First I’ll share my story, then I’ll share some stuff that made me laugh, and laughcry with gratitude. May you feel Happy + Grateful today. Enjoy.
My Story About Creating Holidays That Don’t Suck
I’m celebrating Thanksgiving the way I’ve celebrated it the most over the years: traveling to foreign lands, and going into my creative cave. Often these happen at the same time.
Here’s my story, and the first two ideas for you:
1. Travel to foreign lands
When I was 20 years old, I took my first solo trip abroad over the winter break from college (and almost got kicked out for coming back late, another story.) While I went to a country that celebrated Christmas, it was the first time in my life that Christmas didn’t suck.
After that I was hooked — and started my own tradition of traveling and focused creativity beginning at the end of November and into the New Year.
Before that, it was years of being alone with a book (not so bad, but ordinary for me), or being the “orphan” guest at someone else’s family celebration. I made the best of it, but really, I felt depressed about being the orphan and envious of the families that other people had. Not a good emotional cocktail.
It was hard to get into gratitude, and then I felt guilty and ashamed of my envy on top of it. If this is you, there’s a practice for you at the end of this post.
Now that I’m living in Mexico, I get to experience a whole other culture’s set of holidays, without old childhood baggage getting in the way. Even Christmas here in Oaxaca is very different. Sometimes I do Friendsgivings with other expats – we’ll get to that in a sec.
If I couldn’t get out of the USA during the holidays I sought out friends and locales that did things differently: Chinatown. Going to a spa/hotel in Napa (my usual Christmas with my friend Julianne while living in San Francisco) or went directly to idea number 2.
2. Go into your creative cave and make something
This time of year has always been my most productive, creatively. Maybe because of all those years entraining myself to create and/or take a long journey during the holidays.
I wrote my entire first book, The Creative Entrepreneur, during a three-month spurt from Halloween to Valentine’s Day, and did all of the editing while living in Sydney, Australia.
When I was running my eco-design firm, there was such a natural lull in business due to the holiday/year end distractions, that it was simply the best time to take a long trip, get away, and go work on my own passion projects.
Right now I’m in the fifth year of leading a whole group of intrepid souls through an online workshop experience called Creative + Practice.
The remarkable thing, is that we do our 8 week workshop together right through the holiday season — when everybody is supposedly too busy or too overwhelmed to create. Just the way I did it on my own for so many years.
This schedule is purposeful, because there is no better time to develop a routine of creative self care than when we feel the MOST busy, frazzled and put-upon by others and their needs.
The participants prove to themselves that they can create on demand, anytime, anywhere, not matter what, using the simple tools of establishing a sturdy creative practice.
Because it can be so stressful to gather with families of origin, or be the odd orphan out and alone (or feeling alone even when you’re invited) I hold this workshop every holiday season.
I remember what if felt like to struggle so much during this time. I like to virtually travel with people through these crazymaking weeks and help them find support and connection along with their creativity. This year I’m posting daily in workshop Facebook group all through the journey, and it feels like the best use of Facebook ever. We’re connecting. But we’re on our own, doing our creative work. Sublime.
Since I write and keep sketchbooks on my journeys, I create while traveling. These two things have become part of my strategy for making a meaningful life, no longer just trying to turn lemons into lemonade.
Art heals, art saves lives, and it has certainly saved mine, over and over again.
3. Laugh. A lot.
Let’s just start with Gayle, getting ready for company.
You can get more Gayle here, but fair warning you’ll probably be over on YouTube for awhile. But do come back here, ok?
I love this story of an Ohio pizzeria.
“A lot of people, just like myself, we don’t really see what’s going on in the community when it comes to homelessness and poverty,” Bada Bing! owner Jason Hague told Upworthy. “A lot of us just go to Walmart or the mall to go shopping and we just don’t see the plight of others that are in need.”
Plus, pizza for Thanksgiving?! Yum!
5. Design Your Own Traditions
I don’t understand why naysayers are calling this a millennial narcissist invention. Maybe because they branded it with a hashtag #friendsgiving or make it trend on Instagram?
To all of you whippersnapper millennials I say: Good on You! I love that you rock at branding, technology and social media. Come work with me!
With love and respect for all who have been celebrating this way before there was a name and hashtag for it.
6. Get lost in a bookstore.
Perhaps you might be up for a little retail therapy?
When I googled trending news stories about Thanksgiving today, they wereALL 100% about shopping. So don’t feel bad. I had to dig for humor and do-gooder stuff. (Feel free to share your favorite links in the comments.)
The suggestion below counts as a field trip and fulfills the Travel to a Foreign Land option:
photo by: workinpanna
For a lifetime, libraries and bookstore (especially used and indy bookshops) have been my place of refuge. Take a virtual trip to London and check out what the Brits are doing this Saturday.
7. Say Thank You. A whole lot.
Have you heard of Superthank?
Superthank is a Human Gratitude Engine, Generating One Billion Acts of Gratitude
8. Practice Gratitude
There is a great deal of research happening about the benefits having a gratitude practice. If you google gratitude + research, you’ll find some interesting science to back up what our intuition knows is helpful and worthwhile.
Some of the best research you can do is simply do the following journaling prompt for a week or longer as a gratitude practice.
You’ll experience for yourself how focusing on gratitude and appreciation affects your life, work, mood and attitude.
My go-to gratitude practice journaling prompt:
I am so happy and grateful that…
9. Appreciate YOU
Because, let’s face it, Sometimes Gratitude Isn’t Enough.
Right?. Let’s say you’re freaking out, and can’t bootsrap yourself into feeling grateful. Deanna Ward shares “a tool I use as a life ring in those situations and I encourage you to keep it handy at the deep end of your emotional swimming pool too.”
What might happen if you tried appreciating yourself instead of shoulding on yourself?
10. Create a mixtape
Did you know my first career was working as a music and art therapist in psychiatric hospitals?
I made a mixtape to celebrate how art heals. You’ll hear a few songs that are always in rotation inside my “random goodness” playlist.
These songs remind where I came from—and to live a life of gratitude and appreciation for where I am now.
Whippersnappers who’ve never heard of mixtapes – I believe you call them playlists.
Laugh Some More (rinse & repeat)
Finally, since laugher is among the very best medicine, I bring you Robin Williams, as Mrs. Doubfire.
Imagine she’s just shown up at Gayle’s to do the cooking…
What are you happy + grateful for today?
How have you learned to deal with the funk that often accompanies holidays?