Tag Archives: presents

Wish you a Merry Christmas

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”

When I read this quote by Hamilton Wright Mabie, it made me realise that Christmas is a wonderful occasion. Without it, the winter would be long and dark and joyless. Because of it, we decorate our homes and celebrate with loved ones. We prepare delicious meals and spend time with friends and family. We organise parties and string coloured lights across our streets. We give each other gifts and take time to rest and have fun. We sing along to much-loved tunes and give more generously to those in need. And we allow ourselves a sprinkle of hope and magic as we acknowledge the birth of baby Jesus and anticipate the sound of sleigh bells for Santa’s annual visit.

Unfortunately, some people dread this time of year. The pressure of spending money on presents and getting the house ready for visitors, the long dark cold evenings and, for those who have lost a loved one, the memories of happier Christmases past, are difficult to handle. However, there are many reasons to be thankful for this beautiful season. Here are some of mine…

Nature is stunning when it dresses for winter…

liffey walk

december liffey

icy walk

Fairy lights, candles and the scent of Christmas trees…

xmas tree

This year, I am choosing to focus on the best qualities of Christmas – generosity, love, laughter and fun, holidays and rest, good food and movies, parties, games and warm fires, loved ones who travel home from far off lands, and Christmas songs…

So, how about connecting with the true spirit of Christmas this year? The authentic sentiments of love, hope and blessings. Give your loved ones the best present of all – the gift of your presence. Your happiness. Your joy. And spread the goodwill all around. Ho ho ho!

Images: Author’s own.

Giving Change

I recently received an email from an old friend, who’s living abroad. She was writing to tell me that my blog has really inspired her to stop and look at life and has made her realise how lucky she is. She continued:

“Today, I was rushing to get to the shops before they closed when I saw a man, alone in the snow. He was shaking. I was a bit apprehensive but I thought: ‘I can’t leave him. It’s minus 10 and instinct tells me he needs help.’ So, I stopped. It turns out he had Parkinson’s and had hurt his arm. I phoned for a taxi and paid the driver to bring him to the hospital. The look of relief in the old man’s eyes when he sat in and shook my hand was heart breaking. I really think reading your words has changed my way of thinking. I’ve always had a lot of empathy but it takes courage to do something about a situation that’s a bit intimidating. Thanks, Sharon.”

This story brought tears to my eyes. Only days previously, another woman had told me I should stop publishing my work on the internet because I’m not getting paid for it, and on top of that, somebody could steal it. But this unexpected email reminded me why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Not everything we do has to result in monetary, or even personal, gain. Occasionally, people surprise us by giving, without looking for anything in return. The other day, I stepped onto a busy Luas (Dublin tram) when I felt a tap on the shoulder. I looked around at a dishevelled young man, who carried a sleeping bag under his arm. He said:

“Sorry, luv. I just wanted to let you know that your bag’s open. Be careful ‘coz someone could snatch your purse.”

I thanked him and zipped up my handbag. We then chatted about his life as a homeless person. He spoke about how he tries to rustle up enough money each day to stay in a hostel. Otherwise, he sleeps on the streets. I waited for him to ask me for some change (of which I had none – I’d given my last few coins as a tip to a waitress) but at the next stop, he simply said, “See ya luv” and was gone. “Take care!”, I called after him, feeling helpless yet totally moved. Yesterday, it snowed. I hope he’s okay.

Speaking of looking for change, check out this inspiring short film… 

‘Tis the season of giving presents to our loved ones but how about, this Christmas, giving or doing something special for somebody who really needs it?

Because I’m Worth It

Today, I ran into a woman I know. She was looking particularly well this wet December morning. She wore a deep purple cardigan and an emerald green scarf. The colours were striking and really lifted her complexion. I told her all this. She thanked me for the compliment, then announced proudly:

“This morning, I had a look at all the ‘good’ clothes that I only allow myself wear on special occasions, which come around just a few times a year. I suddenly decided not to let these gorgeous garments die in that wardrobe.”

Her exuberance delighted me. I revelled in this woman’s candour. It got me thinking about how often we deny ourselves the “good” things in life. Do we not find ourselves deserving enough? Are we treating ourselves like clumsy children, always afraid that we’ll ruin the niceties? We should remember that life is short. Why relegate our most beautiful and valuable possessions to dark closets and dusty shelves?

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." Buddha

Why not give yourself permission to break out the pretty tea set and rip open the box of Leonidas chocolates that you were going to give your posh co-worker? You are entitled to spray yourself with your most expensive perfume and write letters with the sparkly pen you received three Christmases ago. It’s about time you drank from delicate china and ate off brightly coloured delph, dressed in your finest.

If you have it, why not use it? Who knows when things (economy, finances, health) will change? So why not treat yourself right now? Be nice to that inner child, who believed in delayed gratification to the point of self-denial. Send yourself a new message – one of self-worth and appreciation. You deserve it.

Images: http://kittenwhiskersandteacups.tumblr.com/post/4207590683; http://modymoly.tumblr.com/; http://favefavefave.com/zhaohan/view/1428

Bloody Valentine

Valentine’s Day is like an extreme form of Marmite. Either you can’t get enough of it or you would rather slit your throat with a rusty nail and fling yourself into shark-infested waters than deal with this sickly sweet 24 hours. Some of us can pretend the day doesn’t exist, and ignore the large red love hearts blazing out of every shop window. Others cannot banish the day from their thoughts, because their enthusiastic other half would not let them away with it, or because they feel devastated about being alone on this loved-up day.

Recently or pathologically single folk presume that everyone else is gushing with love and romance on this spring day. They imagine couples walking hand-in-hand by the water’s edge, gazing into each others’ eyes, whispering sweet nothings, sharing plates of spaghetti, and surprising their partners with enormous crimson cards, sparkling jewels, holiday plans, and maybe even a diamond ring.

The unwilling half of a couple experiences equal amounts of dread and disdain in the run-up to this marathon of mush. They know that if they don’t have something wonderful planned for their partner they are liable to lose a limb (or another highly prized body part). For the sake of their own sanity (and physical well-being), they trudge to the gift shop, buy the first card that grabs their attention, and grudgingly “surprise” their loved one with a bunch of flowers and the piece of jewellery that they were ordered to purchase.

A number of years ago, a friend and I held a quiet protest on Valentine’s Day. Instead of sobbing at Love Actually on the box and checking the post every five minutes, we decided to replace the celebration with one of our favourites- Hallowe’en. We rented horrors, munched on treats, and sipped red wine. We were screaming so much that we didn’t have time to dwell on being single. And after watching The Ring, we were just glad to be alive.

For whatever reason, I’ve been single more often than not on Valentine’s Day. And it doesn’t bother me. It’s just another day (apart from the fact that card companies, florists, restaurants and the like are a lot richer afterwards). I don’t have to think about buying presents, writing cards, or making dinner reservations. And I have more money to spend on myself.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” Oscar Wilde

This year, instead of moaning about my single status, bitching about the shortage of romantic Irish men, or dissing the festival for being a “money-making racket” and an “exercise in soulless commercialism”, I am learning more about love. Recently, I have come to the delightful conclusion that I am loveable. I am getting to know myself more. I am discovering what I like in life. I have started doing the things I want to do. And I am thoroughly enjoying the process.

If you don’t know or love yourself, how can you love another, let alone believe that anyone would love you? There was a time when I looked at love dubiously. But I was confusing real love with romantic love.

"In real love, you want the other person's good. In romantic love, you want the other person." Margaret Anderson

Romantic love is often based on neediness and selfishness. You desire the person as a possession, as a tool to make you feel better about yourself. However, I’m beginning to see that there is another kind of love that speaks of balance and respect and sharing.

Once you know who you are and what you want from life, if you are fulfilled in what you are doing and treat yourself with love and respect, you are ready to move onto the next phase. And this is where love for another human being becomes possible. When you enter into a healthy relationship, you bask in the best parts of yourselves, and you accept and love the other bits too.

Relationships can be challenging. As Thomas Moore writes in his book Soul Mates, a struggle occurs between the soul’s need for attachment and the spirit’s need for freedom. When our partner seems distant, the soul becomes insecure and wants to hold on. When our partner clings, the spirit feels trapped and restless.

"A healthy relationship needs to create a balance between spirit and soul, expansion and constriction, freedom and commitment." Anodea Judith

So, this Valentine’s Day, if you’re part of a happy couple, do something nice together. Laugh and embrace. Remember the excitement of the first sparks of your romance. And celebrate the growth and intimacy that has developed since then.

And if, like me, you’re single, be thankful that you have this time and space to work on your self and your individuality. Love and accept each and every aspect of your being. Learn what makes you smile. Observe what fills you with passion. Witness the many ways in which you shine.

 

Images: Google