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Some Self Care Lessons from the Christmas Story

Last updated on December 22, 2020

Disclaimer #1

Am writing this as much for me as I am for anyone else having just heard that the NYD family lunch I’d been looking forward to hosting (my bubble plus my little bro and his partner) might not be able to go ahead.

Am aware that we’re very lucky to be able to have Christmas lunch together and we’re INCREDIBLY lucky to all be alive and Covid-free.

Way too many families can’t see loved ones this Christmas because of the virus but while we’ll (hopefully) have next year, they’ll never see theirs again.

And it’s tough for everyone. So:

Disclaimer #2

I’ve been thinking a LOT about the Christmas story this week. I’m a transpersonal therapist, working with what’s beyond the person (the Self / Higher Self / True Self / Atma / Miraculous Self or whatever you call that part of yourself that’s so much more than whatever you’re going through or have survived and God / Goddess / Nature / the Universe / Divine Love or whatever you call that universal force that does miraculous stuff each day like making grass grow. That helps the acorn become an oak and the seeds in all living things grow into whatever we’re growing into).

Having said that, while I was raised Catholic and chose for some of the many schools I attended to be Catholic schools (3 years at primary school and 3 at a convent high school when we moved back to the UK from America), I’ve not been Catholic for decades.

I respect and admire the many people who attempt to live by Christian tenets but also struggle with elements that are more about power over others (women, minorities, children) than what I remember from Jesus’s messages about loving our neighbours, love for everyone, compassion, peace and goodwill.

Even though I’ve not been to Mass for decades, I currently have the line from that hymn in my head: ‘Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.’

I struggle with the people in powerful political and other positions who use religion as an excuse to abuse that power be it over:

  • children in their care
  • children and parents being separated at the US border
  • children and parents being denied access to land safely on UK shores (legal murder) after surviving treacherous journeys to what they’d hoped to be a better life
  • children being denied dinners and individuals like Marcus Rashford and charitable organisations like UNICEF being CRITICISED for stepping into help
  • children and parents trapped in terrible conditions due to Direct Provision

I could go on but don’t want to further depress myself or you and so these are just a handful from places I’ve actually lived.

Policies implemented by politicians who have a very strange (imo) interpretation of what I remember from the messages of the Bible.

Policies which are sadistic as well as causing great harm, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to the affected children and parents and society as a whole.

Here we are, celebrating the birth of a baby born in a barn while missing opportunities around us to ensure that ALL babies are wanted, safe, fed, watered, LOVED, housed etc etc.

What if Mary had said ‘No’?

I remember 14 as tough.

Can you imagine being told by God that you were going to have a baby and ultimately lose that baby as a youngish adult because we humans can be so weak?

Knowing that you were potentially going to be ostracised because you were pregnant?

Going ahead, with faith and courage?

Finding a loyal human partner for the parenting endeavour in Joseph but to still end up on the street, heavily pregnant on a donkey?

A pregnant friend, due next month, stopped riding her bike MONTHS ago because of her centre of gravity being off.

Can you imagine riding a donkey when practically in LABOUR?

(It goes without saying that I feel awful for the poor donkey in this story, too.)

Can you imagine, realising that you were about to give birth nowhere near medical care? Being denied a bed for the night because you didn’t have the money, power or influence that might have appealed to the humanity in others more than your vulnerability could touch their basic human decency?

Being at a disadvantage because you were foreign?

To want nothing more than a safe delivery but it being sooooo out of your control? Way too many mothers and babies die in childbirth in 2020

Can you imagine having to be grateful for the floor of a barn as a delivery room? Knowing that the innkeeper was doing his best (not good enough but we don’t know what pressures he was under)?

Y’all KNOW (if you follow my social media) that I adore cows and sheep and donkeys and so on but the idea of giving birth on their hay???

Can you imagine how poor Joseph felt?

I don’t know if Joseph was 14 too – I imagine at least a bit older but still, remember yourself as a teenage boy or think of the teenagers in your life.

Can you imagine being so brave as to be a partner to Mary in spite of ridicule?

Can you imagine how helpless he might have felt, doing his best to follow the law in terms of being counted for the census but being unable to provide a safer space for his partner to give birth?

Can you imagine knocking on door after door and being turned away in spite of the obvious despearation of the situation?

As Glennon Doyle says, ‘We can do hard things.’

Having not really thought about it since primary school, I’m in awe of these characters and their resilience.

It’s so sad seeing people attempting to get ‘home for Christmas’ and not being able to.

Some are relieved to not be expected (or legally allowed) to risk loved ones and their communities lives with the new strain of the virus and policies being changed so late (which I understand – the science keeps evolving. What I don’t understand is politicians making promises they ought to KNOW they can’t keep).

Journal prompts: How might you improvise this year?

If you celebrate, what WILL your Christmas look like this year?

What do you hope to FEEL?

Where will you be?

Who will you be with?

How might you use technology to enhance things? I know. Zoom fatigue is real. But can you IMAGINE 2020 if we hadn’t been able to see our loved ones on screen?

Dealing with the realities we’re all constrained by, how can you make it as special a day / time as possible?

It might feel too soon if you’re too sad or angry right now but what are you looking forward to about a simpler Christmas?

What mental, physical, emotional and spiritual muscles have you developed as a result of this year and this final push towards 2021?

How are you better?

An extra plate at the table

I recently heard about people having grown up putting extra potatoes in the pot in case someone in need stopped by.

Obviously, it’s not practical (unless making it as a delivery for someone) in 2020 but the simplicity and practicality of it warms my heart.

This isn’t about anyone giving their bone marrow and ending up utterly depleted.

It’s about finding small ways in which we can give what we can. Things like the Reverse Advent Calendar project we had in Westport.

How might we give more but from a place of abundance rather than fear?

If you, like so many, suddenly have an abundance of food you can’t possibly eat without your expected guests, maybe (and I know how hard this must be as so many people are so disappointed), some of the excess food can go to people who really need it?

You might be surprised by local initiatives aimed at feeding the hungry already in your community.

Can you imagine the world we’d live in if every baby, every child, every adult were loved, safe, fed, watered, sheltered and encouraged to be themselves and contribute their unique gifts and talents?

What self care lessons spring to mind from the Nativity story?

Ways to find courage and strength as well as trust and surrender from Mary?

More courage and strength from Joseph and his simple presence being such a powerful force?

The innkeeper doing what he could? Maybe with social media and the tools we have in 2020, he could have found allies and done more?

Think back to your school Nativity Play if you had one (from what I hear, the modern versions have dinosaurs and all sorts – I’m feeling like one as I hark back to the ’80s).

Mary was the star.

Then Joseph and the Innkeeper.

What did the rest of the class do?

Angels everywhere

Bit of tinsel as a halo and a white smock and, well, angeltastic.

I don’t know if angels really exist or not but I know that when I feel helpless or afraid, or grateful, talking to my angels, Rainbow’s angel, other loved ones’ and strangers’ and politicians’ angels helps ME to feel better.

Less afraid.

Better able to connect with my resourcefulness and figure out what next.

I imagine that physiologically, it acts like Metta and Ho’oponopono practices, working with the heart’s electromagnetic field.

How does imagining the angels helping whatever situation you’re stressing about feel for you?

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and anything else you’re celebrating this week

If you’ve found this helpful and / or think someone else might, please share it.

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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