“Om” for the holidays…

The icy cold half-snow stings my exposed face like frozen darts as I walk from the bus stop to my apartment on Boxing Day.  Bare trees spotted with lights line the streets and every store window advertises the hugest sale of the year. I remember when I was a kid, excitedly climbing in my dad’s old pick up truck to drive around our neighborhood to look at all the lights on houses peeking out from fresh snow like fallen stars glowing through puffy clouds. Everything was new and magical. Now it seems that the same smells, sights and sounds of Christmas bring about a different feeling, as if the curtain has been pulled back and the magic is not as breathtaking. Holiday decorations seem two-dimensional, like a children’s pop-up book. The smells of sugar cookies and turkey dinner now make me worry more about my waistline than anything. Somehow the holidays have turned from a joyous amusement into an outright chore. And then we have to face our families.

I traveled back home for Christmas, and found myself faced with fears and insecurities that I thought I’d left behind. It’s strange how being with family re-surfaces all of these things. When we relinquish control of our routines to visit with those we haven’t seen in ages, it becomes an effective mirror for how we have changed. I realize that I’ve been using my routines (relentless yoga, working 12 hour days, incessant social networking, a strict diet plan, etc…) to hide from a lot of the pain that inevitably occurs as we grow up. We bandage the thorns embedded in our hearts and carry on, exchanging openness and naivety for hardened experience. It’s been a challenge ever since my parents divorced a few years ago, having to do a time-share between Mom and Dad. It seems I hit a wall of guilt, thick like the heat of an oven, no matter how amply I attempt to divide myself in half (or thirds, or eighths…) And I flailed like a fish out of water when I was forced into the impossible task of “visiting” (which in my family means sitting around and eating – then sitting some more until it was time to eat again). I tried to explain how enlightened I’ve become and how much yoga means to me, and that I’ve blossomed into this happy self-sufficient person who’s come to terms with herself. Then my mom says something that completely irks me and I feel like I’m 16 again, hiding in my room and brooding over it. So much for that.

So, this weekend was an exercise in finding the “om” in “home”. It was definitely revealing of my weaknesses, the number one being that I really suck at keeping in contact with my family. I blame them for being out of touch, and not knowing anything about me, when I’m the one who has shut them out. They make me nervous because they know me so well, and challenge me to face demons I’d rather not battle. I suppose I also always feel pressured to impress my family, and the same questions come up time after time with the same answers: No, I’m not doing what I went to school for. No, there are no prospects for grandchildren anytime soon. And yes, I could use some extra cash. But after spending a few days with them I realize that they only want to know I’m happy, and they really want to do their best to participate in that happiness. My mom even bought me some Tofurky this year and my grandma bought me a book about dating. They really are pretty awesome.

So, the number one lesson from the weekend is: if you give love, you will receive love. And it doesn’t have to be much to make a huge impact. Sometimes we have to relax a little and eat one too many butter tarts, because you know your grandma loves to see you enjoying them. And the sparkle in your dad’s eye when you give him something meaningful – like your time – will outshine all the lights on the most decked-out house.

May you find the magic this holiday season…and stay warm from the inside out. All the best to you and yours. Om Shanti, Namaste.