Pausing for Perspective this Holiday Season


The holidays provide many of us with the opportunity to press pause, to take a step back, and to get some perspective on our lives. And this year, more so than in years past, I’ve found myself doing a great deal of reflecting - primarily because I suffered some losses.

My grandmother, who played a large role in raising me, passed away last spring at the age of one hundred and two. And one of my friends from grad school recently lost her battle with cancer.

The friend that I lost was young and a mother of three. During our time in school together, I had known her to be strong, fierce, fearless, and driven. And, as is too often the case, I never would have expected her to leave this earth so soon.

Whenever we lose someone, the trauma of it pierces right through the protective bubble we normally enclose ourselves within as we navigate our daily lives. We’re suddenly forced to recognize the fact of our own mortality. And catching a glimpse of that inevitable truth makes us feel naked, vulnerable, and exposed.

In these moments, we tend to look at our lives with fresh eyes and reevaluate what’s really important to us. And sometimes we can use these occasions as catalysts to spark change and growth within us.

For example, we can reshape our schedules to ensure we’re spending more time with the people we care about. We can finally start taking actionable steps toward one or more goals that we’ve been wanting to pursue. Our attitudes can shift with respect to certain matters, and we can begin to view things differently.

Nothing gives us more perspective in life than confronting our own condition of mortality – remembering and acknowledging that our time here is finite and that we cannot take our future for granted.

When I learned that my friend had passed away just a week and a half before Christmas, I was in shock. I’d had the mistaken impression that her treatments had been working to keep her cancer at bay.

I found myself looking through photos of her. She’d been so young. And it struck me that she would never get to watch her kids grow up, never get to achieve some of the dreams she’d had, and never get to become an old woman.

This last part gave me added pause, because so many of us are resistant to the natural process of aging. But when someone we care about dies at a young age, it makes us realize that to get to live to grow old is, in fact, a privilege - one that not all of us is granted.

When framed from that perspective, we can come to view each new sign of our aging process as a gift. And we can stop focusing on our frenzied lives and the particular madness that can surround the holiday season and instead start to view each celebration that we get to share with our loved ones as a gift as well.

So let’s embrace and appreciate every wrinkle as it comes. Let’s make an effort to pause and practice gratitude. Let’s work a little harder to let go of our silly hangups and accept the people around us. And let’s strive to pop our protective bubbles of denial and bravely walk through life with awareness and perspective - honoring our time here and living in such a way that we make the most of it.