Thursday, October 30, 2014

It's Halloween - what scares you most? celebrating or being a party pooper

I would be the first to admit I was never into celebrating Halloween. Although it was in the days when I didn't celebrate much else either.

Of course I celebrated somethings; it was hard not to be caught up in the Christmas rush each year, the media hype & had more than my fair share of big Christmas spending sprees, get together's that involve a lot less compassion & Christian understanding & more food, feasting, alcohol & loads of opportunities to express the opinions you held back all year. There were only a handful of years I actually acknowledged the meaning of Christmas & if the statistics are accurate few know or care, they just love to spend, eat & generate a lot of garbage after a public holiday.

Admittedly I think I lost some of my spirit for celebrating Christmas & New Year the time my son was diagnosed New Year's Eve with cancer & died just before Christmas, it took the special & partying out of me for a long time. Long enough to realise if he were here today we would be celebrating. To stop celebrating does not acknowledge his life at all, to waste the opportunities that my son would never have was not the values I wanted to pass onto my children; to value the opportunity to celebrate & to do it well was more about living, otherwise it would just be existing.

Then there is Easter! The selling starts just after Christmas so you have plenty of time to ensure you have ample chocolate on hand for the day which acknowledges the death of Jesus (haven't really seen that in the advertising) & your children have more than enough opportunities when out grocery shopping to perfect their choices & reminders. I indulged in the mass of chocolate which lasts for a hell of a long time in any place you try to hide it (not sure the organic stuff lasts that long, yet no one tends to leave any either....mmmm). Like a Springer Spaniel on the job, kids can track chocolate bunnies & smashed up eggs wherever you try to put them (unless of course it goes out with the garbage). Christmas & Easter we have those celebrations down to a regular routine. I heard a friend once tell how her in-laws send pyjamas each easter instead of chocolate. Not really sure what the meaning or relevance is, maybe its more about the giving & less about the celebration.

I wondered if the meaning of celebrations has gone with the practical & impulsiveness of our society today. Tradition is something we refer to in anthropological studies & non-western societies. Australia is becoming well known for its racism & criticisms, xenophobia of anyone who celebrates something different to a white Christian perspective. Rather funny in a ridiculous ignorance display way, when you realise the original Australians were not white Christians. How many traditional Australian celebrations do you participate in?

I entered into a debate a few years back with a new friend, we were camping in the Whitsundays on Halloween & the kids had begged to go tent & van knocking; we kicked back a few well earned cold ones & took in the gorgeous QLD sun & the park was full of unknowns (pre CP days - yet it was still a concern for any parent just the same). I've always been hesitant to allow any child to request & accept treats from complete strangers & so I had a few restrictions & they went in a large group & had a time limit & only a few rows. There is nothing like the celebration of children who have received something for merely asking for it & the joy adults can bring to a child by merely encouraging their desire to celebrate & be a kid, to see wonder in every celebration (whether it is their own or someone else's).

It was when I was accused of being a party pooper & not in with the 'spirit' of celebration, I had an opportunity to reflect on where my lack of support for Halloween had come from. Why was it an issue for me if it wasn't for the kids. If it was just about the door knocking, then work around it. If it was an issue of celebrating something that originates from another continent & not part of my daily beliefs, then hellllloooooo what about Christmas & Easter. As for celebrating days I have no connection to; Melbourne Cup Day (not a gambler sorry), Grand Final fever (nope don't play football or bet on sport either), Queens Birthday etc. The only day I stand in 100% commitment is Anzac day & I still shed a tear at the Dawn Service & I think of all the lives lost & those still living & it is because it is meaningful & relevant. Yet even Anzac Day has wavered over the years. 

Retailers & sports groups grab profit opportunities any chance they get to hone in on a way to increase sales & customers. As we become more materialistic (unless you resist it & make your own choices) every celebration will have someone knew each year or many to show you another way to part with your cash to join in the celebration. What meaning & relevance you put into any celebration is a choice. It doesn't have to be about the money, it doesn't have to be about the retailers, it can be what you make of it.

As a nation we have more than enough special days & celebrations and I participate in many without having any foundation in their origin or belief in their purpose, yet I join in because it is a celebration. We are not islands, we live in groups, in families, in communities. What matters to another should matter to us.

Over the last 20 or so years, I could count the number of times my birthday was remembered on one hand. Most recently (since I identified this issue to a few people), it has increased in its importance & as my children have grown older they have adopted the same approach to birthdays as promoted in my home on their birthday, it's the one day of the year we celebrate you being in the world.  Yet when you think about it, it is my birthday. It is my day to celebrate my arrival into the world, my day to share this with others & acknowledging its importance sheds light on its value & relevance to those around me. It's interesting how people spend & acknowledge their birthday & there are many religions & practices which have no celebrations. You can tell a lot about how a person values themselves, what they think of others, what matters, their attitude towards life & living by what they celebrate.

Do you remember when you were a child & you lived for celebrations or dreamed of having the opportunity to join in? If you didn't then I would recommend a little chat on the therapy chair with a good psych & their psychoanalytic background. Behind ever belief we have is a thought; our thoughts originate from our experiences (childhood, friends, the ideas people put into our heads). Our thoughts become our actions, our actions become our behaviour.

Years of fearing celebrations during my marriage, as every time they came around they were often a disaster & full of dread & upset (another blog). I learned to accept & stop celebrating & those thoughts I generated began to manifest into my actions & became my behaviour. I grew into a massive party pooper, yet I loved children's celebrations. I began to spread this coping mechanism with my children & when the reality hit I knew it was time to change, when I realised I had isolated myself and them from many opportunities to celebrate, merely because I had stopped believing, I had learned to accept that life was not about celebrating, it was about being practical & it was about surviving whatever you were enduring.

Then I divorced & wow did I celebrate. It didn't stop there, I found reasons to celebrate & if I didn't have a reason I made one up. I could even celebrate the crap stuff, when it was over, when a new day arrived; we could celebrate being ourselves, learning, being grateful. Sometimes we just turn up the music for no reason & dance, sing in the car, play. I thought for a long time I needed permission to celebrate, it was those ugly days when I let the beliefs of others affect my own decisions. I discovered inside the grown up I had become was still the child I loved being & there was no reason to celebrate better than to be alive & living. As I've learned more about human behaviour & who we are, why we do what we do, I've become more conscious of my underpinning thoughts, actions & behaviours. It makes observing & listening to others incredibly interesting.

Obviously things have changed; birthdays are now full of streamers & balloons & whatever the budget can allow. I won't accept the same again. Someone special enough to be in my life & share it must be prepared to celebrate & acknowledge the most important day of the year, my birth. They must be capable of laughter & fun & knowing what it is like to still be a kid.

We have our own traditions now in our house. We create a menu for the day on your birthday, regardless of whether it is cheesecake for breakfast, it should be the one day of the year you get to choose whatever you would like to eat. It gets tricky with diets, yet we make it work. I must say I loved my sons idea for his birthday cake one year, rich French vanilla cheesecake covered in chocolate pods! This year my youngest requested a cake resembling the ice tower from Frozen, I was having nightmares! Her sister stepped up to the challenge & created an amazing work of art, complete with blue toffee resembling ice.

You wake having to fight your way through a maze of streamers, everyone has to have at least one day of the year they get to be a kid.  Not that I celebrate every tradition of every culture in every environment, yet I celebrate life every morning, I celebrate being a Mum, having friendships, being part of a family, being grateful I have the ability to celebrate & why waste it.

We shouldn't need excuses to frock up, need an occasion to where our favourite dress, oh come on who doesn't like to dress up in a costume? I know when my sister invited me to her child's western themed birthday party some years back I found my inner drama student & put on my hat & chaps & forgot I knew how to plat my hair! It was an awesome time.

Recently I had the opportunity to stay with a friend's parents on a trip out west. I was in the bedroom when I overheard "Luke I am your Father". I looked out the window to see her Dad, with his grandchildren & my youngest; the children had light sabers & he was dressed in a full Darth Vader outfit, the kids were totally engaged in having fun.

Fun. How much fun do you have in your life? How often do you celebrate? What do you celebrate? Do you dress up? If you could be anyone, any character in any outfit who would you be? Why are you waiting?

We were children once, remember that? Despite it's challenges & traumas, we still had fun, some more than others, yet it was the absence of rules & concerns about what others think & the impulsive creative free spirited 'when I grow up I want to be.....' attitude that propelled us forward when it was hard. Fun kept us going.

Life is hard, there are days when it sucks big time & more than others. Yet we must have fun, joy, laughter, celebration in our life to keep us going. If there is no reason to get up each day, no celebration of who we are, why we are here & we start losing our faith, then we lose hope, we give up.

There is no time like the present to celebrate. You don't need a reason to invite friends over, don't wait until the time is too late. You can celebrate being you every day. Amazing you. This is what our children need more from us. It's not about the chocolate & the biggest most expensive toy; it's about our time, our fun, our celebrations, joining in, giving them something to look forward to....together.

What are your traditions? Do you have any? My children won't start their day until they get a daily hug. Not a 2 second I don't have time hug. A deep long hold that lets them know that all is right in the world. We have rules, I teach respect for themselves as much as I teach respect for others. To have respect for others requires acknowledging what matters to each other, it requires celebrating even when you are tired. It's doing what you can when you can. It doesn't mean perfect & getting it right, it means trying, giving your best, no one can expect or demand more when you are at your best. Being your best is worth celebrating every day.

There is the key. Time & fun. Celebrations are about spending time together, having fun. It's about opportunities to laugh, to dress up, to get the feel good chemicals pumping. Maybe you need these, maybe these opportunities don't come along too often in your house. Maybe being a child for a day or a night is just the chance to remind yourself 'when you were a child & all you wanted to do was grow is that working for you?'. Part of growing as an adult (did you realise it doesn't stop at 18?) is learning to reflect on those thoughts, reflect on your actions & behaviour, learning & discovering what makes you tick. For me it was learning to not let the decisions, comments & ignorance of others have any more power over who I am, who I will be.

Everyday in this world stereotypes & myths are rampantly negligent in the power they over actions & behaviours. We must resist the thoughts which put others down, the ones which shove people into boxes & restrict our beliefs, compassion, understanding, joy & celebrating. It is not good enough that we acknowledge traditional owners in what I believe has become a few tokenistic minutes. What do they really acknowledge & understand about the words they are expressing at the opening of a new building? What do they know about the culture of the original people they are acknowledging? Their celebrations? Language? Traditions? Yes we are getting better, it isn't enough. We must celebrate each other we enthusiasm & be proud of who we are, each other, of our beginnings, over where we have come from & where we are going. Celebrations & traditions are the core of human society.

I for one have brought celebration back to being a tradition in our home, as being important to the values & legacy I pass to my children. There is a time to be serious & be great role models, yet it also involves understanding the needs of children & our own needs & those of each other. Let the kids be kids & try it yourself every so often. Let the hair down, grab a costume, get in with the fun & grab those opportunities to celebrate.

Every celebration is what you make of it, what importance you give it. How you celebrate is up to you. Halloween isn't scary. What is scary is watching people exist rather than live. People who spend more time manifesting thoughts which bring them down than life them up. People who judge others celebrations yet no absolutely nothing about their purpose or meaning.

Come on lovely people, open your minds & hearts & get out there & celebrate.

Put a bit of fun back into your life x

Namaste lovely people xo

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