Friday, December 26, 2014

A Recipe for Cheer

Fundamentally, what I've always experienced as "The Christmas Spirit" is the feeling of celebration of life itself. Sostice is about that, the return of the Sun. Christmas is about that, the coming of the savior of the world. In the darkest of days, a glimmer of hope comes to remind us that Spring is around the corner, and to hang in there, the Holly King will fall, and the Oak King shall return to rule another season.

We exchange gifts to celebrate what we have, what we hope for, what is to come. We celebrate the things we can so-easily lose sight of in the darkest depths of winter, when the days are so short, and we are struggling to get through to daylight again.  We celebrate to remind us of the things we lost sight of in the daily bullshit of life. We are Scrooge, who has gotten cynical and needs the reminders and touchstones with bright joyful times of the past and present to avoid a grim and cold future.

That's what the magic of the Christmas spirit is all about, and that is what was lacking this year in the HF-RO HQ Midwest Division.

Harper and I were talking the other day about how the Christmas Spirit hadn't descended upon our house. It wasn't that I was feeling un-cheerful, or un-grateful, or un-celebratory, quite the opposite, in fact. I am joyful and so very thankful for every wonderful aspect of my life. What's missing this year isn't the feelings of Joy at all.

What's missing is the absence of this feeling the rest of the year.

We were talking about it again Christmas morning, and about what makes what we have so cool. Most of the things we do in our lives, we would do regardless of being in a relationship together. We have similar goals, goals that we have each spent a long time figuring out will make us happy. We have similar incomes, the results of our hard work, and the good fortune granted by our invisible friends. We have both been through enough of life to recognize the basic processes that need to be in place to have a happy life, and we do those things together, but not for each other; we would each do so individually, regardless of our relationship.

And that's sort of the thing. Our relationship is based first on our own individual happiness. That's a key piece we both realized after years of trying to do things with people who made us feel badly about ourselves. We both understand that if the things we do individually aren't compatible, no amount of wishing, trying, or sacrificing on our parts will ever make the other person happy. In fact, we recognize that neither of us can make the other person happy. No one can make anyone feel anything. And neither of us are interested in making another person feel anything. We want to be appreciated, sure, but we want it to be honest. And if it's not something the other person feels honestly, well, ok. They aren't the reason we do what we do, we do it for us, and if the other person appreciates it, so much the better.

And we've been fortunate to find another person who appreciates the things we do, the work we've done, the accomplishments we've made, the beauty and joy of our lives, and how much better it is to merge them together. We express our gratitude and joy regularly, because we can. We don't resent one another because we don't sacrifice for one another; we don't have to.

There are some tips and tricks we use to have a great relationship, it's not like we don't do any work to maintain what we have. We based our relationship on the same levels of communication and honesty that our friends in the Polyamory communities use, when they are successful. We had frequent checkpoints to touch base and see how each other were feeling in the first year or so. These days they happen a lot less often, but still pretty regularly. We discuss things that cause us to have feelings we don't like, things that make us sad that happen, and we listen to each other without interrupting. We don't defend ourselves, and we care about each other very much. We don't expect the other person to change because of our feelings, but we trust each other to help us deal with the feelings in ways that are mutually beneficial.

So I was thinking today about how the "Christmas Spirit" is something we experience all year long, and how it's the result of the recipe we have for our lives. We each tried the recipe with other people and it turned out badly, but basically our recipe is a good one, and I'd like to share what we do with you on this Christmas day, so that maybe part of our recipe will be something you can add to yours to increase your Joy all year long:

Be happy with yourselves. I'm not saying be at rest with how you are and make a bunch of excuses for your shitty behavior. If you don't like who you are, if you are working against yourself for some reason, making choices that leave you unhappy, broke, or further away from your heart's desire, then change yourself. It isn't easy, but it isn't impossible either. Whatever you change, you'll find you aren't really changing yourself as much as you are revealing yourself, and it's a process that never ends. But you should be happy with yourself when you're alone. If you aren't happy alone, you won't be happy anywhere with anyone. This is a big part of the Great Work. Or maybe it's just a side effect that I appreciate a lot because it's such a huge difference in comparison to how I felt about myself for so long.

Have a good income. Make some money. A "good income" covers all your monthly bills with 25-30% left over for savings and fun stuff. If you make $1000 a month, you should spend no more than $750 on your monthly expenses. The rest should go to a savings account and for treating yourself well. The variables you can influence are your monthly income and your monthly expenses. Raise the income, lower the out-go, or both. Career training, educations, and certifications can help increase incomes, and there are a ton of resources available about budgeting that you can find in an afternoon on Google. But I've found that if you are saving 20% of your income and have 5% of it available for fun stuff, you're going to have a steady financial experience that eliminates most of your stress in your life.

Be grateful. Being grateful is the natural result of having a low-stress life, I think. It's also one of the keys to ceating one. We spend a lot of time paying our attention to things that we think, feel, and experience. What we pay our attention to in life grows. The more we think about things, the bigger they get in our lives. So if we pay attention to all the negative things more than the positive things, the negative things will keep growing bigger, and the positives will keep growing smaller. I'm not saying if you think positive, everything becomes positive at all. I'm saying if you give a little time each day in appreciation for the good things, you'll start to see more of them, and they will grow larger and more influential in your life over time, and the negative things will shrink down to manageable portions. Having a good income helps.

These are the main things that seem to be the key ingredients for the recipe we use to have a joyful life all year round. We spent the time doing the work, and now we get to reap the rewards. We have goals we are working toward, and we are doing the Work now that will result in our desired outcome. We are physically heatlhy, mentally challenged, and romantically engaged with one another. We celebrate our lives, daily.

On Christmas we celebrated each other's company with our family, opened presents, and had some really good lamb and pasqalina. An excellent time was had, and it was special and joyful in ways that we don't get to celebrate every day, but it was entirely in keeping with the standard of joy in our lives.

Merry Christmas to all! And may your year be full of Cheer!
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