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We all know that Christmas is a special time of year. Family, friends, wining, dining, and gifts. Yeah, it’s special, no doubt. There’s the flip side to consider, as well. Stress and all that mumbo jumbo….so-busy-bad-weather-unexpected-expenses-hard-to-buy-for-too-much-to-drink-to-eat-to-wrap….yadda. Yadda. Blah blah.

Bah.

My advice? Start watching the chaos and find humour. Just give yourself a little extra time and sit back and watch the insanity ensue. You can’t change the crazies that come out of the wood work and emerge in droves at your local shopping venues. Instead of getting annoyed at the person who takes eight minutes and a nine-point turn in order to back into a parking spot, give these people a break. Everyone shops this time of year (with exception of those overly down-to-earth types who have found the true meaning and all that..or the really crafty types that are so prevalent here on the west coast). So it falls to reason that unskilled shoppers come out at this time of year. This makes it that much more adventurous for the rest of us!

Actually, I think I’ve over simplified these characters. They aren’t unskilled at shopping – they are more-or-less unskilled at basic social interactions and sometimes even logic in general.

Watch the person in front of you try to explain a specific book to the lady at the cash register – while not knowing the title, the author, or even the genre of book they’re in such dire need of. Take note as she get more animated and frustrated, starting to lash out …. “nobody in this bloody store knows anything about literature!” She storms off feeling vindicated knowing she is better-read than anyone else in the shop and also that it’s run by illiterate morons. Now instead of letting their negativity rub off on you and your retail experience, just take a moment – realize you’re just very lucky not to be that person. Smile at the cashier. A knowing glance can do wonders. Now you can feel vindicated in your own right – and the camaraderie of like-minded, socially-adjusted people is exactly what this season is about.

Love thy neighbour… and your local customer service associate.

In all seriousness, I’ve really had to embrace being back in the real world for this time of year. My battle is not with the general public, but with my memories. I thought I had it all figured out – I got a job at the ski resort in order to fully wrap myself up in winter. Being up on the heavily snow-covered hill, surrounded by people who love being outside – it’s the perfect way to get through the long dark winter. Yes…all figured out – I knew this sort of job would ensure I worked through Christmas and I could slog through this very emotional holiday by working hard and feeling exhausted enough to sleep through the night. I could avoid Christmas… again! What luck.

Luck comes in oh, so many forms. I truly believe that each one of us is lucky, it’s just a matter of perspective.

So I guess I was one of the lucky ones – my schedule gave me both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. As I was about to volunteer to take my coworkers’ shifts, I held my tongue and thought about the opportunity at hand. This could be exactly what I need. I’ve stated before: some of the best outcomes have been from situations that are difficult and way, way, way easier to avoid. It dawned on me that I need to face the holidays; the traditions, the ups and downs that come hand in hand with this time of year.

It’s been pretty sweet so far, and even with a few tears there is some sense of accomplishment.

I can’t even begin to count the ways in which I’ve been lucky. Life happens, sh*t happens, some of it’s heavy and bad and life-altering, but we do our best to pick ourselves up, and when we do – whether it’s luck, or determination or sheer grit, we, hopefully, can look around and begin to see the love surrounding us.

My love and thanks to everyone who has been part of my life these last few years. I have met so many special people. I have travelled with each and everyone of you whether it’s through airports and foreign countries, written word, or shared memories.

We’ve arrived here …right now. It’s pretty good, isn’t it?

Keep each other laughing. Share music. Hug to stay warm.

Merry Christmas.

Thailand was a treat. Upon arrival we were greeted with fireworks, a parade, dance and light shows…it was amazing. We ate bugs – more than one – and agreed they tasted like the small crispy bits of french fries.    We wandered around in awe at the activity, picking small antennae out of our teeth, and only on our way out of the city the next day, did we find out it was Coronation Day.  One night in Bangkok …pretty great.

The majority of our taste of Thai – you know, besides the grasshoppers and such – was spend on beaches surrounded by other young westerners. It was quite a change of pace from our experience in Cambodia but it was easy and relaxing.

Our Balinese Christmas came and went and was lost in a sad and happy wave of normality I had never experienced before. It was good to take a break though…no carols, no presents, no freezing temperatures. We had a seafood dinner and I was lucky to share my token Christmas Guinness with two Irish blokes.  They kept us entertained with tales of excess and debauchery.  I reckon that Guinness pool-side is just as good as eggnog fire-side.  And tales of debauchery are a very close second to “Miracle on 34th Street”.

All in all, our last couple of weeks in Asia  were a gentle transition – relatively speaking – back into the throngs of the Western world.  Both the prices and the touristy-feel increased as we migrated south. We were blessed with exceptional scenery, culture, and religion.  This assisted in filling our hearts with a sort of pseudo holiday joy.

And so we made it back to Australia in time to celebrate the bringing-in of a new year.  This one will be pretty good I think.  A year of new beginnings… adventure, travel, friends, family, new things, new people, old things, and all things in-between.

We are alive and it’s our job to do some serious living.  Everyday will be a day of celebration even if it’s small and quiet and personal.  We will smile more. Why not? We will forgive – get over it.  We will open our hearts and be amazed when others open their hearts to us.

We will realize our faults and forgive them.  If we are able to forgive others the very least we can do is forgive ourselves.

We will get excited.  There’s a lot to do: we pay the bills and do the dishes, but everyday holds joy, and if it doesn’t then we need to make changes.  Maybe we will open up, be honest, and ask for help.
We will find love.  It’s everywhere and it comes in oh, so many forms and it starts with you. We will give love and give it freely – that means no strings– none…no exception.

One of the best things I’ve done this year is to remove myself from my comfort zone.  I’m not suggesting everyone give up everything they have to travel the world – although I support you 100% if this is the case, and I hope to meet you along the way.  The montage of destinations are simply a change of canvas that has helped in removing routine, pattern and familiarity from the equation.  The palette.

All the most memorable experiences of the past year are the ones that initially gave me pause.  The times that I had to work up the balls to get ‘er done. No shortcuts.  I’ve had to challenge myself, ask for help, take the leap.  When I have truly done this, each and every time, I have walked away a little bit proud of myself.

It’s important to know that these challenges have resulted in a magnitude of outcomes.  The whole gambit; an entire colour spectrum of emotion.  Regardless of the greys and browns and blacks, I have surfaced more complete – each experience benefiting the painting-in-progress that is my life.

May 2010 be a more-happy-than-sad year for all of us. A colourful year.

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