimaginable pleasures while staying closed-up behind the high and impenetrable walls of the family compound.

 But, even with all that one could wish for, just a command away, there was something essential and tangible that was missing from Buddha’s life. His particular misplaced factor to the complicated equation of living a full and enjoyable life? Reality.

 It was only when he escaped the confines of his palace and walked among the commoners, did Buddha encounter real-life and all of its emotions.

 He experienced suffering and viewed death for the first time. He was frightened, yet somehow free. Only now was Buddha on his way to a total transformation and true happiness.

 (Somehow, I managed to intertwine Buddha and Christmas? Hmmm… That’s going to get me some emails!)

 You’ve heard the term, “reality check”. Well, to me, this is how one cures the “blue, blue, blue Christmas” that’s just around the corner for some people who are dreading this upcoming season.

 When accepting, that life is not-so-great and it’s not-so-great more often than not, one might just avoid (SAD) Seasonal Adjustment Disorder.

 If I had the opportunity, I’d tell that person to do all that is possible to expose themselves to life’s growing mold just behind those shiny white tiles. This is the great beginning for many who’ve been seeking a lasting change.  

 Expect that some people in your life are not always going to be there for you. Nor will they always be there, period. We come, we go, we live, we die. Others must do the same.

 We all won’t have a “happy” thanksgiving or a “merry” Christmas. Some children will have all they can eat and others won’t have a single morsel on Thanksgiving Day. Some children will get everything on their Christmas list and others won’t know it’s a different day from all the others. 

 And, to me, knowing that this is exactly how life is and that it might change for the better and it might not, is the greatest part of my newfound holiday mentality.

 Knowledge of the realities in life is a both a satisfying plate full of knowledge and a gift of incalculable value.

 And remember, this food for thought, this universal gift, is one that’s available to any man, woman or child (over the age of 7… because a little Santa is kinda cool) who’s willing and able to climb over their own walls and leave the false parameters of that seemingly comfortable palace of fantasy behind... forever.

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