Without fail, mid December seems to ignite a panicked, nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach, and soon my mind is spinning a web of post–traumatic memories from every Christmas that has come before. I am suddenly flooded with manic Christmas tunes and artificial pine wreaths, getting lost amongst the chaos of fluorescent lights and shopping malls crammed to the rafters, my family pretending to know how to get along – ignoring the ways we habitually trigger one another, until finally it’s 9 pm on the 25th and I’m crying at the sink, scrubbing burnt cookies off of my mother’s baking sheet.

Now, I am aware that being hyper-vigilant and having expectations that this holiday will be like all of the others, probably erases the potential for change. However, I am also aware that though I have been doing my best to create peace and tolerance among my family for years, I have not done one important thing – and that is to create boundaries.

Now, I am infamously bad at drawing boundaries. I have in certain areas of my life, become so accommodating, that I have gotten lost in the process. I have shrunken into an airy, less substantial version of myself, and floated above my body like a helium balloon – all to placate those I care about, because connection is so goddamned important to me. Because I grew up not knowing if I was a being of any consequence unto myself, I felt like I might actually die if my mother was curt or dismissive with me when she had a long day, if my father was distant or angry, or if my sisters treated me like the giant weirdo that I probably was (and still am – just to clarify). Romantically, I have tolerated emotional alienation, a stark absence of kindness, and relationship conditions that may not have been my first choice, because it is easy for me to respect others’ decisions, and to simply adapt around them. But in this bigger picture of a relationship or family system, what about my own choice and agency? What about my desires?

This holiday, I feel a strong intention to shed my chameleon skin – to speak it when I am hurt by an offhanded slight, but not with any demand from the other person that they rectify it for me by making me feel cared for again. I may never feel understood by my family. I may have a string of unhealthy relationships behind me. And that hurts. But what I can come to understand is that I can be here for me, from this point forward. I can respect my triggers and come to tolerate the sad feeling that may emerge when I have to leave a holiday gathering to regroup. If I can tolerate my own sadness, my own attachment to the dream that I will be cared for by anyone in the way I expect, I will then be able to let the helium out of my dissociated little floating self, and come down into my body, into my heart, into the seat of my desires and intentions.

Trusting that my sadness and longing have wisdom, and that I can survive their intensity, is perhaps what will help me through this seasonal challenge. Trusting that I am a full human that need not shrink in order to accommodate anyone else’s perceived desires, is a better New Year’s resolution than most.

With all the courage I can muster, happy-grinchI look forward to laughing through this strange, chaotic circus of consumerism and forced togetherness, and sauntering into the new year at my own pace. For the first time, I will dare to delight in the person that lives in the core of my longing – the person who is made of so many beautiful things that simply need attention and cultivation in order to sprout, the person that I have always been, and have been forsaking for the sake of adaptation.   Somehow, I have not believed until relatively recently that this fully embodied self would be, could be – enough. But if I can believe so resolutely in the inspiring nature of others, what are the chances that if I really sink in, that I would be anomalous, and found lacking?

What I do know, is that we are living in a global epidemic of perceived unworthiness. The perception of self-love as selfish is perhaps one of the leading causes of unhappiness in this world. It is especially present amongst this holiday frenzy to buy our connections, and to uphold pretenses, rather than explore what we would really want or need to feel connected and to celebrate. To reclaim worthiness amidst all of the clutter and expectation is a noble act – one based in the poignant notion that all love starts there. To love anyone I might spend time with over the holidays without condition or expectation, I first must know that in my heart, I am radiant, strong and integral. If we are willing to tune in to our innate intelligence and love, the love we are capable of sharing with those around us becomes vast, unconditional and free. Hell, person by person, this could change not only the month of December, but perhaps much, much more.

So, said the Grinch, love doesn’t come from a store, or from anyone with whom we might have a rapport. Love comes from that place at the core of your core, that place where you learn, love is already yours. And once you sink in to that place and you start, you find that despite all of your broken parts, you will shine through the cracks, with a light in your heart. And once you find out this is all you must do, I’m sorry to say you’re not done, it’s not through – because every moment is fresh, every moment is new. But every moment is one where you’re able to choose, to say “eff all this noise!” I want to be true. And the truest of truest of ways to be true, is to look in the mirror, and say “I love you.”

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