Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Approaching

Ringing in the New Year

Reasons to Celebrate

New Year's Ball in Time Square
So the day has come; it's New Years Eve. The day when people drink to oblivion, make a list of resolutions that they probably won't keep or will simply forget in the next couple weeks, wear silly hats and sunglasses that bear the year, and can use the phrase "ball dropping" without smirking. But what is this day really about? As I said in my previous post, Magical Snowflakes, I am not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions. It is too difficult to make a single resolution that encompasses all of our wants. And when making a resolution it is impossible to know if a single year is enough time to complete it or if said resolution will still be important to us a few months from now. Lengthy lists that contain numerous resolutions pose problems of their own. How important can a resolution be if it is one of many? Is it feasible to successfully fulfill or complete 20+ resolutions in 365 days? 
No one's too old for silliness on New Year's-
When it comes to making resolutions it seems to me that we are going to fail ourselves in one way or another. Our resolution won't accurately reflect the totality of our deepest desires. Or we create a resolution that takes more than one year to complete, resulting in feelings of failure when we are unable to accomplish it in a year's span. Or we come up with a resolution that is so important to us right now but as the year goes on it becomes irrelevant or less of a priority. I just feel that making New Year's resolutions is a futile practice. Instead of making a list of things we would like to change in the upcoming year I think we should create a list of reasons to celebrate as we leave 2012 behind and ring in the New Year. 
Why have we made the New Year so important? Start any time !
I have been contemplating recently why the New Year is celebrated. Is it because we are happy to leave the past year behind? Are we excited for a fresh start and new opportunities? Are we thankful that we managed to make it through another year? Do we feel that it indicates a definitive starting point to make changes in our lives? I am not really sure why New Year's Eve is such a big deal. We have the ability to do all of these things at any point in our lives- wipe our slate clean, pursue new things, give thanks for our lives, decide to change our ways. 

"New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions."

- Mark Twain

As 2013 approaches I want to reflect on my life- past, present, and future- and truly be cognisant of what exactly it is that I am celebrating. So I am going to share a brief list with you that includes a number of my reasons to celebrate tonight and during the first few days of 2013.

  • I am celebrating the New Year with my family instead of in a treatment facility
  • I have finished the Fall Semester and I am looking forward to returning to school for my Spring semester
  • I am happy with my weight and comfortable in my body
  • I have used my voice over the past year and have been able to compromise with my team (regarding a number of issues) that has benefited my happiness and well-being
  • I have a family that loves, supports, and has faith in me
  • I have friends all over the world who I feel connected to although some of us are thousands of miles apart
  • I was able to adopt my kitten, Milly. And she has saved me- emotionally, mentally, physically- in ways that I never could have anticipated
  • I am alive!
Know the reasons your are celebrating-
This is just a brief portion of my list. (I could go on forever but I thought I would spare you.) I have reflected on my past, present, and future and recognized the many blessings that give me reason to celebrate tonight. 2013 is approaching and I have no plans to make any huge changes in my life. I am relatively happy where I am and with what I am doing at the moment. But, just because I don't have a list of resolutions doesn't mean that I don't have a sense of direction for the upcoming year. By forming a list of reasons to celebrate I have been able to recognize all that I have and wish to keep in the future. This list compels me to continue fighting, blogging, working, and doing what I am doing. No, I am not overhauling my life; but, I don't feel any need to do so. Why be pressured to make a change when you are perfectly content with the way things are? Instead, I am resolved to continue doing exactly what I have been doing, in the hopes of pursuing happiness in my life. My list of reasons provides me with factual evidence of what I have accomplished, what I am thankful for, and what I enjoy about my life. It inspires me to keep up the good work in the New Year. It encourages me by reminding me of all that I have done and thus, all I am capable of doing. And it gives me hope; 2012 has gifted me so many wonderful things and I don't see why 2013 would be any different.
As 2013 approaches and you prepare to ring in the New Year I encourage you to take a moment for yourself in order to make a list of all your reasons to celebrate. Don't ring in the New Year and cheer when the "ball drops" without knowing why you are celebrating. Allow this list to help you moving forward; let it inspire and encourage you. Look at all the things in your life that you are thankful for and hold on to them. As you ring in the New Year let your list of reasons guide you. Instead of embarking upon supposedly life changing resolutions you can make the decision to keep things just the way they are in order to maintain the many reasons that make up your list. The New Year is an important time for many of us. It marks a moment that allows us to reflect upon our past and think about our future in the year to come. If you recognize things in your life that you would like to change than by all means go for it! But, don't put undue pressure on yourself by creating a one year deadline. Some things just need a bit more time. I encourage you to focus on the positives this New Year's Eve, rather than the negatives or elements of your life that you are not satisfied with. 
I hope you are able to have fun, celebrate, and enjoy the festivities. By all means wear goofy New Year's garb, scream "the ball is dropping" at the top of your lungs, and drink until your body can take no more. But don't ring in the New Year without knowing exactly why you are celebrating. Maybe you are celebrating being with your family. Perhaps you are embarking on a new job. Maybe you are celebrating for a simple reason- going on vacation, finishing a semester, making a new friend. Or perhaps like me, you are celebrating that fact that you made it through another year and life feels pretty damn good! 

"Celebrate with a purpose."

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us."

- Hal Borland

Happy New Year to you all! Celebrate with a purpose. Begin 2013 with a sense of direction. And of course, be safe tonight, no matter what you are doing, as you are ringing in the New Year!

One year down and many more to go,

New Year's Eve, 1 Day Til 2013

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Magical Snowflakes

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Embracing Nature's Beauty

Remember making these as kids ?
As much as I complain about winter and condemn the snow, even I have to admit that there is something magical about the first real snowfall of the season. I peer outside my window and appreciate the beauty of the magical snowflakes falling. I have been taking brief little strolls, embracing the mounting snow and nature's beauty. These magical snowflakes land upon me, covering my fur trimmed hood and creating a halo like image. They dust my coat and pants, looking like magical fairy dust. The whiteness that surrounds me fills me with a sense of peace. How could I condemn these magical snowflakes and the winter wonderland that they create? It is not actually the first snow. We experienced a few flakes that granted the Philadelphia area a white Christmas. But the snowfall was not substantial and it soon melted away. This is our first true snowy day and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Perhaps it is the novelty of the first snow that is contributing to my change of heart? Or maybe it is because I am not being forced to leave the warmth of my home and schlep about in it? But regardless of the reason I am content and almost excited as I watch the flakes fall and the snow accumulate. It brings back childhood memories- days off from school, sledding with my brother, making snow angels- and my heart is warmed despite the freezing temperatures outside. I can't help but embrace the beauty that I see as nature drapes our dirty world in a pure and magical whiteness. It's as if the troubles, dangers, horrors, and sadness of the world disappear when I stand in the midst of the falling snow. Everything goes quiet and I am left with my thoughts; somehow these thoughts aren't frightening or negative as they usually tend to be. My mind is silent and clean like the world that surrounds me. Nature's beauty offers me a gift as I walk in this winter wonderland; I am calm- at peace with myself as well as the people and the world that surrounds me. 
Magical Snowflakes

"Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people's legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world."

- Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

This quote from Allen perfectly reflects how I am feeling about the snow right now. (Plus it includes a reference to cats so I can't help but like it, hah.) The snow flurries, these magical snowflakes, surround and embrace me. Likewise I embrace them.
"...snowflakes surround and embrace me."
They fall gracefully and lightly. The wind takes them easily in different directions. They find resting places on trees, rooftops, bushes, and occasionally upon my very own hooded head. Collectively they create a magical "snow globe world," a winter wonderland, and I can't help but abandon my previous opinions of the snow. How could I ever curse such a glorious sight? I find myself wholeheartedly embracing nature's beauty and the somewhat magical impact it is having on me. It has been a long time since my mind has relaxed. It seems as if my brain is constantly moving even when it should be calm. When I sit down to do nothingness my mind intercedes and forces my thoughts to spin, taking me places that I'd rather not go. As I take my walk in this winter wonderland my mind is finally able to rest. I am at ease. I am content in the present moment, not regretting the past or mourning losses that cannot be regained; I am not worried about what my future holds for me. I am able to truly be here- in this moment and place. I am so thankful for these magical snowflakes and this winter wonderland that has been gifted by nature; this snowfall has given me something I have needed and wanted for a long time now- peace. I have been blessed in my life with many things- a supportive family, educational opportunities, intellect, material possessions beyond compare, my adoring kitten- but it seems that it has forgotten to provide with me a crucial ability: the capability to find and feel peace.

Finding peace in the snow-

I am thankful and I am embracing nature's beauty, this first real snowfall, because it has worked magic for me personally. It has allowed me to be at peace with myself, with this world, with my current situation, with my tainted past and uncertain future. As I stand outside the magical snowflakes work their powers on me; they silence my mind, quell my fears, and allow me to embody peace. Peacefulness is a wonderful feeling. I hope to experience it more often in the future. I am going to share an affirmation that will hopefully enable me to find peace even when white, pure snow is not surrounding me. I encourage you to utilize this affirmation now and in the future whenever you feel the need to be calmed and filled with a sense of peace. quiet brain !
A quiet mind oversees everything I do.

Although this affirmation doesn't directly reference peace, I chose it because it is exceptionally relevant to me and my own shortcoming. As I have said, I have trouble silencing my mind, stopping swirling thoughts, and allowing myself to simply be. I would like to work on embodying this affirmation. A quiet mind may be able to help me with other issues I encounter in my life- anxiety, OCD tendencies, perfectionism, self-judgment and criticism. I am thinking that a clear mind will allow me to focus more on things in life that are actually important to me- family, friends, school, personal passions, my blog- rather than things that I can rationally say are meaningless or insignificant. Who cares if my hair isn't pulled back exactly even on both sides? What does it matter if my bed isn't made (with my eight pillows perfectly aligned) before I leave my apartment? What will happen if I don't perform my morning routine in the same order every single day? Will the world end if I get an A- instead of an A? I spend so much time thinking about all these different things that I have no time to put effort into my passions and simple pleasures. I want time to read for enjoyment. I want to get an extra half hour of sleep each morning. I want to act on my desire to help spread awareness about eating disorders. I want to be able to arrive at meetings, parties, and dinners on time.
I want the freedom that comes with a quiet and peaceful mind. If I am able to embody this affirmation and silence my mind than perhaps I won't feel compelled to be, look, act, and perform perfect or perfectly all the time; it's truly exhausting and takes time from me that I would like to use in other ways. Now I find myself wondering how I managed to write an entry regarding peace and OCD/perfectionist tendencies when I started with a very simple topic: snow. Perhaps it is the magic of the snowfall that inspired the direction of my writing this afternoon. I had no idea that the weather could have such a profound influence on me. Maybe these truly are magical snowflakes and you too could benefit from having a few land on your sleeve. Go outside and take a walk in this winter wonderland. Encourage your children to play and frolic in the snow; join them if the urge arises. Embrace nature's beauty as you watch the flurries fall and as you look out upon the expanse of white that envelops our world. You may find that this first snowfall enlightens you and brings you a gift similar to that which it gave me. Allow the magical snowflakes to work their wonder on you. Don't hesitate to take a step outside; brave the cold and embrace nature's beauty. When the winter cold manages to permeate your layers and chill you to the bone you always have the option to retreat back to the warmth of your home.

Bundle up and take a walk in a winter wonderland,

My own personal Winter Wonderland !

4 Days Til 2013!

These just don't seem very practical for New Year's Eve...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Aftermath

Post Christmas Recovery

Recoup, Relax, Restore

Holiday Aftermath
So Christmas is now behind us, leaving us with all the anxiety, stress, and emotional fall-out of the holiday aftermath. It is time to return all the gifts that we are unhappy with. Deal with extra pounds we have put on during our merry making. It's hard to get through Christmas and endless family gatherings without a decent amount of alcohol; and who can resist the allure of holiday cookies and warm pie? It is officially time for post Christmas recovery. I, for one, spent the majority of yesterday sleeping and nursing my hangover that had built up over the course of four days. It was a necessary day of recuperating and relaxing after some raucous holiday parties. 
Recoup and Relax
Now that I am back in action (sitting at my usual Starbucks and no longer wearing pajamas) it is time for me to restore. When I say restore I mean it a number of ways- mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is time for me to return to my usual mental state because although it is vacation I still I have a number of responsibilities to fulfill. (I need to finally work on transferring my credits from GW to Penn, I must complete my major declaration form so that I can officially declare my Communications major, and I have an abroad application to complete in the hopes of studying in France this summer.) It is time for me to pay some much needed attention to these tasks so that I am able to return to school in January without them lingering. Additionally I would like to restore myself physically. 
"Nursing my hangover..."
After days of indulging I am not feeling like myself. It may be in my head but I seem to be experiencing the customary post Christmas bloat and I don't like it all. My jeans feel a bit snug. My face seems to be just a little bit rounder. And my stomach is descending slightly more than I remember. Not to mention that my body is confused by all the alcohol and high calorie goodies I have been consuming. My chest feels tight, my stomach is in knots- nausea, heartburn, indigestion- and my hands are slightly swollen. It is crucial that I resume to my normal eating patterns in order to restore my physicality, returning to my physical norm (for both comfort and vanity's sake.) I allowed myself to indulge and enjoy over the holiday but it is not a lifestyle I can or intend to keep up. If I continue to indulge I will certainly find myself in panic mode at the end of the break. (I am already in a semi-state of crisis as I reflect on everything I have eaten- pie, cookies, candy, wine, bacon, banana bread, hearty dinners- over the past week or so.) 
Christmas food coma-
But, I suppose it wouldn't be a true Christmas without allowing ourselves some extra treats that we wouldn't typically eat. However, this physical discomfort and concern is feeding into my emotional well-being. As a girl with an eating disorder it goes without saying that food and presumed bodily changes play games with my mind. I am hoping that restoring my physical self will help in the restoration of my emotions. But food regrets and body image woes are not the only elements that are hindering my emotional normalcy. There is a level of emotional fall-out and sadness that comes with the end of the holiday. I have been looking forward to Christmas for months now. It is has been that shining reward that kept me going during hard times; it pushed me to fight in the face challenges and struggles. The holiday filled me with cheer in the weeks leading up to it. The music, the decor, the energy- the elements of Christmas made me smile and warmed my heart. 
"Post Christmas bloat..."
The holiday aftermath lacks all of these joyful aspects and I am feeling a bit lost. What is next? What do I have to look forward to now? What is going to help me get through the difficult moments? Of course New Years is right around the corner; but New Years doesn't have the same special place in my heart as Christmas. Post Christmas recovery involves multiple things: recuperating (after days of drinking, eating, and celebrating), relaxing (once the festivities are over, the pressure has released, and we have time to settle down and take it easy), restoring (physically, mentally, and emotionally), and finding a motivator, a new sparkling reward that encourages us to move forward and overcome the challenging struggles that life throws our way. 
Post Christmas
We have a lot to do in the aftermath of the holiday and not all of it is so much fun. But lets not let ourselves get the post Christmas blues- don't lose the good cheer that Christmas brings by focusing on the regrets that come with overindulging during the holidays. Lets remember Christmas for all the wonder and magic that it creates within us and try to keep this spirit in the holiday aftermath and into the upcoming new year.

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

As I have said in this post, and many other Christmas related posts, the holiday season is somewhat magical. It brings families together. It allows us to feel the excitement and pleasure that we felt as children. It is a time of merry making, traditions, kindness, warmth, and love. As the season comes to a close we tend to forget the beauty and magic that Christmas is able to bring and instill in all of us. We move on with our lives and neglect to engage in the kindness, warmth, and love that we felt and shared during Christmas time. While we recoup, relax, and restore during our post holiday recovery lets also add one more element to our list- remember. 
Remember during your Post Christmas Recovery-
I know I have already mentioned so many things that we must do while we manage the aftermath of the holiday season. I am sorry if I have overwhelmed you with one more task. But I think that is important that we try to remember the feelings and energy we had leading up to Christmas and during our holiday celebrations. Remember the positives- excitement, joy, enthusiasm, generosity, kindness, energy, love- that collectively create an insoluble holiday spirit. Remember this spirit and try to hold onto it. With this spirit we can enjoy the pleasures associated with Christmas all year round. I am not one for New Years resolutions. (Rather than inspiring me to make positive changes in the upcoming year they tend to add pressure to my already stressful life. I can't focus on a single goal that is meant to encompass my deepest wants. I can't imagine a single desire that could extend over the length of an entire year.) 
"...warm spirit of Christmas..."
But this year I can think of an appropriate and worth while resolution that is deserving of a year of focus. This New Years Eve I plan to make a pledge to keep the warm spirit of Christmas in my heart every day of the year. I want to feel the excitement, energy, and joy that comes with Christmas on even the most of ordinary of days. I hope to share kindness, generosity, and love with others on days that hold no special meaning. This year I plan to keep "Christmas in my heart" all year round; it will serve to benefit both me as well as all those that I come in contact with.

"Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year's resolutions, and I've stuck with it ever since."

- Dave Beard

Usually I am like Beard; a cynic who resolved to forget the practice of creating resolutions for the upcoming year. I still understand the logic behind. Creating a resolution can be daunting. How are we supposed to form a statement for the upcoming year that is reflective of all we wish to achieve? How can we be sure that this desire will last us the whole year long? 
Just looking at this list makes me exhausted !
What if we find that as the year goes by the resolution no longer seems important or relevant to us? As daunting as creating the resolution can be, thinking about fulfilling it can be all the more stressful. What if we are unable to achieve this goal within the year? Resolutions can add undue pressure; we are setting ourselves up to attempt to achieve one large goal that is supposedly indicative of our greatest aspirations. 

Some resolutions are just infeasible-
What if we fail? Have we failed as humans? Sometimes we need more than a year in order to make our dreams a reality. Certain resolutions are simply infeasible. However, this year I would like to challenge Beard and all of this notions and questions that I have expressed. I believe that I have come up with a resolution that will remain relevant to me for the full length of the year. Ultimately my goal to remember, to maintain my Christmas spirit, to feel and emit positivity can be summed up in a single word: happiness. My resolution is one that requires no deadline. I can live up to this goal every day, all year long, and continue to strive for it in years to come. Perhaps instead of referring to it as a New Year's resolution I should regard as a resolution for life instead-

I don't know but I intend to pursue it !
I resolve to feel happiness and spread it to everyone I meet now and for years to come.

This sounds like an everlasting and feasible resolution to me. In fact, I have already been working toward it without even knowing it via this blog. My resolution has been deep within me for months now; I just failed to recognize or label it as such. In the holiday aftermath let us focus on our post Christmas recovery: recoup, relax, restore, and remember. Let us fully recover from this past Christmas and prepare ourselves for the excitement of the upcoming New Year. Let us not by cynics, like Beard, and instead formulate resolutions that seem everlasting and manageable. I urge you to fondly remember and look back upon this Christmas. While you reflect attempt to hold onto some of the positives- merriment, excitement, love- that blessed you during this festive season. Just because the holiday is over does not mean you must lose all the joys that it brought. 
Santa may have lost his hat but don't lose your spirit !
We can maintain our Christmas spirit all year round; engage in its beauty and spread its magic even on the most typical days. 
Don't let the holiday aftermath bring you down. Instead, let us look at is as an opportunity to recover and better ourselves. During this recovery period we can return to equilibrium (mentally, physically, emotionally); but we can also choose to make a change in the way we live our lives. Sustain your holiday spirit in the pursuit of a happy new year and infinite happiness in the years to come.

Best of luck in your post Christmas recovery,

For those of us still holding on to Christmas, let us remember that is traditionally 12 days-

12 Days of Christmas

Shall We Begin a New Year's Countdown?

5 Days Til 2013

If we intend to create resolutions this year lets work on making them feasible-

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Thank You Santa Claus

A Merry Christmas Morning

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Christmas Day, December 24, 2012

"At Christmas, all roads lead home."

- Marjorie Holmes

It is Christmas Day !

It has finally arrived- Christmas Day is here! My Christmas has been everything I could have imagined and more! I am sitting comfy cozy at my Aunt's house. The unwrapping is finished. We are all satiated after a breakfast of homemade cinnamon buns, bacon, eggs, sausage, and Champagne. Milly is wandering about in her new festive collar. I received everything on my list. (I guess I was a good little girl this year.) But, in reality I received the best gift of all days ago. I am home for Christmas and we are all overjoyed. Nothing is more rewarding than being with my family for Christmas. No gift can outshine the smiling faces of my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my brother because I am here with all of them this year. There truly is no place like home for the holidays. This was a very merry Christmas morning; probably the best one in years. It most definitely topped my Christmas morning in treatment last year. (Although I suppose that wouldn't be that difficult to do.) I am overwhelmed with pleasant emotions. 
Christmas Morning with Milly !
This Christmas has lived up to all my expectations and I cannot believe that there is still more celebrating to come. It is only 1 o'clock. We haven't even had Christmas dinner yet. I can't imagine that it could get any better than this! How could I feel any happier or more thankful than I feel right now? I don't think it is possible. I can't stop grinning. I feel as if I am radiating positive energy. It's as if I am floating on air. Days like this remind me what life is all about. Family, friends, holidays, happy moments, new memories- life is a gift and these extra special days are our little rewards for making it through the rough times. This last year has not been easy. This Fall semester was brutal. I faced challenges that I thought I could not overcome. In order to get through all the shit I had to keep this reward in mind. I am here and it is solid evidence that I have made it! I keep thinking I am dreaming.I am truly in disbelief. How did I do it? How did I manage to get through the crap and make it to this point? Am I really here with my family on Christmas day? Yes I am! None of the hardships from the past even matter to me right now. It is all behind me. I made it through the tough moments, the difficult times, the obstacles; I overcame all of it for this day and it was worth it. I must pay homage to the child in me and say thank you Santa Claus. Thanks for my new wool coat, my pretty necklace, my cat toys, my holiday dress. And then I have to thank G-d because I know I could not have found the strength within me over the course of the past year without his guidance and support. And then I must thank myself. I have been helped by many people- family, friends, doctors, teachers- along the way. But, I couldn't be here today if it weren't for myself, my own hard work, my determination, my commitment to life and happiness. I have had a very merry Christmas morning, I phenomenal holiday season overall; and I am looking forward to many more joyful blessings in my future. 

"G-d bless us, everyone!"
"But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely."

- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Merry Christmas to you all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas

Muster Up Some Holiday Spirit

An Affirmation for a Happy Christmas

Holiday shopping !
As I expressed in my post from yesterday, A Look Back, I have been having a difficult time this holiday season. I am struggling with accepting that this Christmas is going to be unlike the Christmases that I remember in the past. I am fighting with painful memories from my Christmas in treatment last year. I having been finding it difficult to muster up some holiday spirit. I have been looking forward to this Christmas for a long time now and it just doesn't seem to be living up to my expectations. Today I went holiday shopping with my brother and I finally began to feel some excitement and enthusiasm. Maybe there is hope that I can have a merry little Christmas after all. I want to share two affirmations with you that we can utilize in order to help us experience a happy Christmas. I intend to focus on these affirmations now and in the upcoming days as means of encouraging the positive feelings that I got a brief glimpse of earlier today.

I am excited and enthusiastic about this holiday season.

As the holiday draws closer my happiness expands.

As always, I know it can be difficult to focus on two affirmations at once. You have the option to choose which ever one seems most appropriate for you or you can combine aspects of both in order to create a single affirmation for a happy Christmas. I have consolidated the two affirmations into one statement that you are welcome to use if it better suits your needs.

My excitement and enthusiasm about this holiday season allows my happiness to expand each day.

This could easily be my Christmas letter to Santa-
This consolidated affirmation is perfect for me as I attempt to muster up some holiday spirit in the hopes of experiencing a happy Christmas. Feel free to pick and choose the elements that work for you in order to create a personal affirmation that provides you with the support you need. After all, affirmations only work if they are relevant to your wants and your life. As I read this affirmation to myself I begin to think of aspects of the holiday that I am excited and enthusiastic about. I envision the different festive outfits that I plan to wear for our multiple holiday parties. I think about the creative gifts that I have put together for my family members. I picture their potential reactions when they open them.  I imagine my entire family sitting around my Aunt's dining room table for our Christmas Eve dinner. I see my Mom, my Aunt, and myself drinking Mimosas and Champagne Christmas morning. As I think of all of these different things I begin to get butterflies in my stomach. I feel a grin coming to my face. I am starting to embody this affirmation. I am truly becoming excited and enthusiastic. With these feelings comes an undeniable happiness. All on my own I have managed to muster up some holiday spirit by simply thinking about the festivities to come. Close your eyes and focus on your own affirmation, whether it's one I have provided or one you have created yourself. Picture all of things that you enjoy about the holiday. Feel the emotions that are associated with these holiday moments and experiences. It may take time and concerted effort but you too are able to muster up some holiday spirit by using the simple concept of an affirmation. Once you have found this spirit allow it to fill your body and soul. Don't let go of it. 
This is the festiveness and enthusiasm I'm looking for !
If we can manage to maintain and bolster this new found joy than we are ensured a happy Christmas. I am so thankful to have finally discovered this happiness and enthusiasm that I feared I had lost. Picturing events that are sure to transpire over the next few days reassures me that Christmas has not been ruined for me. No matter what has gone on in my past I can still find reasons to be merry during this special time of year. Don't let anything interfere with your ability to be happy and enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. We all have sadness and painful memories; but, we also all have the capacity to discover and feel joy and excitement. Sometimes it just takes a little reminder or some extra effort in order to realize it. I hope that you are able to find the same holiday spirit that I have recently began to feel. I strongly believe that this spirit will guarantee all of us a merry little Christmas and an enjoyable holiday season.

Good luck in your efforts to achieve a happy Christmas,

1 Day Til Christmas Eve, 2 Days Til Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Look Back

Christmas Past and Present

Building New Memories

For years now I gotten in the habit of reading old journal entries. It can be entertaining to look back and see what I was doing and think a month ago, a year ago, or even 10 years ago. (I have been an avid journaler for a long time.) However, recently, as I look back and read entries from this time last year, it has become less entertaining. Instead these entries are almost haunting and leave me confused and sad. I don't know why I continue to read them. It's almost addictive. Perhaps a part of me thinks that I am benefiting in someone way from reading them- learning about myself, realizing how different things are now, recognizing how much I have accomplished in the past year. Or maybe I think that the feelings these entries leave me with will magically change somehow as I continue to read. As I read I get lost in the pages. I get transported back to a place and time that is far away. I am ecstatic to be home for Christmas but reading these entries has been giving me a sense of disappointment. 
"Ghost of Christmas Past" in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Although I am in a very different setting and I have accomplished so much over the past years I feel as if I have remained the same. I have managed to stay out of treatment and I suppose that is an accomplishment. I have completed 6 more credits toward my undergraduate degree and have done well in all of my classes; that is certainly an accomplishment. But I feel that in terms of emotional and mental growth I have fallen short. Reading my journal entries from last year is forcing me to ask the question: Have I really come that far? My weight is stilled deemed an anorexic weight. My eating disordered thoughts are strong and constant. My restricting seems to be a bit more under control but I have certainly not achieved a level or normalcy around food. When I do indulge my anxiety is out of control just as it was when I was in treatment last year. Everyone is proud of me, congratulating me for the accomplishments and strides I have made over the past year, but I feel like a fraud. Yes, on paper it appears that I have accomplished a great deal. However, in my heart, I don't feel as if I deserve this praise and that I have not really succeeded much at all. I had high hopes for this Christmas. I have been waiting for it to arrive for two years now. I have built it up so much in my head. I was expecting it to be magical and amazing. But now that I home and the holiday draws close I can't help but feel let down. I don't have the same excitement and enthusiasm for the holiday that I had once upon a time. I was hoping that I could embrace this holiday with a carefree attitude, leaving negativity- my eating disordered thoughts, painful experiences, sadness, guilt, misery, and feelings of loss- in the past where it belongs. But I can't seem to let go of these haunting memories, they are hindering my ability to enjoy holiday festivities, and I fear that Christmas has been ruined for me forever. I suppose if I am already struggling emotionally than revisiting my past via journal entries probably isn't the best idea.
My journals aren't quite this old...
But somehow reading these entries is able to bring me a sense of comfort despite the negative feelings they evoke. For just a moment I am able to feel the comfort, support, safety, and love that treatment provided me with. It's so complicated and I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. I don't want to be in treatment for the holiday but I don't want to be home either. I kind of just want to disappear until the holiday is over. I can't believe I just said that. This was once my favorite time of year. I have been counting down the days til it's arrival for a long time now. I hate to think that memories of Christmas past have the ability to taint or ruin my Christmas present. 
Feeling lonely and not sure why-

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for- I don't know what exactly, but it's something you don't mind so much not having at other times."

- Kate L. Bosher

Perhaps this quote accurately describes how I am feeling. Bosher, like me, seems unable to explain exactly what she's feeling or what seems to be missing. Christmas is a festive celebration but at the same time it manages to evoke feelings of sadness heartache for a lot of people. I have been trying to talk to my Mom about what I am experiencing. But like Bosher I am unable to adequately express it or put my feelings into words. She attempts to empathize with me. During Christmas time almost 40 years ago her older brother died unexpectedly. She says that Christmas has never been the same for her ever since. It reminds of her of the loss of her brother. She longs for the happy feelings and memories from her childhood Christmases- a snowmen her mother gave her when she was 6, a tin of candy ribbon, time with her older brother. Perhaps this unexplainable sadness or emptiness is something that comes with age. 
Candy Ribbon, a favorite from my mom's childhood-
As we grow older and experience more of life's pains it becomes increasingly difficult to put the sadness aside and make merry. While my mother and I share a sense of wanting and feelings sadness around the holiday we deal with them in very different ways. My mother is able to recognize her feelings and then continue on, trying to make new memories, and enjoying the Christmas present. I, on the other hand, find it impossible to embrace the present. Instead I long for the carefree merriment of my childhood Christmases. I feel intensive depression, mourning the loss of the angelic and naive child that I once was. I am in denial that she will never come back. I don't believe that I am in fact growing up and with growth comes change. I don't like these changes. This past year, including last Christmas, has been traumatic for me. It has changed my perspective, left me jaded and unable to welcome new memories and Christmas present. It almost feels easier to reside in the misery and loneliness that characterizes my most recent past Christmas. At least last Christmas I had obvious reasons to be unhappy and lonely; my emotions were negative but for understandable reasons. Last Christmas was simple and uncomplicated. Similarly my childhood Christmases were simple and uncomplicated. I was happy, excited, and energetic and understandably so. This present Christmas is complex and confusing. It lacks the simplicity and sensibility of my past Christmases.

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

I hope that I am able to embody Wilder's words as Christmas Eve approaches. My heart has definitely grown tender with childhood memories. But, rather than being filled with youthful spirit, my heart has become vulnerable. I am taunted by my childhood memories and they make my heart ache. They mock me by reminding me that I will never have my childhood again. They fill me with a sense of loss, sadness, and disappointment. I am frustrated with myself for having such high expectations for this holiday. How could I have expected Christmas present to be the same as Christmas past? 

So much has changed over the course of the past year. I transferred to Penn. I experienced the death of two friends. I went to a treatment center that I was unfamiliar with. The relationships I have with close friends have been strained and tested. My treatment team completely dissolved. I adopted a kitten. I have built new friendships and founds alternative ways to enjoy myself. My family has become closer in the face of challenges. In reality almost nothing is the same as it was in the past. How could I think that Christmas could remain unchanged? Although a lot of changes have occurred I cannot categorize them all as bad. Some of the shifts really sucked- deaths, loss of friendships, treatment. But some of the changes were just different and even good- adopting Milly, the new found closeness of my family. Perhaps, although Christmas present won't be the same as those in the past, it too can just be different or potentially good. It is an opportunity to experience in traditions as an adult and from a different perspective. It is a chance to build new memories with my family and good friends. As a young adult with a great deal of experience I have started to look at the world in a different way. I have grown to appreciate my family more and given our connections higher value. I appreciate every moment because I know how fragile life truly is. Maybe this new knowledge and perspective will be able to enrich my holiday experience. The hardships I have faced over the course of this past year don't need to ruin Christmas for me. In fact they have the potential to make it more special than it ever has been previously. Maybe it's ok that I can't experience Christmas with child-like wonder anymore. Instead I can appreciate it through the eyes of strong young adult who has discovered the importance of life. I can cherish every moment I get to spend with my family- especially family members who I don't get to see very often. I have the ability to recognize the magic of familial bonds and love. I have the emotional capacity to recognize how much I am loved by my family and friends; and I have the ability to love them fiercely in return. I have acquired so much wisdom through my struggles and challenging experiences. I can use my wisdom this Christmas to realize and genuinely appreciate the beauty of the holidays- family gatherings, generosity, kind spirits, giving and sharing, expressions of love.
The magic of Christmas that comes with age-
I was right in saying that Christmas is no longer simple for me. It is exceptionally complicated but its complexity reflects the state of my mind and emotional self. I am a complex being with a complicated life. So, of course, this holiday season is going to be equally as complicated as I am. As much as I wish my troubles, worries, and fears would disappear because it is Christmas, I have to face reality, by understand that that is not how the magic of Christmas works. It doesn't make the holiday any less magical or special; it just makes it different that I had hoped for or expected. Christmas becomes closer with every passing minute. My sadness and disappointment has not dissipated but I am a little more optimistic than I was at the start of this post. Although I am not completely better (eating disordered thoughts still run rampant in my mind), although I am no longer a child, and although Christmas present is not the same as Christmas past, I still have the ability to enjoy the holiday and the season. Just because it is different does not mean it is ruined. Just because I am not "recovered" doesn't mean that I can't still celebrate the holiday joyfully with my family and friends.  I no longer believe in Santa, nor do I wish for Barbie dolls, nor can I eat pounds of candy without intense guilt. 
But, despite all this differences I can recognize one thing that is the same: Christmas is magical. The magic we see as adults is different than the magic we believe in as children. As adults we see the magic of friends and family sharing and giving- both material gifts as well as love. We witness the magic that comes from generosity- donating food or toys to those in need. We are able to live vicariously through children and experience the magic of Santa Clause and Christmas morning through their eyes.
"I no longer believe in Santa..."
We understand how magical it is when our entire family is able to come together and share a meal and some good wine. We grow older, we face hardships, we lose our innocence, and consequently things are permanently changed. We can mourn and dwell in the loss of what had been, in this case Christmas past. Or we can choose to make the most of the present by building new memories and recognizing the wonderful things that change can bring.

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean up too quickly."

- Andy Rooney
'Don't clean up too quickly.'
This quotes speaks to the magic of Christmas both for children as well as adults. I am choosing to interpret it both literally and metaphorically. As child the glory of ripping presents open and recklessly tossing the paper reflects the excitement that comes with discovering what Santa has brought. (I personally am imagining my kitten, Milly, having a blast with all the disregarding wrapping paper on Christmas morning, haha.) As adults this quote may better serve us if we interpret it as metaphor. The glorious mess is the festivities of Christmas morning and the happiness and excitement that they provoke. By not cleaning up too quickly we are able to revel in these joyous feelings for longer. We can choose to make that moment of excitement last and span upon many moments. This Christmas I will be doing my best to see these changes that have transpired as capable of enriching my holiday experience rather than detracting from it. I will both literally and metaphorically let the Christmas morning mess stick around for a while. I'll let the discarded wrapping paper stick around for a while. Milly will be sure to enjoy jumping around in all the paper. And I'll giggle at her expressions of confusion as the mess quickly grows. And I will metaphorically do my best to maintain the mess- the energy, enthusiasm, excitement, and joy that I have always associated with Christmas morning. Let us embrace Christmas and its magic with all of our might no matter how old we are. Things may change as we grow older but we are still able to have fun, be happy, and enjoy life. Let us never forget that no matter what changes we can always continue our quest for happiness.

Enjoy every moment of your Christmas present,

3 Days Til Christmas