The festivus continues as Yule has passed, Christmas and New Year’s are still to come, and we turn our gaze towards Imbolc at the next Sabbat. It’s like yay! The sun has returned and the days will be getting a bit longer until they are equal at the next equinox, funny how that keeps happening! I know change is the way of life, yet the natural rhythms of the seasons bring me a lot of comfort, yes, there are variables within the seasons as being drier or wetter, or warmer or colder than usual, it’s that grounded and flexible concept again. I’ve been doing a lot of seasonal preparing, this year my gifts are home sewn bags and cookies for those I cherish, been putting in time at the sewing machine and in the kitchen, accompanied by instrumental seasonal music and I’ve enjoyed the creation process. It makes me smile when I think of the past and how I “toiled” for others, had to get that expensive gift for some obligatory reason, had to cook, bake, clean you name it, always on behalf of others. I’ve done a remarkable turnaround, because I’ve learned to do things with my heart full and overflowing rather than feeling like its drudgery and a have to. So what’s different? A few years back I decided to get off the grind stone, mostly because I didn’t like the way I was feeling, often stressed out, with a string of obligations that I thought were necessary at the time. Then one day there was awareness, if I’m doing something with resentment, then that energy is being absorbed by the product or meal or even environment where I work, and in some form that is causing harm. One of my biggest confirmations of this was reading The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto, it confirms that thought vibrations affect water structures through research and pictures and gave me a real visual of what that “have to” energy could look like. I’ll bet you have received a gift or meal or an action from another person that was done with that obligation energy, and it doesn’t feel quite right. The person may be smiling and the energy says something else. I know what receiving that energy is like, so I had to question whether I was in fact the one passing that energy too. I decided that all I give needs to be from a place of love and gratitude as much as possible, especially when it involves cooking because people will be consuming that energy, and the things that I gift that I’ve crafted ought to resonate with the love and enjoyment I receive while creating. It was a struggle to break my pattern of “pushing my way through” yes; it does get the task accomplished, but to what ends? It involves making more mistakes that need to be corrected, these problems cause more stress and frustration and the pleasure factor has left the area! I have learned through mindfulness techniques to be in the moment and be fully present, and if I feel frustrated it’s okay to stop what I’m doing and move on to something else. This is true for most of my world, not so much at work, and I am looking for ways to improve that situation. For me the realization is that I do have choices; I could continue working on a project, I could stop period, or I could put it away and come back to it another day, that erases the stress factor. I’ve noticed a difference, and my friends have too. I often hear that my gifts are “so beautiful” and “thoughtful” and it’s because the energy of love and joy is in the items I gift. If you have been reading my posts here, you know I am not an advocate of kitchen slavery, or any other kind, I support freedom to have choice knowing that freedom means using my own power wisely to keep the balance. I mention this because the whole Christmas holiday season used to own my butt, everything had to be just so, these people had to have these specific gifts, I had to do a-z, and it was only me. Then I felt resentful because it was expected that I would do a-z; time for reality check, no one person can do everything, and it’s not reasonable to expect one person to fill this role either. Two of my favourite words are delegate and voluntold because it means I don’t have to do it all. If you are holding a feast ask your guests to contribute, if you cook the main feature ask your guests to contribute sides, if your guests are visiting your home ask if they would like to volunteer kitchen time, or prepare their favorite addition to the meal. Some folks have given me a horrified look when I suggest this; I suppose Miss Manners would kick me out of her school! However, we are working towards building a more co operative world, and there’s no reason it can’t begin in your own kitchen or at a community gathering. So what’s the difference between volunteering and being voluntold? Well with volunteering you offer first because you are aware there is a need and are happy to fulfill it, being voluntold means it’s definitely your turn because everyone else has taken a shift! I like to keep aware of my surroundings wherever I may be, because I like to be helpful and practical. It’s also important to realize that people generally don’t read your mind, so if you would like Martha to bring those awesome candied yams, remember to ask! There seems to be some kitchen etiquette where some people would not presume to bring a meal contribution unless asked, so remember to plan together and make it an easier feast. Happy Festivus!