Recently I read the book Night by Elie Wiesel. In it he recounts his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945.
I find it amazing that anyone at all could survive the brutality that the Jews experienced during the holocaust. I couldn’t keep from wondering how Elie lasted two years in spite of beatings, starvation, freezing cattle car rides, and a forced march in bitter winter conditions.
All of the ruminating about the book got me thinking about how important our “mind frame” can be to our survival. Obviously, most people reading this blog won’t be facing the extreme deprivation the Elie did during the holocaust. We won’t even come close.
But many of us still suffer in a variety of other ways. The Christmas season can be especially harried and stressful. Some are facing terrible loneliness. Others are depressed. Still others face financial woes.
During our difficult days, how do we cling to life? How do we survive the “night” that we face? (perhaps not as extreme as Elie’s but no less painful).
This holiday season, how do we keep a positive “mind frame” and keep from sinking into a “bah-humbug” attitude?
1. Utilize the support of loved ones. Elie and his father relied upon each other to keep each other from giving up, especially at their worst moments. Simply having the other’s presence was often all it took to keep going.
However, too often the scales get out of balance when one side of the relationship does all the sacrificing and the other person does all the taking. Whichever side we find ourselves, we can look for ways to find middle ground so that we can give and take in a healthy, mutually beneficial way.
One of my daughters recently wrote a persuasive essay for her Grammar class about why children should do chores. Her first point said this, “Doing chores gives the kids a chance to give back to their parents for all that the parents do for them. Parents spend much of their time focused on their children, so by helping out their mother and father with miscellaneous little jobs, it can give the parents some time to do things they need or want to get done.” Wise words, right? 🙂
In my most recent release, Love Unexpected, Emma the heroine had experienced extreme hardship and starvation in the Potato Famine in Ireland. She prayed for God to save her mother from dying, but her mother died anyway. Through that experience, Emma gave up on prayer.
Later Patrick the hero says to her: “I find it incredible that God saves any of us. He doesn’t have to. But sometimes he chooses to . . . Maybe we should stop looking at why God doesn’t answer every prayer the way we think He should. But instead we should count it a blessing that He hears our prayers at all.”
3. Practice random acts of kindness. Often we get so enmeshed in the spider web of our own problems that we can’t see beyond the tangle in front of us. But reaching out to others helps take the focus off our problems for just a little while, helps us see that we still have something to contribute, helps us remember that life isn’t always about our own happiness.
4. Compare ourselves to someone worse off. We’re often told not to compare ourselves or our situation to others. But when we hear atrocities like the Taliban shooting 132 children to death in a school in Pakistan earlier in the week, we’re able to put our own difficulties into perspective.
This past year I read a book, Kisses From Katie, which is about an 18 year old American woman who goes over to Africa to work in an orphanage and ends up staying and adopting 13 homeless young girls. The book is amazing. Reading about the extreme poverty certainly makes me realize I have so little to complain about.
5. Don’t forget to dance (or laugh). I occasionally download a new song from I-Tunes as a pick-me-up. Usually it’s a positive, upbeat type of song. A recent song I downloaded was Christmas song, “Ding-Dong Merrily on High” by Rend Collective. I have to admit, that my youngest daughter and I start clapping, stomping our feet, and dancing almost every time we turn the song on. There’s just nothing better than dancing and laughing to stimulate positive energy.
6. Engage in a healthy hobby. Sometimes we need to take our minds off our troubles. It doesn’t hurt to distract ourselves from heartache for a short time. Reading and running are huge stress relievers for me.
7. Put visual reminders of hope around us. I’m not talking about crocheted pillows with words like “Home is Where the Heart Is.” While there’s nothing wrong with sayings like that, I like to personalize my reminders with inspirational quotes specific to my situation or Bible verses that I hang up in places I look at frequently (like the window above my kitchen sink).
What are some ways you face the difficulties in your life? What keeps you from becoming a Bah-Humbug during the holidays?
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