It’s gotten me thinking a lot about what I choose, for myself and my family, with my friends, and in my work.
My mini-retreats for moms this month are focused on how to handle the holidays. At least that’s what we’re talking about on the surface. Moms come and we talk about four tips for making the holidays happier (see my last blog post here), we share a meal, and we do a craft project together. This month, we’re decorating canvas tote bags with inspirational words and phrases using chalkboard paint.
The mini-retreats are a fun way for moms to come together. And, if I do my job right, something else happens. Moms realize that they’re not alone in their struggles. They learn from each other's challenges, successes, and failures. What moms take away is more than a tote bag or other craft project; they walk away with a feeling of community, with hope that feels lighter than the familiar, resigned sigh of “It is what it is.”
The painted tote bags that the moms are creating this month are a reminder that we choose what we carry. As we approach the holiday season – and whenever we go through stressful times – we can choose to worry, hold on to anger or resentment, or fill our schedules with commitments that create more stress. Or we can choose to feel, believe, and do things differently so that we create more peace, more joy, and more happiness for ourselves and the people around us.
This month, I didn't have the chance to decorate my tote bag before last Saturday's mini-retreat. I prefer to create my sample of the craft project prior to the first workshop of the month, mainly because I’ve found that I get distracted when I’m creating and I have a hard time shifting my attention back and forth between the art project and the group. However, Saturday's group was small, filled with well-known clients, so it was easy to simultaneously play with the craft supplies and facilitate the group at the same time.
My decorated tote bag turned out a little differently than I originally anticipated. When I first thought about what I wanted to carry around during these stressful times, I thought I’d write love, peace, or even words like flexibility or acceptance. However, as I thought about what I want to pick up and hold onto over the next few months and what I want to let go of, I noticed I was holding on to a lot of fear, showing up because of my resistance to change. And there's been a lot of change lately.
I recognize that I can choose fear or I can choose what I consider its opposite: trust. When I trust that the world is essentially a good place, I have less fear. If I trust that the "bad" things that happen are essentially "good" opportunities in disguise, I can let go of fear. If I trust that the universe supports me – even though this support often looks like insurmountable challenges – I can trust that everything will be well. Someday. Eventually. Hopefully sooner than later.
What do you want to carry with you? How do you want to feel, not only during the holidays, but for long afterwards?
On a small, but by no means inconsequential, scale, you might want to let go of your expectations of how the holidays are supposed to unfold and instead choose openness to whatever comes. You might want to stop carrying the burden of doing everything all by yourself and instead ask for help by delegating gift wrapping or by changing your annual holiday dinner to a potluck party theme.
On a bigger scale, you might choose to take your frustration and resentment for your present circumstances and transform them into a commitment to creating change, like through volunteering and donations. You might choose to commit to helping a family in need this holiday season. You might choose to respond with love to whatever comes your way.
What we choose is important because our choices focus our attention. And our attention is a powerful force that directs how we think, what we feel, and how we act.
Pay attention to what you put in your bag. Choose what you carry.
My remaining mini-workshop this month is full. I’m accepting names of people who’d be interested in a bonus workshop this month. Please send me an email if you’re interested. December’s mini-retreats for moms will be about giving and how you can grow happier by sharing your time, energy, and resources with others and I'll set up craft stations for making gifts for people on your holiday list. Registration will open soon. If you'd like early registration announcements, join The Well-Crafted Moms Club on Facebook.