Happy Holidays, Everyone!
An excerpt from a book called Love Without End was sent to me and I have been thinking about it so I wanted to share it here. The holidays can be wonderful times or they can be more like a ‘holidaze’ and are extremely stressful and depressing for various reasons and can be especially bad because we are expected to be happy and joyous. We seem to have a perfect picture in our heads of what the holidays should mean. In this perfect picture, the holidays are supposed to be about family, connection and feeling happy and celebratory. When perhaps our families are broken, we’ve experienced or are experiencing loss, and our lives are very much less than perfect and we’re not feeling joyous or celebratory at all, we sometimes tend to feel there is something very wrong with us. The holidays can become a glaring reminder and magnification of our feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and sadness. I had this experience when I was going through a separation and divorce, and actually for a few years while unhappily married before that. Christmas and the holidays had always been my favorite time of year so to lose the magic of the season was a double whammy for me. I didn’t want it to come and I just wanted it to be over. But this experience gave me an empathy and understanding for people who find the holidays depressing and a time of year they dread – I had never really understood it before. It happens to many of us for different reasons, but I think especially in America, we have this obsession with being happy and if we’re not, we think there is something terribly wrong with us. The holidays just tend to magnify this attitude that permeates our culture. Honestly, though, who is happy all the time? That is really sort of ridiculous if you think about it – of course, it is important to be content with life, but I think it is impossible to be happy all the time – not if you are an observant, intelligent person. You couldn’t possibly be happy all the time with all that is going on in the world around us, much less with all the life experiences we will all inevitably go through. I don’t think that is what life is about – being easy and happy all the time. How could we grow if that was what life was about all the time? But for some reason we will beat ourselves up and think we are losers because we believe everyone else is happy and we are not. But this is the secret — everyone feels like they are losers and alone at least at some point in life. (If anyone says they never have, they are either lying, are narcissists or came in extremely enlightened.) If we realized this, maybe none of this would feel this way or at least it would be so bad and a source of shame. I believe we may not be able to remain in a state of constant happiness (and perhaps this is simply a matter of semantics) but we can remain in a state of love – love of ourselves, the people around us and the world at large – that is the challenge and goal (especially the love of ourselves part) and this state is attainable.
Last week, I interviewed Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin who is a leader in introducing Self-Compassion into Western Psychology. Her book about the practice of self-compassion (complete with exercises – yay!) will be out in a year. Her short, laymen’s explanation about self-compassion is this: “You wouldn’t tell a friend that she was stupid or ugly or a loser or she should be feeling happy all the time, no matter what is going on in her life, but we tell ourselves these kinds of things and much, much worse all the time…we can be so cruel to ourselves…self-compassion is about treating ourselves with compassion, the way we would treat beloved friends.” I’ve been thinking a lot about our interview and what we talked about and then I received an email with this explanation of love below. It is complex and simple at the same time and seems to tie in with self-compassion to me and reminds me of epiphanies – of how everyone I’m interviewing is so very different and they all have such unique epiphany and life experiences, yet everyone has something to share that relates to us all and the human experience. We are all unique yet alike.
‘Love has no opposites…It rules by lifting up. Through its mastery of paradox, love ends duality.’
Wishing you and yours a week full of love as we end 2009 and the holiday season and race toward the new year…
“You cannot define love with even the largest definition, for your understanding is not external to it. Because love is who you are, you will never fully comprehend its mysteries…Love is the Divine Mystery. Love cannot be controlled. It cannot be predicted. It cannot be enforced. It cannot be enslaved. It cannot be killed. It cannot be defined. If you would speak of the depth, the power, and the infinite genius of love, think upon its ability to end all duality. Love has no opposites. It cannot be captured, and yet it willingly serves. It is infinitely free, and yet it abides in captivity. It cannot be enforced, and yet it is the basis of all law. It is the bringer of truth, and yet it never judges. It is the seer of all things, and yet it never condemns. It conquers by surrendering. It rules by lifting up. Through its mastery of paradox, love ends all duality.”
“Love Without End, “The Beloved.”