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Presence > Presents 

Welcome to the blustery, busy, season of bright lights, gift giving and merriment. The pressure to give that perfectly thought out gift, spend your already limited time with family and friends, and make the season for those around you “merry and bright” is palpable. (Hi, single Mama here!) I know all about the pressures of curating a seemingly idyllic holiday for a child, whether self-induced or media “influenced”. 

Even as someone who has advocated for the importance of self care for over a decade –  who gives everything I can to the people and things that matter most to me, but who knows her body and her limits – I catch myself in this pseudo conundrum. I spend a little too much time on Instagram and next thing I know I question whether I’m doing enough or doing the holidays “right.” 

I have to remind myself, this doesn’t have to be so complicated. It doesn’t have to be spectacular. 

It doesn’t have to be anything – it’s mine. I get to say. 

So I did. 

I made a list of ways I wanted to celebrate with or for my family. The list grew to almost 20 items and I could feel the weight of each of these joy-inspired ideas as they landed on the paper. 

Clearly I was headed down the wrong path. I started pruning and took back my power. 

In the end, I crossed off all but 5. 

My list:

  1. Family time. I scheduled playdates, quick visits, and memory makers with my closest friends and family and scrapped the holiday cards this year. Saved my wallet and my time, and made sure we had lots of candid photo memories to savor in the future.
  2. Lights. Growing up in the ever-white season of snow in Upstate New York, I love me some holiday lights. This year we chose homemade hot cocoa and holiday cups and driving around the neighborhood or walking through the local 34th street. I used that time with family and canned most of the lights I typically put outside in favor of a select few I love.
  3. Slumber party with my kiddo. My kiddo loves nothing more than “Mommy time” and we made a plan for December together for Friday holiday movies, take out, shimmery nail polish and cozy fleece. I skipped the novel Christmas jams (last year I bought some too big so fingers crossed, they still fit her) and elected for extra time.
  4. Secret Santa book exchange. It’s no secret that I love to read, and this was a great way to share some old favorites with my closest friends and get some new reads for 2024. Books are love. (P.S. Pelvic Prep School is officially shipping and on shelves almost everywhere books are sold.)
  5. Food. I. Love. Holiday. Food. But instead of going bananas (or cookies?) at each opportunity, every time we cook I set aside a portion of it and stick it in the freezer to make my life a little easier in the next couple months after a long day. 

Moral of this holiday story? Presence > presents. 

Worry less about doing it all. Instead, focus on the few moments that make you feel the true magic.

When I looked at the holidays as a whole and compared that picture to what mattered most to me, being present with myself and with the people around me held the most value and aligned with my core values best. 

I implore you to take time this season to just sit with a hot cup of coffee (in that creepy reindeer mug) and try the same exercise. While you’re at it, write out a few affirmations that resonate with you. 

Maybe that means reminding yourself how precious the closeness of your kids or your parents is in their respective chapters of life. 

Maybe that means reminding yourself that some time alone is healthy and allows you to show up more fully for yourself and for others. 

Maybe that means tossing the phone aside. 

Maybe that means making the FaceTime call you’ve been putting off. 

Whatever that means, it should reflect you and your idea of joy. 

Wishing you a holiday season of warmth, wellness, and lots of presence. 

Dr. Sam

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