What do the holidays mean to you? When you think about past holidays, which ones do you have the warmest memories of? What do you remember most about them? How do you feel when you reminisce? Do you remember what you ate? How clean or messy the house you were in was? Whether or not all of the dishes matched or if the table cloth fit perfectly? Or do you remember the people you were with, the stories that were shared and how you didn’t want the day to end? This holiday season, try not to let too much time slip away worrying about the superficial things that really don’t matter, that no one remembers, and focus on the memories you are making. Who are you trying to make everything perfect for anyway? Is it really for your guests? Or could it be for yourself?

Recently I realized that, even though I truly believed I was going out of my way to make everything “perfect” for others, it was really for others’ approval of me. In reality, I was just adding to the “we are here to impress each other” tone of the holiday and, in doing so, taking away from the true spirit of our time together, not to mention making it much less enjoyable for myself (and possibly everyone else: most people actually appreciate REAL so much more than PERFECT, don’t you?). It occurred to me that the people in my home for the holidays came to spend time with me, not to watch me clean and serve them. In fact, they would prefer the gift of my presence over a beautifully served dessert. When you are with friends and loved ones for the holiday, are you really there for the food and/or aesthetics of the place? Or do you go to spend quality time with the people? Personally, if it were simply the food and ambiance, I’d find a restaurant on a random day.

Last year I made a conscious decision, and continuously reminded myself throughout the day, that Thanksgiving was going to be about the family enjoying each other’s company and eating too much food. I was going to enjoy the things that mattered and not “stress” about the things that didn’t. Our dishes didn’t necessarily all match, my kids were in between snow pants and long underwear most of the day, the house was…very lived in, and there was an abundance of happy noise. Each time I began to feel stress attempting to sneak into my body (out of sheer habit) I would stop and ask myself; what am I stressed about? Does it really matter? Will anyone besides me even notice and, if they do, will they love me less, or will they maybe just feel better about themselves? And if that’s the case, isn’t that ok? Is there anything I have to do right now that is more important than being with my loved ones? Do I have to do it now or can it wait until later? What will I gain? What will I miss out on? I would ask myself; what do I want my friends and family to remember about this holiday? And then I would recall Maya Angelou’s famous quote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As the holidays are approaching, my kids have already told me that they hope this Thanksgiving is just like last year. I asked them what they remembered most about it; their responses ranged from “it was just so fun”,“it was relaxing”, to “I liked that I didn’t have to smell good”. And even though none of them could remember what we ate, they remember it was perfect! (Almost our entire meal was premade and reheated in crock pots…believe me, their memories of the food was tainted by the fullness of their hearts that day).

How do you want people to feel this holiday season? How can you help make that happen? What memories do you want to make?

If you burn the turkey, is it really a disaster? It could be, but does it have to be? It really has nothing to do with the turkey and everything to do with how you choose to respond to the circumstances.  If you can laugh at it, others will feel comfortable to laugh with you (not at you). Think about a time when you were with a group of loved ones and you were all laughing about the same thing; you just smiled thinking about it didn’t you? That’s one of those “gifts that keep on giving”, and you can give it simply by being YOU (as opposed to what you think the perfect version of you should be). Remember what’s important to you, especially now, when we seem to be bombarded with so much hate, violence and negativity from all around the world. What can you do to begin a change in your home? Start today, start with love and I guarantee you will have no regrets. Wishing you all heart filled memories this holiday and always.

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Have you ever said to yourself or felt, I just need a “me”? A duplicate of yourself to be your teammate in life? To help you through each day? To talk to, to give you advice or support? When was the last time you stopped and realized that you have a “me”? It’s you.

How much time and energy have you spent today trying to figure out how to make others’ lives better? How much time and energy have you spent doing that for yourself? Who does it for you these days? How do you feel about them putting you before themselves? Do you enjoy giving? Who do you allow to give to you? What do you do on a regular basis to take care of the only “me” you have?

I believe we were each entrusted with one person to take care of first and foremost, and yet we continuously disregard that person to take care of others; why don’t we feel justified in putting that person, “me”, first? I’m talking about feeling good about your own self-worth, feeling that who you are and how you spend your time contributes in a meaningful way for you as an individual and your community, i.e. family, friends, town, etc…

If you had another “me”, how would you treat that person? How would you require others in your life to treat that person? Do you do that for yourself? If not, why? If you step outside yourself, don’t you think you deserve it? How are you telling others it’s ok to treat that person? Where do you put “me” on your list of priorities? Who is the one person in this world you literally couldn’t live without?

Maybe we simply do what we do out of habit. If we started putting ourselves first, not in a selfish or egotistical way, but the way we would a child, friend or loved one; if we made putting ourselves first a new habit, what sort of impact would we, our best selves, be capable of having on the world?

If individuals made striving to become their best self as natural as putting others needs before their own, what would that be like? If we could all be true to ourselves out loud, how would things be different? How can we teach our children to listen to their guts, be true to themselves, follow their passions, and always take care of themselves first…if we don’t show them how? Children watch what we do far more carefully than they listen to what we say.

I think that, over the years, society has made us feel badly about taking care of ourselves first. But who/what is “society”? Isn’t that just us? So if we created these negative connotations, can’t we change them? Instead of teaching people to wait for others to take care of them, why not teach them to take care of themselves? If each person were given one person to be responsible for, to take care of first and foremost…that could work! Imagine how we can change the world one person at a time… I truly believe, baby steps forward will always get you farther than big steps nowhere. After all, if you don’t start where you are (as opposed to where you think you “should be”) and take a step that you can achieve (instead of the one you think you “ought to” be able to take), how far will you get?

Do something for yourself today to begin or continue a habit of appreciating yourself the way you deserve to be appreciated. Try starting with the simple act of looking in the mirror, past all of the external features you may typically find fault with, now look into your eyes, deep inside, until you catch a glimpse of that unconditional friend staring back at you. That’s her, your best friend. Tell her how much you love and appreciate: how she has always been there with and for you, regardless of how badly you may have treated her; how she has never judged you, although you may have judged her; how she has always loved you no matter how much you said you hated her. She is your #1 fan and she is only here for you. Tell her you love her, thank her and let her know that from today on, she will be your priority. If that seems silly or hard to do, maybe just ask yourself why. Would it be difficult to say any of those things to a child? Friend? Loved one?

A good friend once told me this story: I have a pitcher of lemonade and I want to fill everyone’s glass. I want to be able to provide all who are thirsty with a drink. It gives me great pleasure to do this for others. However, sometimes I realize that my pitcher is empty, and then I can’t fill anyone’s glass. It makes me mad, sad and sometimes even resentful, when I can’t continue to serve. But, I have come to learn, I have to stop and take the time I need to fill my own pitcher if I want to be able to pour another glass for anyone else. So now I make it a regular habit to periodically stop to refill my pitcher, sometimes even before it is completely empty. The funny thing is, people wait patiently for my return; they have learned that when I first return after stopping to refill, the lemonade is even colder and fresher!

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