By Paul Johnson, LMFT, LPC, NCC
(Originally printed in 280 Living, Birmingham, AL, November 2009)
The holiday triad is upon us: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Kids often focus on the two where something received is anticipated: candy or presents (“That’s what I want.”). Adults are keenly aware of the purchasing and preparing that is required (“Here’s what you want.”). The season can be filled with hope, anticipation, excitement, memories, disappointments, tension, nervousness. We look forward to being with certain people, stressed by the presence of others, aware of those who are elsewhere or gone forever. For some, the season is the most favorite time of the year; for others, it is a time of dread. In this season we experience the spectrum of great fulfillment to intense loneliness. The holidays conjure their own meaning in all of us, intensifying feelings or perceptions held throughout the rest of the year. Under it all, we become aware that each of us has a strong desire to be with others, someone, anyone — we want to be connected.
Larry Crabb, author of such books as Inside Out and Connecting, wrote in his book, The Safest Place on Earth, that while on a walk with his wife in Miami, FL, as they passed several retirement homes, they noticed on the all large porches that the chairs were facing forward, with nary a one turned toward a neighbor. This turning, whether slight or overt, would have represented conversation, an opportunity for words, thoughts, ideas, and life to be passed back and forth—connection. Yet all the chairs faced forwards, its occupants disconnected.
Every cell within us wants to belong, to be a part of something — specifically a family or a community. No one truly wants to do life alone. No one wants to die alone. Oh, we may have extroverted or introverted needs to be with people or to be alone in order to rest, recover, or restore, but beyond that, we want to be with someone, profoundly with them, in being and in essence, knowing and being known. Is it possible that during the holidays, what we seek to exchange as represented in the variety of treats, feasts, and gifts, is really one another? And that the disappointment, loneliness, or hollowness we feel stems from settling for less or not connecting at all? Or perhaps the vibrancy and the refreshment and fulfillment we experience come because we are able to establish such a connection with another or several others?
Throughout this holiday season, notice your desire to be connected. But even more so, as you take time to buy, give, cook, eat, treat, or trick, pause to recognize that what is really wanted is the voice, the touch, or the presence of another real person (like you). And in noticing, make the effort to reach out, or to be reached to.
After all, it is what you really want.
To talk further about these topics (or others), or to further explore the turning of your chair toward another, please consider LifePractical Counseling for your counseling or consultant needs. You may reach us at 205-807-6645, or contact us via our website at www.lifepractical.org. Paul Johnson is a professionally licensed marriage and family therapist and professionally licensed counselor in the state of Alabama.