“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”  ~Burton Hillis

I have few if any good childhood memories of Christmas, and although I have dedicated my adulthood to reinventing the holiday over the last thirty years, my earliest memories have retained some kind of hold over my holiday experiences. For years I would overcompensate, creating new traditions and working myself into a frenzy to make my children’s holidays magical. Most of what I remember from some of those years were the marathon wrapping sessions that kept me awake long past midnight on Christmas Eve.

Even with all the preparations, gifts wrapped and labeled, cookies half eaten and milk sipped for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer, the loss and grief from the past seemed to follow me like a shadow. What I wanted most was the family connection that was so absent in my childhood. What I created was enough busyness to numb the loss, but no time to find the connection I was so hungry for. It was also easy to confuse stuff for connection as consuming and kids can easily degenerate into.

This year I decided to forgo the stuff entirely. All the gifts I bought this year were picked out by the kids, erasing both the pressure to find the perfect thing and the pressure for them to like it- also I had time to choose the places where I wanted to connect with them instead of consuming my time with consuming. What we lost in terms of the surprise element we gained in our collective agreement to make a holiday that was not about the stuff.

This year I celebrated the 30th anniversary of holidays with my husband and best of all, we gave each other the mutual commitment to focus our time and attention on the places in our marriage that have gone cold from daily life. If the positivity quest has taught me anything, it is that by simply applying your conscious attention to any desired change has guaranteed results. I feel inspired and grateful to exchange a promise to revitalize our curiosity and compassion for each other.

I know from the positivity ratio that one valid way to increase your positive experience in life is by reducing your negative bias. In my morning meditation I came face to face with the grief I have been holding from past Christmas’ and decided that today I was going to heal the past by focusing on the presence and connection of my life today. It was easy to sort what calls were worth making and easier than I ever remember it to not pick up the phone for others.

This is perhaps the most gratifying lesson from the positivity quest- any day can be better when you become willing to let go of the past that hasn’t worked. It leaves so much room for finding the connection we seek. Merry Christmas…every day.