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It’s been awhile since I have written for reasons that I won’t go into for this post and man have I missed it…..but I’m back at it as we are WELL into the holiday season.

The reason I’m jumping back in now is because holidays can be an emotionally complex time for me as I know they can be for many people. Between family drama, overeating, over drinking, over spending and over planning, the holidays can be a trigger for so many of us. We can get lost in the shuffle of this time of year and stress and anxiety can spike. I know personally for me, I can get lost in the hustle and planning of everything and seeing everyone and my self-care habits can get pushed to the side and I become disconnected to what's really going on within. 

I like to think there is something behind all of the chaos and rushing around because usually when I stop and pause and actually stop trying to get through everything on my to do list, emotions begin to emerge. Portals begin to open. I will have these moments where I find my heart filled with so much love and gratitude and just sheer wonder at how beautiful life can be and then sometimes I can have a wave of sadness and grief so intense it stops me in my tracks.

I’ve been on this journey of making space for the full range of human emotions long enough to know not to dismiss or push them aside but also not to overly question the seemingly extreme shifts that can take place within (sometimes) short amounts of time.  

When you are an empath, a highly sensitive person or even just…...you know…...a human being…...emotions are not always black and white and they are often a world on their own. They can be messy, overwhelming, heart opening, heart closing, devastating and everything in between. They must be honored and explored when necessary but at the same time we must not get caught in the (negative) stories they can so often feed us because just like everything else in life, they too shall pass if we allow them to.

Knowing this and when I take the time to actually listen to what's going on in my body, it’s not a mystery to me why I can have my heart so full of love to the point where I feel like I could explode one moment and then sadness in another. When I allow myself to be fully open and in pure joy and gratitude, which is often amplified during more pointed moments such as the holidays, grief and even sometimes fear seem to always live in a similar, if not the same, space. It’s almost like when one portal opens, so does the other; when we give space for one thing, we give space to the other; as one heals so does the other. 

For example, during this past Thanksgiving when I looked at my parents as we were all in the kitchen doing our annual elaborate feast, I had so much love and joy in my heart knowing how much, despite the ups and downs in this life, we always seem to get our shit together for this day. I smelled all the familiar smells, laughed at the “which pie do we get?” argument we have every single year without fail, heard Matt Lauer in the background narrating the Thanksgiving Macy’s parade and I basked in the familiarity of it all (note: this was written before his firing from NBC for sexual harassment). When I could remember to do so, I allowed myself as much as possible to stop rushing around and be in gratitude that these things and this tradition are still present in my life.

At some points however, and I don’t usually see this as a bad thing anymore, I feel a sadness creep into my heart. It’s usually when I do actually stop moving at the speed of light to get things checked off from my to do list. Sometimes it’s an almost nostalgic comforting sadness like when I think of memories from holidays from previous years before; a kind of sadness that doesn’t pierce the heart but more surrounds it like a soft blanket reminding me that those moments may have come and gone but the love that surrounds them is still there.

I remember my family who are no longer physically here, most vividly my grandparents; I think of past relationships that have come and gone; of past loves. I think of all the people who don’t have the luxury of having a Thanksgiving (or whichever holiday) dinner or anywhere close to a joyful tradition, whether by choice or by circumstance. I think of all those who didn’t make it to Thanksgiving this year and this is usually when the soft blanket of sadness turns more into a tight grip of grief and pain and the tears pour from my eyes......and I don't stop them. 

Finally, I think about the cycle of life; my own immortality along with that of my family’s. As someone who is very sensitive to the concept of both death and time (albeit as life goes on I have begun to understand time as a man-made illusion), I sometimes find myself wishing I could press a pause button. I think about how I never know how many of these moments I have left or the people I love have left. I don’t dwell in this space forever because there’s really no point but really understanding and feeling the true impermanence of it all often takes my breath away. I understand impermanence in daily life but the holidays always seem to be a portal for me to feel both the sadness and the beauty of it on a much larger and deeper scale.

I think to be human is to learn sit and live in the dualities that we are so often faced with and to be ok with this gray space of uncertainty. Love / joy and sadness / grief are chambers in the same heart and sometimes opening one can lead the way to opening the other. As we give more space to the more uncomfortable emotions such as grief and sadness, we ultimately give ourselves more space to experience deeper and more profound moments of joy. 

Instead of pushing away what's coming up for you and ignoring what is going on within, this season give the gift of being present with yourself. Be present with what comes up, don't push it aside whether it be stress, anxiety, overwhelm, love, joy or grief. Take a pause. Put the phone down. Stop the to do list. Sit it with, be with it. Cry if you need to. Feel it all the way through and be kind to yourself. Ask yourself what YOU need and take care of yourself so you can actually be present with those in your life and feel the gift of giving and receiving love, which is truly the essence of the holiday season.