As a divorced man, I’ve lived through holiday traditions with my ex’s family as well as my present partner’s family and my own. I’ve seen a lot of traditions that have meant the world to certain people and frankly, I’ve wondered why. Like my ex’s yearly trek to buy all the ingredients for plum pudding even though she knew we’d all be too stuffed to eat it, or my dad’s tradition of eating oysters every year on Christmas Eve.
1. Do Less
For most of my life, I’ve been driven to achieve more, experience more and give more. I figured the more I did, the more value I would give to the world and the people I cared about. Now that I’m older, I’ve discovered just the opposite is true. A lot of times doing less is a win. People are impressed when I can pull off that principal, KISS. Keep It Super Simple. I can be concise, clear and to the point by not over complicating things. And in thinking back, I would often over complicate things by doing too much research, reading too many books, giving too many gifts and asking the opinions of too many people.
If my wife asks me to do something, I’ve learned she wants me to do the one thing, not seven other things that come to mind in the meantime. Right now I’m reading The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This book pretty much sums up what I’m talking about.
2. Listen More
I had to learn this from the marriage counselor I insisted my ex and I go to for two years before our marriage finally died. I honestly thought I was a great listener. I was totally wrong. Being a good listener involves the right body language, eye contact, limited, but meaningful responses and empathy. In other words, you have to care what the person is talking about in a genuine way. Imagine that person is you and your concerns mean everything to you. Now, let them know you truly understand.
As the Greek philosopher, Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This thought helps keep me on track with those in my life who want to be heard. And by that I mean, everybody.
3. Be Present
During my first marriage, I had no idea what this even meant. I would have thought it was woo-woo. Now I know it isn’t. My second wife has taught me what it means to be present, by example. She doesn’t practice mindfulness or meditation. She’s is simply a person who lives in the present naturally. Like my cat, Ziggy, didn’t need to be taught not to worry about her place in life, or what’s happening tomorrow. Being present means just to be happy and grateful for the moment right now.
Gratitude helps me be present because if I feel stress coming on, I stop, take a breath and say to myself, “what am I grateful for right now?” I can always think of plenty to appreciate, even when I’m dealing with challenges.
I don’t know about you, but, as long as those oysters are fried in butter, and there’s beer available, I will keep things simple this holiday season and truly savor the time with friends and family.
Photo: Flickr/ Will Montague