The weekend after Thanksgiving, right on schedule, my schedule, we had the house ready and decorated for the holidays. I remember feeling so serene and peaceful that Sunday night as I sat admiring our beautiful tree.

Everything felt perfect in the quietness and simplicity of the moment. I remember wishing I could just sit there and enjoy its calm and beauty forever. Especially because I knew that those peaceful moments were inevitably going to give way to busyness come Monday. There were presents to be bought, cards to be sent, entertaining to do, social obligations, wrapping presents (and did I mention all that shopping?) My yearly holiday to-do list goes on and on.

However, just a few days later, everything stopped. Very unexpectedly Harpo, our cocker spaniel, passed away. We were devastated. In our grief the to do list came to a screeching halt and no longer seemed to hold the same urgency as it did in days prior.

We sat. We stared at the beautiful tree whose light took on a different significance, even as it provided comfort and beauty.

Our Christmas tree, adding its bright light to our home this time of year.

As the days passed things seemed to change for me. I needed to move slowly. I did not have the energy or the necessity to get caught up in the pre-holiday craziness of the world around me. My grief had led me inward to a stillness.

I started to give thought to my priorities in my inner and outer world. Questions started to arise. When life changes in a flash, what are my regrets and what am I thankful for? Do I spend enough time just sitting, being still, and listening?

In Chinese medicine, December is a yin time, a time to go inward and a time to reflect on the past year. It is a time to prepare for the new year ahead, and allow for restful pauses during the process.

We don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to start being our best self. December can be a time of self-care and nurturing, a time of self-discovery, a time of rest and renewal.

How do you want to start 2020? Do you annually anticipate feeling overweight, hungover, out of shape, unorganized and depleted? It’s not too soon to make healthy changes now.

I have used the past few weeks to nurture myself with good foods, extra sleep, extra time on my yoga mat, diffusing essential oils throughout the house, and taking plenty of moments to stop and breathe deeply and fully. I have been allowing time for stillness and tears, many tears.

I hold no expectations for each day except to be present. I don’t want to deny the heartache and pain I felt in losing our loyal companion, but instead I hope to use the stillness to honor his memory.

The holidays can be hard for so many of us. Memories of loved ones we have lost or are separated from flood in, or maybe heartbreak, or the feeling of loneliness and isolation. None of these things are any easier despite the holiday lights and presents.

I am honoring where I am by accepting it’s okay not to over-embrace the joyfulness of the season right now. I am letting myself be okay with just being.

A gentle reminder…

In this season of gifts,
Remember one very important gift–
The gift of who you are.

Treasure your individuality,
And nurture your unique talents.

Believe in yourself
And in all
The possibilities
This new year holds for you

Gratitude is not just a switch to turn on when things go well, it is also a light that shines in our more troubled times. I believe that gratitude is an affirmation that something good will come again.

My heart is grateful for Harpo and all the memories we have of him. When we look at our Christmas lights, it will remind us of all the joy he brought to our lives.

This Christmas my hope for each of you is to take time for self-nourishment, and find quiet and reflective moments to be still and listen.

What is the message you will hold in your heart this December? What message do you most need to hear this season? What kind of Christmas would serve you best?

May the gift of love, peace, and happiness be yours this Christmas season,