Thoughts for this Year’s Holidays

I was on the phone with a senior leader from Texas yesterday. I asked what he was doing over the holiday. He answered in his Texas drawl, “Well I’ve never been big on New Year’s celebrations but this year, I’m gonna spend my mortgage on fireworks. I need to blow some shi** up.”

I’m not the only one who wants to put 2020 in the rearview mirror.  I’m afraid of coming within 10 feet of fireworks so there won’t be any Roman candles at my house. However, I certainly share the sentiment.

2020 is going out in flames.

Before we turn the page, it’s worth reflecting on how we’ve changed this year. Here are three things I’ve observed:

1. We rediscovered gratitude

Those of us who spent our lives rushing from one thing to the next rediscovered gratitude for simple pleasures like a warm cup of coffee or a beautiful sunset.Who knew sitting on your porch for an hour was fun?

When things we used to take for granted – like our health and gathering with loved ones – suddenly became tenuous, we realized how much we have to be thankful for.

2. Comparative suffering stretched our compassion muscle

When people are dying, and you’re safely on the couch with pizza and Netflix, you feel guilty about complaining. We’re grateful for what we have, and we’re also weary.

Years ago, I was having lunch with a group of women, one whom was a minister.  One of the other women started talking about a problem at her office, but then she stopped herself mid-sentence, embarrassed saying, “I shouldn’t complain about this, it’s small. It reminds me of that story, ‘I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.’

Imagine our surprise when the minister said, “I’ve always hated that damn story!” She explained, “We use it to minimize someone’s suffering. If you have no shoes and you meet someone with no feet, you may have perspective on your problem, but you still have a problem.”

Using comparative suffering to deny yourself empathy and compassion, works in the short run, but over time unexpressed feelings turned into depression, snippiness and overall malaise.

This crisis helped many of us develop a stronger compassion muscle; let’s make sure we use it our ourselves as well.

3. Comedians saved our sanity

I always knew Kate McKinnon was a genius.  Her skit as Fortune Teller, when a group of friends goes to a psychic at the end of 2019, asking “What’s in store for 2020?” kept me laughing for days.

I don’t  know about you, but I consider comedy an essential service. I hope there is more of it in 2021.

You know what? Scratch that.  I’m not going to hope there’s more laughter next year, I am vowing that I am going to bring more laughter into next year because if 2020 has taught us anything it’s this:

Life is precious, and once a moment is gone, you can’t get it back.

Let’s vow to stay fully present for the good, the bad, and the funny next year.

Happy holidays.