Feeling Love this Holiday Season, or Like Pinocchio, We All Want to be Real.

The holidays are fast approaching and, for many of us, this means great food, lots of alcohol, awkward political discussions (especially this year), and the dynamic family drama that seems unique to our clan and yet tends to be thematic across all of humanity. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it feels like somewhere along the lines our culture of family became a little less Normal Rockwell and a little more Jackson Pollock.

Nothing puts a microscope on society like a fun-filled family outing. Here we have a perfect test case, a sample group of people who’ve been tied together with similar threads and yet, over time, have frayed and unraveled to reveal our true selves. Then, every holiday season, we attempt to stitch ourselves back into our proper places, finding that old, safe, sterile version of ourselves to give to one another, complete with a big, red bow.

I had promised many people a write-up on my yoga retreat in the Philippines and for weeks I’ve had a hard time focusing on the topic. I could explain a textbook vacation with daily yoga and meditation, barefoot hiking through the jungle in the pouring rain, and sailing across teal blue waters with new friends, but that wouldn’t even touch it. The biggest thing I took away from my trip was how truly beautiful it is when a group of strangers are brought together with the intention to build powerful relationships. We each arrived from our part of the earth to find a new part of ourselves, to be open to each other, and to grow, and when that’s the base expectation, then what follows is actual magic.

As a group, we were grieving a lost lifetime love, celebrating a new union, escaping stressful jobs and economic disasters, exploring new motherhood, re-establishing old friendships, examining insecurities, and both defining and furthering our goals. We were able to talk about the things that we shield from even our own friends because somehow it’s easier to tell a stranger when you’re outgrowing a partner, shedding old skin, or feeling afraid of what’s to come. But why is that? Why do we hide ourselves from the people we say we love?

Friends and family are supposed to be our safe space, and yet all we do is build walls in these relationships. We compartmentalize, offering only our acceptable parts to each other for fear of rejection because deep down we know that losing this base means losing our comfort, our stability, and a part of our identity.

But love is patient and love is kind. It’s not jealous of our loved one’s successes, it doesn’t brag about our own accomplishments. It’s raw. It’s afraid. It’s trying something new and offering grace to those who tried something and failed. It pushes us to be better, it challenges us to grow, it says “You’re looking for a sign when the sign is that you’re looking at all.” 

All we want is to be real. We were raised to consume those finely tailored ad campaigns that have come to define us and Black Friday shop our way to happiness. But we’re seeing a change now. We’re pushing back against that, asking for something different. We’re scouring the internet for those tiny glimpses of reality-the soldiers returning home to open arms, the children giggling and dancing in the rain, someone hearing for the first time or learning that they’ve been adopted. We listen to music that breaks our hearts and lifts us up, searching instead for something raw. 

We do this because we want to feel joy. We want to feel close to one another.

We want to be real.

But being real means being vulnerable. It means telling a stranger at the bus stop that you’re having a tough day when they ask how you are instead of saying fine. It means saying you feel awkward but that you want to reach out, that you don’t need some false commonality to start a conversation over. It’s saying I want to talk to you. I want to hold  your hand. I want to tell you the nice thing I just thought about you. But to do that means the possibility of being shut down, being shunned, or being seen as a “creep.” It means opening ourselves up to rejection. It means getting hurt. It means pushing back. It means losing face.

This holiday season, I encourage you to love–to be open to giving and receiving love. To tell your family your worries and listen to their advice. To respect their opinions. To show them who you’ve become. To be proud of the people they are, even if it’s different from who you are or want to be. Then come home and do the same thing with your friends, with your community, with strangers.

We all want to feel that connection. Like Pinocchio, we just want to be real, so start making the world a better place with your vulnerability, with you who are, and with your love. It’s really the only thing you have to give this holiday season.

Happy Holidays, everyone. ❤

And to add to your joy, here’s something that will make you feel good:

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