A Gift from The Ablow Center this Holiday Season
All human beings have to survive pages or chapters of their life stories that bring sadness, challenges to self-esteem or even questions about how to go on. No one gets through life without such events or phases, sometimes prolonged ones. How can these darker threads of life get woven into the fabric of our existences and still yield vibrant patterns?
Writing on this topic at Christmas (or Hanukkah, for that matter) might seem odd. After all, everyone is supposed to be celebrating the holidays and feeling joy, not dwelling on past or present pain. But the truth is that for millions of people, holidays also bring up lots of memories that aren’t joyous, including those about losing loved ones. And the lights of the holidays can cast long shadows in the lives of those who feel as though they shouldn’t or can’t dwell on darker thoughts.
What better time could there be, actually, to think about the will to survive than on Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is resurrected on Easter? What better time could there be to think about the will to survive than on Hanukkah commemorating the victory of the Maccabees to re-establish their right to worship as Jews?
These are stories of confronting adversity, yet being reborn, of confronting oppression, yet fighting through to freedom.
So, for those whose holidays are times when they find themselves searching for strength, not just celebrating, here are hints of ways to survive anything.
- First, find your faith. No matter what your religion is, or even if you don’t worship as part of one of the large, organized religions, finding faith means believing—or just beginning to believe—that every single event in your life can be used to make you a more giving and powerful person. Every event is part of a plan for you, as an individual, that isn’t meant to hobble you, but to make your life story, ultimately, one of triumph. In our losses we have the opportunity to become more loving. In our challenges we have the opportunity to find more courage. In what seem like our defeats are the opportunities to build our resilience.
- Second, become vigilant for opportunities to turn your faith into concrete actions.I promise you that there is more organization to the universe than many people suspect. There is more organization to your life than you may suspect. Look for moments to turn adversity into power, and you will find them. This is the nature of resurrection. Christ’s death on the cross was not the end; it was the beginning of a miracle that transformed countless lives. You, too, will be resurrected, but you have to look for opportunities to make that happen. Your destiny still awaits you. Do not dismiss people you meet who want to listen to your story or who have a similar story. Do not dismiss what seem like coincidences or bridges too far—meeting someone or reading about someone starting a business like one you’ve always thought about building, feeling a tug of affection for someone after losing a spouse or divorcing, a thought that enters your mind about writing a book about your experiences. These are just a few examples of innumerable ones that might unfold.
- Third, don’t go it alone. Whether you reach out to a member of the clergy, a counselor, a life coach, a psychiatrist or a psychologist, please consider teaming up with someone as you confront adversity. Teaming up allows for your vision of the future to be kindled by someone else’s. It can really help to be listened to, but also to hearwhen someone thinks you should take needed actions to fuel your perspective, increase our momentum or honor your potential.
James Joyce, the great writer and literary critic, put it very well in his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Onward . . .
Keith Ablow, MD
Founder, The Ablow Center