Our need to continue seeking fulfillment via Almighty Stuff is an all-consuming pursuit. Will it ever be enough to satisfy us? To fill up all those empty spaces? It doesn't really matter: there will always be another version that just might do the trick.
Listening to the tragic news of Newtown, Conn., I can't help but see a world in crisis.
How can we call ourselves a civilized race, as long as we are capable of such unspeakable atrocities against one another? How can we support gun laws, when someone looked into the terrified faces of innocent children and still used one of those weapons to end that child's life? And then 19 more?
I fear mere days will find us continuing to capitalize on the frailty, weaknesses and downward spirals of other human beings. The line will always be long at Starbucks. The commuter train will be standing room only. Instagram might be down, and we'll have to wait to share those pictures of our delicious lunch. Our first-world problems seem less like actual problems and more about cashing in. Or perhaps checking out.
Today, we are broken. Crushed in spirit by this latest senseless act of violence. We are angered that it dared enter our quiet, safe corner of the world. Yet, all around the world others live daily under threat of violence and war. The children in Mumbai's infamous Streets of Cages. Who will speak for them? Will there ever be a welcoming home of outstretched arms and red-rimmed eyes for them. Have we not failed those children a world away?
While my daughters sleep safe and warm, I know elsewhere a young girl will leave the safety of the refugee camp to collect the water and firewood necessary for her family's survival. She goes with the full knowledge she will likely be raped. Still she goes. But her face is invisible to us as we drink from bottled water. Adjust our thermostat. Does that girl receive comfort from her tragic circumstances by the warm glow of the very fire she provided, at so great a personal cost?
This is the time of year when we consider the notion of "Glory to God, and on earth peace, toward men of good will," but we can never bring peace to this world under our current coma of contentedness. We sing songs trumpeting the message to "Give peace a chance." But how can we unleash something into the global world, that we cannot even find within ourselves? What kind of chance can peace have in a world that shows evidence of a overwhelming sense of hopelessness?
In this modern world, we have gained so much. Certainly there are things we can be proud of. But for all the progressive successes, we have lost so much more. One child beaten, stolen, raped, forever silenced -- was that not the time to say "when?" You may say it is too soon to debate such things as better gun control, but I can only pray it is not.
I know there are more than a few good souls who do their best to leave this world a better place, but they cannot cease the horrors of this world on their own. How does one overcome the greedy lust of a spoiled populace, and induce a global change of heart? For until our collective compassion, empathy and basic kindness outweighs our greed, I fear that we will be doomed to wander forever, repeatedly watching these tragedies.
*A previous version of this article first appeared on the authors' blog Time Out For Mom.
Remember the holidays aren't just about shopping. All too often we get caught up in the shopping, the endless sales, the "need" to make sure we buy something for everyone, that we lose sight of things that really matter -- our friendships, our family, our spirituality, our fellow man (and woman) who may be less fortunate than us. Even in tough economic times (some might say, especially in such times), others need our help even when we feel we have little to offer. Volunteer at a food bank, do something additional for your church, adopt a family in need this season. If you cut just 10 percent of your spending on gifts and donated that money to charity, you'd be surprised at how much a difference such giving would help. As an added bonus, <a href="http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/03/24/money-spent-for-happiness/2070.html">research shows</a> such giving makes us feel better about ourselves, too.
While rushing around during the holidays, we often put ourselves last on the "to do" list. We also feel guilty when we indulge in things we wouldn't ordinarily indulge in ("Another piece of pie? Why, thank you!"). Give yourself a break this season, forgive your transgressions, and be kind to yourself. That means taking some time out for yourself and your needs, even if it's just a few minutes of solitude in the morning or before you go to bed that you can relax, catch up a crossword puzzle or some reading, and just enjoy your own company. It also means not beating yourself if you step off your diet or can't get to the gym for a few days. More people cause themselves more anxiety and stress about beating themselves up over such decisions, when the resulting difference is almost always negligible. If you're feeling blue or lonely during the holidays, join <a href="http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/alone-during-the-holidays-join-the-crowd/">the crowd</a>. So here are <a href="http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/10-things-to-do-if-youre-alone-for-the-holidays/">10 things</a> you can do if you find yourself alone.
We often get into trouble by over-indulging in things. Whether it's food, drink, or just the amount of time we spend with relatives, it's easy to go overboard. Aristotle knew a thing or two of what he was talking about a few thousand years ago, and yet it's a lesson many of us forget. While the holidays are a good "excuse" to stop being moderate in our drinking or eating, we should resist the urge to overindulge. Sure, you can have an extra piece of cake or one extra drink more than you might usually enjoy, but that shouldn't open the floodgates to eat the remaining half of the cake or finish off a half-bottle of Jack Daniels on your own. In the same way, even buying presents for your kids can be taken to an unhealthy extreme ("always leave them wanting more"). Celebrate, but not to the point of excess.
Feeling overwhelmed by too much to do and too little time to do it? Schedule it all out right now on your favorite calendar or planner. Then stick to it. Too many people get into trouble accepting last-minute invitations, or by trying to accommodate a last-minute visit with someone they hadn't planned on seeing. If your schedule allows for it, fine, but if not, you'll know in an instant.
We're all human (yes, you too!), and we humans get ourselves into more trouble than you know because we simply don't know when to say, "Thank you, but no." I suspect it's tied closely to guilt and not taking time for ourselves, but at some point, the sooner we learn that it's okay to say "no," the sooner we'll feel less stress and anxiety. You can't do everything. Ask for help from your significant other, children, friends or family when you need it. Be direct and honest with your requests, and don't expect others to read your mind. For instance, if you decorate the tree every year, but this year find you won't have the time, ask someone to do it for you (don't just assume people will see the bare tree and offer their help). Don't stop at a single request if you need help with a dozen different things, either.
Most of us love most of our relatives and families, but even then, there can be old arguments and wounds that seem to magically re-open at about this same time every year. We get into disagreements or sometimes full-fledged arguments with others we care about. We often find ourselves <a href="http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/tis-the-season-to-regress/">regressing</a> to old familiar reactions and behaviors during holiday gatherings. In the spirit of the giving season, give something that is priceless -- your compassion and forgiveness (even if only temporary) to those in your life you feel have wronged you in some way. Give the gift of disengagement from others who would pick a fight -- you'll be the better person for it.
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