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Hosting a Dinner Party for 20 People Taught Me How to Savor Moments
Half-way through the meal, she realized she was holding her breath as she was serving and the self-inflicted stress on her body was taking a toll. So, she paused, made a getaway to the restroom and exhaled. "I was so focused on making a good impression on my guests that I lost sight of the point of a holiday dinner," she explains. "Realizing how much pressure I had put on myself, I made a decision that the work has been done, and now it's time to let it all be and just enjoy the moment with my family and friends."
The lesson of being present is one that's echoed throughout the year, but especially during the holidays, when you think back on the blessings and experiences of the past 12 months. It's been an education moment that's impacted other areas of Pink's life. "As women we sometimes have such high expectations of ourselves to 'do it all' and be the most amazing girlfriend/wife, co-worker and host, but sometimes we just got to let something go, so we can actually enjoy life."
Image via Shanee Pink
Spending My First Christmas Alone Taught Me the Value of Perspective
"This is a practice I am continuing in a variety of ways over the holidays," says Virden. "For more than 30 adult years, I used to face the season with some emotional pain over losses. That has changed. Now holidays are moments for which to look forward. New questions guide me into peace and contentment. Who can I bless? Who else needs a meal? Do I know someone in need of company?" she says. "Feeling better feels better! Thanksgiving to New Year's is an adventure instead of a chore."
Image via Nancy Virden
After a Year of Family Losses and Setbacks, I Gained the Courage to Say 'No'
"Instead of leaning into the support of loved ones, we were expected to spend the holidays surrounded by new coworkers and friends we barely knew with smiles plastered on our faces and the appearance that all was well," she shares. "I felt torn between grief for my family, happiness for my husband, and anxiety that I couldn't be everywhere for everyone. My tongue felt like sandpaper in my mouth because small talk about where we came from and what our stories are would inevitably lead to stories of our loss and the decision to start over here in this new place. I felt like I was barely keeping it together as buzz after buzz after buzz went off in my purse."
The experience taught both Hill and her husband how to prioritize what was right for their marriage and their family over obligations that take them away from happiness. "Holidays are a time when we're asked to give and give to others unselfishly. We're expected to say 'yes' and go out of our way for others at our own expense a majority of the times. This holiday in particular taught me that it's more than OK -- it's actually extremely important -- that you stop and listen to your own heart," she says. "Take obligation, 'should,' and expectation off the table and ask yourself what you really need. If you need to set boundaries and go home early, do that. If you need to have a good cry on a friend's shoulder, that's ok. If you need to share what's going on for you, share -- don't keep it in."
Image via Christiana Hill
After Fighting About Where to Spend Holidays, I Finally Put My Foot Down
Finally, Stryker put her foot down -- and threw the ball to their families to figure out the solution. "Until the mothers could learn to share, my husband and I would not attend either celebration. So, the first year we were married, my husband I ate a Thanksgiving rib-eye in front of the television, partied with our friends on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas morning sleeping in," she says.
"It was difficult to stand up to two such strong women, whom I love dearly, but my sanity and my relationship depended on it. I learned that sometimes you have to stop worrying about other people and their feelings. Now, our mothers share the hosting duties of the holidays because they know what happens when they don't 'play nice.' As for me, as a general de-stressor before attending any family event, I meditate to clear my energy... And alcohol always helps!"
Image via Valeria Stryker