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Ho-well: Having a happy holiday whatever happens

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I was standing in line at the checkout counter of a busy store earlier today. People juggled armloads full of Christmas gifts as they waited in the queue. The couple behind me chatted in Spanish. A man who had actually made it up to the cashier was being a jerk and loudly berating the cashier for some unknown transgression. A woman walked by with an angry look on her face which turned even uglier when she saw the length of the line.

Shifting my weight to my other foot as I waited, I let out a sigh. Andrea and I have yet to put up a tree, a menorah, lights, or anything indicative of the season. It’s been a tough month with the loss of our 19-year-old cat on one day followed by the loss of Andrea’s close friend, Cathy, the next. And then we topped that off with news that a very dear friend of mine has had her ovarian cancer return after years of remission.

I wrote to my sister the other day: My ho-ho-ho has turned into oh-oh-oh.

As I stood there in line observing people who were struggling with the holiday spirit, too, I was determined not to be drawn into their negative space. I started humming along with the familiar holiday tune that was piped in through the store’s audio system.

After awhile, I realized that someone else was humming, too. The Latina lady behind me was humming to the music and, unknowingly, along with me as well. I smiled as we shared this moment of unity. We couldn’t speak each other’s language, but we certainly could sing together and savor even a small gift from standing in a line at a crowded store.

As I left the store after making my purchases, I thought about that tiny moment with my unknown singing partner. I felt a connection to her just through a common thing we all do – humming along to music. I know if I had turned around, we would have shared a smile as well.

The grumpy man and angry woman in the line had me focusing on what was wrong with this holiday season, but the woman behind me reminded me what was right. Holidays are rituals and they are meant to be communal, meant to unify us and remind us of our shared humanity no matter what language we speak or what mood we’re in.

Hmmm . . . maybe I will get out some of our holiday décor after all.


Takeaway points: It’s really easy to get caught up in the aspects of the holiday season that are difficult. If you look around a little, you might find some unexpected gifts. Great tool for your special Holiday Resiliency Toolkit!

How are the holidays for you?

Need some help through the holidays? Give me a call at 650-529-9059 or email me for a therapy appointment or free 30-minute consult.

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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.