It’s the most wonderful time of year…except for when it isn’t. Right? Whether you observe Christmas, Hannukah, or something else during this particular season, the holidays can be hard for one reason or the other. And more times than not, there are more reasons than we even realize. Layers of reasons. Some dating back to childhood. Others more recent in origin. Many completely buried…until they surface, seemingly out of nowhere. It’s complicated. And this seems to be the time of year that we get most sentimental about all those layers of hopes and disappointments and hurts and dreams of “a wonderful life.”

An astute observer of the holiday reminds us that the best gifts “don’t just come in neatly wrapped presents, but in our beautiful, messy attempts to love each other.” There’s nothing like the gift of unwrapping our hearts with each other. Choosing to carefully “uncork” what’s bottled up inside and let our authentic selves bubble up and out. Nothing more eloquent than the fumbling attempts of tongue-tied humans sharing the deepest, most genuine sentiments of our hearts. It’s the best gift ever…to give and receive. And if we’ll stop for a moment to listen, we’ll recognize the sound of it. According to a little 7-year old named Bobby, “love is what’s in the room when you stop opening presents for a minute and listen.” Leave it to a child to remind the grown-ups what it’s all about.

Love is in the room with us when we’re surrounded by the people who mean the most to us. We give it as a priceless gift every time we stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; when we remember the weakness and loneliness of people growing old; when we stop asking how much our friends love us, and ask ourselves whether we love them enough; bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts; try to understand what those who live in the same home with us really want, without waiting for them to tell us; choosing to make a grave for our ugly thoughts, and a garden for our kindly feelings with the gate open. 

What if the makings of a “perfect holiday”are much simpler than we think…which should come as a huge relief if you’re exhausted by all your best intentions and efforts to create your best illusion of perfection for the people you love. It’s not too late to remember that what we all want, more than presents, is to receive the people dear to us as the gifts they truly are. And to give ourselves in return.

Another of life’s best gifts is the freedom to choose what we want…whether for a particular season or the entirety of our lives. Even if neither turns out to be what we originally hoped for, asked for, or thought it would be, life can still be so much more than many of us ever imagined. So, let your heart be merry. Uncork new hopes and dreams of this season. The one that’s right here, right now. Enjoy every minute with those who are near and dear to you. Open your heart to celebrate all the gifts that make for a wonderful life and this the most wonderful time of year!


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