An Unexpected Seasonal Bonus: Accepting What I See in the Mirror

"Our entire life consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are." -- Jean Anouilh

The "season" approaches. Pumpkin faces begin to wrinkle as turkey feathers fly, and every convenience store, auto manufacturer and household starts decking the halls with price tags, followed -- of course -- by the standard banner willing "peace on earth." We're not discussing a religious holiday here; we're looking at a month-plus reminder that "good will" spread to others neatly fits into a notion of money-spending and gift-giving that launches a new addiction: "retail therapy."

For the financially comfortable, good will as a tangible gift to oneself or to others actually does produce momentary happiness for the giver and the recipient. For those with friends, family and huggable pets, the holiday season promises a short-lived distraction from the quotidian grind.

In a stunning seasonal paradox, those of us expected to tangibly gift and get are challenged when we have small-to-no families; subdued, difficult or nonexistent romantic partners; friends with little or no spending flexibility and limited budgets.

Challenged, perhaps. But unlucky we are not. It is here that I'd like to give more than a nod to Arianna Huffington and her philosophy of the Third Metric, which has removed standard notions of success from outer glory to inner joy.

And therein lies my personal holiday spirit. My rather large coterie of friends, family, loved ones and colleagues now includes myself. And, believe me, this inner acceptance is a lifetime -- not a seasonal -- deal. I have discovered something far more meaningful than diamonds, more cheerful than chestnuts roasting on an open fire and more permanent than a box with a bow in a season that traditionally reminds so many of what they don't have. This discovery is a tribute to the ongoing journey I've taken since attending Arianna's Thrive conference.

Looking within was scary at first; then I discovered how wrong I was. I have found that within and without are closely bound. Since I can create my inner experience, I can have some say in my outer experience. It's all about allowing things to just be and remaining in a joyous state regardless of what is.

I work in an industry that thrives upon this particular season. I spend my winters working at the retail home away from home for the one and only Jolly Gentleman in the Red suit. I do it for the absolute pleasure and gratification of bringing the holiday magic to "kids" big and little (I'm talking here about kids [little kids] and adults [big kids]). Satisfaction and inner warmth fill me -- regardless of the temperature outside -- on seeing their ear-to-ear grins and wide-eyed faces radiate happiness and delight as they meet the Man himself. That joy is contagious and something that stays with me. That shared satisfaction between customer and employee transcends income, personal circumstances and backgrounds -- just about everything that makes us human.

While I have no claim to standard holiday trappings, my reasons for joy lie beneath the surface. I wake up to a day of work, a newfound human family of friends and coworkers, and a sense that something important inside has been revived and valued at this stage of my life.

A perfectionist for as far back as I can remember, I can now embrace my imperfections. I realize at last that I wouldn't have half the insight upon which I have come to rely were it not for those trying times in my life. And that is the holiday gift my observations have afforded. Without all of those experiences, I would not be who I am today, and I like me. Liking myself has become just another aspect of this journey to self-awareness and acceptance. Often, I may wish I were something different, but I'm happy the way I am.

As my previous blog entries have demonstrated, I am at peace opting out of the 24/7 digital universe and have been able to enjoy a rational interaction with devices. They serve me; I don't serve them. Taking time for my senses to tune inward in this crowded, bustling city, I have learned to smell the roses and the soot, bustle with the rush hour and go with the flow, and take a measure of others' behavior as I adjust my own.

I do happen to be blessed with many friends, but more than ever am I aware of their value and gladly express my appreciation to my pals, family and myself. I haven't lowered my expectations one bit. However, I have placed a higher price on personal contentment and the incredible personal growth derived from sharing my experiences -- both the ups and downs -- with others. And, amazingly, this exchange of proud moments, disappointments and even small talk enhances mutual acceptance. What a terrific present to share among friends.