With Chanukah coming so early this year, the so-called holiday season seems to fill the month of December for Jews as well as the rest of American society and culture. It is supposed to be a time of happiness and good cheer, yet, when you go deeper than the advertising, for many, if not most, it is a time of stress and mixed feelings.
What makes Jewish wisdom so useful is that it is a blend of commitment to idealism and practical application. Stories of ancestors in the Torah, as in the story of Joseph and his brothers at Chanukah time, demonstrate that dysfunctional families and relationships are not confined to isolated cases. Over the years, I have learned that the opposite seems to be the case: few families can claim that there is peace, love and harmony prevailing in all branches of the family tree. And, who among us has not suffered loss that is not particularly felt during holiday time?
Just as we break a glass to conclude every Jewish wedding, so we are reminded that life's richness is not just measured in the times of unbridled joy, but also in how we help each other in coping with and responding to difficult and sad times.
You have to come to grips with the truth that there isn't something wrong with you, if you aren't fully involved in feelings of joy and cheer at this time of year. Ironically, the reverse may be true: those who would see themselves as poster children for the joy associated with the holiday season may be avoiding deeper awareness and feeling of what is going on inside themselves.
The continuation of this message is a piece I sent out to the WineSpirit Email list. I share it with you as a reflection of Jewish values applied in secular contexts, and with it, I wish you a healthy holiday season, and that you find your contentment and joy in the people with whom you share values of kindness and caring.
A Holiday Sip of WineSpirit (www.winespirit.org)
How Do You Handle the Ups and Downs of Holiday Cheer?
Everyone knows holiday time can be one of mixed emotions. For anyone who has suffered a loss, the joy of this time of year can be mitigated by sadness that someone is missing from the festivities. The emotional range is different for each person.
Some feel the pressure to do the holiday "right/rite" with parties and gifts, and to be of good cheer, regardless of how they are feeling, amidst the crush of crowds everywhere. The challenge is to make sure the happiness and joy of the season prevail over the stress and tension that are part of it, as well. Adding to the stress is an assumption that it is wrong to feel down during a time of designated joy.
A Lesson from the Vineyard suggests otherwise. While the California Dairy Industry advertises that California produces great cheese from "happy cows", many grape growers will tell you that great wine does not tend to come from "happy grapes". Grapes that are "stressed", having less irrigation, or growing in rocky soil, on a hillside, yield more complex fruit resulting in better wine.
And, is that not often the case for people? As much as they yearn for quieter and more relaxing moments in their lives, they are not usually times of greatest growth, (although such moments are ripe for "AH HAs"). You learn more about yourself, and your capacities, when you see what you can do, or how you function, under pressure.
Of course, just as "stressed" grapes are handled with great care, as they are rendered into fine wine, so do people benefit in supporting one another, in times of stress.
Whatever pressures or anxieties you are under, at a designated time of giving, and sharing, and joy, you can lighten the load, by remembering you are not alone in your feelings and emotions. Whatever pushing and shoving you are caught up with in the cause of trying to do the holiday right, we are in "this" together.
You just have to remember to hold onto the best of intentions, in helping to make it a season of goodness and blessing.
What comes to mind of personal growth and success generated during a period of stress?
What factors are involved in your experiencing "ups" and "downs" at holiday time?
How could remembering growth's "partnership" with stress be of help when you are feeling stressed?