Here it comes—the one time of year when all of my worst food neuroses, dysfunctional family madness, and conflicted gifting decisions come together in a perfect storm of misery, suffering, and anxiety.

Or not.

Today, I realized that my own misery, suffering, and anxiety have originated from a long-held core belief in scarcity.

As if somehow there won’t be enough food, love or money for me.

Fortunately, I also understand that I can choose to stop believing that, and in doing so, live a less calorie-laden, judgmental and parsimonious (look it up) existence.

I do tend to eat too much at Thanksgiving.  But are the special meals we have so rare that I must over-consume the turkey with gravy, stuffing with gravy, and potatoes with gravy (do you sense a pattern here)?  Two desserts?  Really?

When a scarcity mindset drives my behavior around food, I can’t be eating mindfully, because I’m worrying if there will be enough white meat left on the platter by the time it comes around to me.  As if it’s the last platter of turkey that will ever be passed around my table.  Never mind that much of the world’s population has never tasted turkey and probably never will.

Holiday Bonus: mindfulness includes gratitude.  And gratitude calms me.

If you’re noticing the same thing, perhaps we should get together for a table-groaning feast more than twice a year.  Or skip the table-groaning part and eat a special, lovingly-prepared meal with the fireplace blazing, board games set out around the house, winky-lights aglow, and a mindfulness and presence in every single moment of connection with the people we love most.

Some years, I spend Thanksgiving with family, and other years with dear friends.  Some years I’m lucky enough to get both. I can choose to be amused, touched, compassionate and kind, knowing that I am getting everything I need all the time, and that my family and friends need not behave in any particular or idealized way in order for me to feel whole, complete and loved. I can replace a mindset of scarcity with a core belief in the abundance of love and attention I get from those who are able to give them to me.

And I can stop believing that anyone else’s behavior says anything about me.

Remember, we could never enjoy a hilarious game of dysfunctional family bingo if everyone behaved well in groups.

My gifting habits have also stemmed from a core belief in scarcity: by being truly generous, I’ll end up with nothing for myself but a depleted bank account and a full well of resentment.  I could tell you where that comes from, but it no longer matters.

My new awareness means I can choose to believe that generosity is not a zero sum game.  What I give away will likely come back to me multiplied ten times over, as long as I’m not attached to that repayment.

This means I can purchase gifts without worrying if the recipient will appreciate them enough; I’ll be purchasing them with abundant love and refillable pots of money. I can choose to create something to embody the spirit of the season.  Or I can ignore the social institutions that demand seasonal purchases altogether and give gifts whenever the spirit moves me.

So this year, expect to see me eat a little less and love a lot more.

And if I am able to embrace the abundance that envelops me, you’ll observe a more generous and open heart all year long.




6 Responses to Winter Holiday Madness, or Mindfulness?

  1. Debbie Daugherty says:

    Dearest Amy–I just love this and yes mindfulness, living in the joy of the moment AND appreciating it while in the moment, has been part of my recent personal journey. We have so much to be grateful for, even in illness, financial decline and troubled souls. May the glory of dysfunctional families is that we are survivors-simply by our embrassing that label and understanding our role in the universive. Be well my beautiful friend! Deb

  2. Marilou Burleson says:

    I’ve accepted that the holidays are something I just have to get through. It starts mid November, sometimes earlier, and is over mid January. Family dysfunction only plays a small role. It’s my own personal dysfunction, thinking that everything has to be perfect, that causes the problem. In recent years I’ve rebelled, but it hasn’t helped very much. This is my own private belief that I, the mother, have to do everything. It used to be fun, but I’m just not in to all the labor any more. My children are mostly grown and they still believe in Santa. Probably because I continue to be Santa! I aspire to simplify and share the load and love the holidays again.

    • amysteindler says:

      It Is amazing how our thinking (“thinking that everything has to be perfect” and “I, the mother, have to do everything”) can create suffering in the absence of any real grief or physical pain. Good to notice!

  3. Ellen Spear says:

    I kinda love the holidays. Lately it’s about giving (my giving to others) which really makes me happy. It’s not necessarily giving stuff…it’s giving my present self, making time to really hear people and enjoying wide spectrum of people, responses, behavior, etc. I get a kick out of bringing the outside in with fragrant boughs and chasing away the dark with lights and candles. And I don’t do anything that doesn’t make me happy or makes me stressed. Amen.

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