It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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What Really Matters

writing-a-letter "The most important thing is to enjoy your life. To be happy is all that matters." —Audrey Hepburn

On this day 31 years ago, I became a mother for the first time. Happy birthday, my sweet Katherine! You have become an amazing young woman and, now, a loving mama as well. I love you to the moon and back.

I love celebrating my children. I love celebrating friends on their special days. I think it matters when you celebrate a person. It matters when you know their favorite meal, their favorite TV show, their favorite song, their favorite dessert, etc. It matters when you take the time to let them know what you love about them, what you see in them, and why their presence on this Earth matters to you. 

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all of our lives, and it has made it harder to celebrate the people and things we love. That is why I think it’s more important than ever to celebrate those we love no matter the day—their birthday or otherwise. Celebrating someone doesn’t have to involve a big party or material gifts. What it should involve is an intention to celebrate them and share everything you appreciate about them. 

Tonight, I’ll do that with my daughter, but I also want to do that more in the coming days with others I care deeply about. After all, there is no time like the present to celebrate those you care about and who have left a footprint on your heart. 

I’ve noticed lately that everyone I’ve been talking to has been expressing feelings that they can’t quite place or find the right words to describe. Just this week, my conversations have gone like this: “I’m okay.” “I’m hanging in there.” “I feel kind of down.” “I’m not sure what’s up with me. I feel grateful for a lot of things, but something still feels off.” 

I’ve also heard: “I’m isolated.” “I’m grieving.” “I cry a lot.” “I miss my old life.” “I’m overwhelmed.” And even, “I don’t want to talk at this time, but I’ll get in touch when I feel better.”

All of these emotions are up against the backdrop of the holidays, which even in a good year are often hard for many people. It all has me thinking about how we can celebrate those who feel out of sorts. How can we do a better job lifting the spirits of others? 

We always reserve “celebrating“ for a special occasion, but what about celebrating someone you care about today? What about dropping off someone’s favorite meal to their home with a loving note attached? What about writing someone a card and sharing what you love about them and what you see in them that’s worth celebrating? What about taking a walk with someone just because? At the end, you can surprise them by looking in their eyes and sharing what it is about them that fills you with joy.

These are the kind of moments that give back long after they’ve ended. I know this because a few years ago a friend came to visit me before Christmas and the memories still bring a smile to my face. We shared a meal, a drive, and of course, laughs. (I love to laugh.) We also talked about everything: what really matters in life, what we had done right and wrong, and perhaps most importantly, what our dreams were for the upcoming year.

Having dreams is super important at every age, but having someone you can share them with and who will support you in achieving them… well, that is a godsend. The memory of that conversation and the memories of the laughter have helped me forward in countless ways.

My daughter Christina told me the other day that so many of her friends didn’t meet their New Year’s goals this year. She said many had lost jobs, lost hope, and ended up in a place they never dreamed about. She told me that it’s important for people to know they aren’t alone in feeling this way, and that it’s okay to dream again. It’s okay to dream and celebrate even when you’re not feeling particularly proud of yourself.

So this year, when you can’t really travel to visit someone you love, and when office parties feel like a thing of the past, think about what else you can do that will really matter. What can you gift someone that will keep on giving long after the holiday season is over?

Now I know many small businesses are struggling, so supporting any one of them will help their owners and employees immensely. That’s something good that any of us who can afford to do so should. Many nonprofits are also barely holding on, so supporting them this holiday season might also make the difference in whether they survive or not. We can, of course, also wear our masks and tell our family members or friends that we are postponing get-togethers out of love and care for them. 

That’s a gift that might not feel great at the moment, but it’s one that we will thank our families for next year when we are all still here due to our shared selflessness. 

What other ways are there to show up and connect right now? What ways are there to share your dreams and express what you’re grateful for today? Well, in cleaning out my storage these past few months, I remembered something that isn’t dependent on technology—something that gives long after it’s first given. Something that provides a sense of love and memories that you can hold onto for years. 

It’s a handwritten letter!

In my storage, I discovered boxes of handwritten letters. Some from my parents. Many from my brothers (can you believe that?!). Others from friends I’ve lost touch with or who have left this Earth altogether. I discovered letters I never read from people I didn’t know, many who took the time to write to me when my cousin John died, when my parents died, and when my uncle died. I discovered files of letters from friends who wrote to me when I got separated to encourage me forward and let me know they loved me and believed in me.

I’ve been reading and re-reading many of these letters, reminding myself of the love that existed for me then and that still exists for me today. All of it has got me thinking about the lost art of letter writing. Today we rely on a text or an e-mail. People rarely even leave a phone message anymore, which allows the recipient to hear the love and joy in the other person’s voice. What a loss that my kids won’t discover letters from their siblings like I did. I still write cards to them, but I’m sure they don’t get letters from friends of long ago.

So this holiday, if you can’t hop on a plane or drive in a car, get to writing. Get to celebrating those you love. Write to anyone and everyone (and don’t forget yourself). Tell them what makes you smile. Tell them why you’re proud of them. Tell them why they’re so special. Give them the gift of your time and attention and words. 

If your handwriting is terrible like mine is, you can type it out and send it. The important part is mailing a physical letter so the recipient can hold it in their hands. I promise it will last way longer than an Instant Pot or a pair of slippers.

Love,
Maria

PRAYER OF THE WEEK                                                                             

Dear God, this holiday season, help me give the gift of care to someone I love. If I can't see them in person, may I pick up the phone. May I write them a letter. May I pray for them. Let me remind those I love why I love them. Let me remind them just how much they mean to me. Amen.
We’ll Be Home for the Holidays—and That’s Okay!
Where True Spirituality Begins

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