The Truth About Christmas

My holiday gift to you … a little bit of Christmas spirit

Christmas Rockefeller Center
I wrote this short story in 2001, when my kids were 7 and 11 and they were growing up in New York City. Walking around that city, I was always struck by what an interconnected, massive hive of strangers it was … and still is. Especially at the holidays.

Wherever you are this season, may your heart be merry and bright.

Suzanne

 

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Ten Great Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday Season

giftgivingIt’s that time of year when we tend to be focused on everyone else – shopping, planning, hosting, baking for and perhaps partying with those around us.

What if, for a small, precious moment, you thought of yourself? What if you made your own special holiday gift list … just for you?

Here are some ideas for that precious list …

  1. Enough time. What if you planned a little less ambitiously, slowed down, and simply took more time to get things done? The world will probably not end. In fact, it may look a whole lot better as a result.
  2. Check-ins with yourself. All too often we forge ahead in life without ever really noticing how we are doing. When’s the last time you stopped, took three deep breaths and noticed how you’re feeling? What do you need today, right here and right now?
  3. Supportive friends. Take a look and see who your go-to person is for support and understanding. Is there a conspicuous gap? Studies show that those who have a network of supportive friends tend to live 22% longer.
  4. Spiritual connection time. When you meditate, pray or even take a contemplative walk every day and connect to your divine guidance, beautiful things can happen. Your brain naturally cycles down so life becomes calmer and less dramatic. You no longer feel so alone. Begin wherever you are … perhaps with just a quick spiritual thought every day. The important thing is to know that you are supported by the Universe and you always will be. A daily practice has a lovely way of reinforcing that message.
  5. Forgiveness and compassion. When’s the last time you let yourself off the hook?  Can you forgive yourself for your past mistakes? For us recovering perfectionists this feels uncomfortable and false at first. But stick with it, even it is awkward. You will find your way to greater piece, so just naturally things begin to flow with greater ease.
  1. Positive messages. It used to be affirmations were ‘the next big thing’ … until it became clear that rote, empty repeating of such messages didn’t always work that well. But what if you just remind yourself when things go awry that you’re doing the best you can? What if you pop some positive messages in among the negative ones  and give them a bit of emotional oomph as well? For it is the heartfelt messages our brain listens to first. Eventually they may just carve new neural pathways … and that’s what makes for real change.
  2. A place to retreat to. Have you got a beautiful, sacred space that is delicious to be in, whether it is a local park, your bedroom or a corner of your office? We all need a handy getaway where we can think our thoughts. And if it’s set up to truly nurture us, then all the better. Fill it with things that are soothing, beautiful and just right for you. A good place to practice many of the items on this list.
  3. Belief that you can do it. So often we are sure we will fail. But what if … no matter what is in front of you … you give yourself the benefit of the doubt? Truthfully, you can tell yourself anything you want about things that worry you. So why give yourself an arm around the shoulder and a bit of reassurance. If you’re like most of us, you could use it.
  4. Belief in the Universe. I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-to-die superstition here. I’m talking about a quiet, enduring faith that God wants good things for you. Could you wrap your head around the idea that life is meant to be a great string of lessons with a perfect plan behind it all. In other words, can you trust the path that has been laid out before you. For, believe it or not, the path trusts you.
  5. Pure unadulterated love. That’s all you’re made of, you know; just a whole lot of light, love and happiness, simply bursting at the seams to get out. Even when you feel like hell. Even when you have forgotten. This is the core of love deep inside each of us, like a present waiting to be unwrapped. Simply close your eyes and ask it to come find you. And then sit back, relax and enjoy.

May you find love, light and happiness this holiday season.

All my love,

Suzanne

 

 

Lessons from the Afterlife: What I Learned Since My Daughter’s Death

door-light-nsphny.betterIt has been more than three years since my daughter Teal’s sudden death from a medically unexplainable cardiac arrest. This week she would have been 26. Though I have known the worst grief of my life since her death, I have also — unexpectedly — been lifted up to a far greater place.

In a letter she gave me the Christmas before she died, she described a psychic’s words about our shared path. “We are supposed to be leaders in light supporting each other,” Teal wrote in her usual worldly wisdom. “So from now on I support any light leadership you have to bring to the world … so let’s be leaders of and in light. Ya!”

These are the lessons I  learned from Teal not in her death, but in her life everlasting. If you listen hard enough, if you open up fully enough, if you, too, are willing to believe that good can come from bad, you can discover your own lessons.

These are mine:

  1. I am not special. I am no different from you or anyone else — so I don’t need to keep proving how special or important I am. In fact, I am just like you so I can feel your pain, understand who you are, and so know our common one-ness.
  2. It’s safe to take a rest. I don’t have to keep frantically ‘doing’ and reinventing myself time and again. I can actually stop and rest for a while and, as my friend Jon put it, “let the game come to me.”
  3. I am loved — and lovable. Once I surrounded myself with angry, controlling lovers who I considered to be ‘my people’. Then I found love with a woman who was far more interested in enjoying life with me than managing me. The key was deciding for once and for all that I am lovable. It took a while to talk myself into it … but, oh, it was worth it.  When I was ready, she simply appeared.
  4. The Universe always has surprises just ahead. Sometimes they are devastating — but sometimes they are unspeakably beautiful. I had to lose everything to learn this, and so create a terrifying gap in my very sense of who I was. Yet into this gap poured pure goodness, the likes of which I had never seen before. By letting go, I have manifested true love, a wonderful home, an abundant paying job writing books and speaking from the heart, and an awesome community of friends. The void is an amazingly creative place.
  5. I am enough just as I am. I don’t have to be a superstar like my dad wanted me to be. And I don’t have to be the socially correct, preppy Martha Stewart my mom wanted me to be. That’s who they were. Turns out I get to be me … which is ever so much more fun.
  6. There is a spiritual tenderness to every moment. It doesn’t live in yesterday’s concerns of tomorrow’s hopes. It lives in the here and now and it is always available — if you look for it.
  7. Happiness is well worth cultivating. After we teach ourselves to suffer, to be angry, to be righteous and sad; after we fill our heads with a million hard stories and festering excuses, we have a choice. We can bravely grieve the past and let it go. We can move through our pain one one day at a time until it’s finally complete. We can stop clinging to illusions and finally stand up in our strength. We can look outside ourselves and see there are people all around us whom we don’t even know. We can reach out and so once again find our strength. The past is only the past, not a set of good excuses for the loneliness and suffering of today.
  8. The human heart is designed to heal, to beat more brightly with greater love as it lives each day. It is our responsibility simply to listen and follow, for this heart of ours is our guiding light and our most precious north star. So I have learned to come back to myself and become the woman I was meant to be — alive, honest, and free in my own skin.

I have become a leader in love and light just as Teal knew some day I would be. Little did either of us realize what it would take for this to happen.

Yet this, as with everything else in life, truly is completely perfect.