Ralphie’s 7 Rules for Staying Healthy & Happy Through the Holidays
You’ll shoot your eye out!
As we pass the mid-point of December, like clockwork I start to get a head-to-toe current of electric excitement. Is it the anticipation of time off? Is it the promise of presents? Is it the fabulous feasting?
Nay, it is the seasonal arrival of Ralphie’s adventure through kid-dom that we fondly know as A Christmas Story.
December marks my annual trip to the Parker family’s home of Hohman, Indiana, as major networks offer it on continuous loop. I have grown up with Ralphie—with the pink bunny suit, the triple dog dare, the bumpus hounds, and the perfectly captured magic of Christmas. My guess is that you have too.
And as each of you prepares for the holidays—in whatever way you choose to celebrate them—I offer seven pearls of wisdom gleaned from this timeless classic to keep your holiday happy and healthy.
1. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas (Play)
If anything is the ‘big take-away’ from A Christmas Story, it’s the wonder and innocent joy of being a kid. The world is big and magical, sometimes overwhelming, but never boring. So get excited, get psyched-up, become a kid again, play, and have fun!
Practice for play: If your holiday involves kids (your kids, your nephews or nieces, grandkids, etc.), make a point to play with them. Get down on their level and let them bring you into this very real world of wonder. It’s just as real as your adult world, and you have the holiday blessing to travel there.
If your holiday doesn’t involve kids, create some deliberate time for play over the next two weeks. Have a snowball fight, read children’s stories, get excited about making a fire and brewing hot cocoa. Keep it simple, keep it fun.
2. I can’t put my arms down! (Self-care)
I loooove the scene of Ralphie’s kid brother Randy being bundled up by his over-zealous mom, looking like ‘a tick about to pop,‘ but many of us don’t have over-zealous moms, so we have to make a point of doing this ourselves.
For many of us, winter holiday means traveling, being in a different climate, talking a lot, eating a lot (including a lot of sugar), staying up late, not sleeping in our own bed, being around people with colds and such, and basically exerting a lot of energy and experiencing a lot of change.
So make it a point to treat your body right during this time—make time for self care. A balanced immune system can take on a lot, but when many changes are introduced simultaneously, we can easily get sick, get injured or get cranky.
Some practices to stay healthy:
• Lighten your diet: when you don’t have to be at holiday feasts, eat lighter: soup instead of steak, fruit instead of pie, water instead of wine
• Sesame Oil Self-Massage (Sva-Abhyanga): you can use massage grade sesame oil, or if you don’t have this, a moisturizer will do in a pinch
• Remember your Emergen-C stash
3. I want an official red-ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle! (Self-honesty)
This doesn’t mean becoming a bully (I’m talking to you Scut Farkus); rather it means that you drop the disingenuous performance and come from the heart. Doing this invites others to do the same. Let them know your real desires, your real passions.
Practice for honesty: Start by writing down or recording yourself describing the ideal holiday experience you want to have. This is not to force your version of the holiday on others, but simply to acknowledge your wants and excitements without shame or guilt. Once you’ve owned this first step, put it into action in loving and inclusive ways. Blend this with rule #7 for healthy balance.
4. That star is crooked… (Letting go of perfectionism)
We want our well-laid plans to go off without issue—we want the reality out there to look like the image in here. Having a specific plan or detailed vision is great when it comes from excitement and inspiration. When that plan turns into rigidly held expectation, you are setting yourself up for pain. And since the holidays are so communal, others often share in the collateral damage caused by expectation.
This holiday, create your plans (using the guidance of #1), and then, let them go. Use the practice below to help you do that.
Practice for letting go: Whenever you notice you are holding an expectation, consciously give a long exhale through the mouth, relax your belly and shoulders, and say to yourself ‘I can let go and this will turn out okay.’
5. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine?! (Patience and forgiveness)
Pure, childlike excitement collides with commercialism, as Ralphie realizes that Little Orphan Annie—his trusted hero—has taken him for a ride.
The holidays can be a time when tough truths come home to roost. For these moments, when you finally decode the message right in front of your face, and what you see you don’t like, practice patience and forgiveness. Forgiveness first and foremost to yourself—for being taken for a ride, or for missing the obvious. Forgiveness second for others—people are doing the best with the level of awareness they are currently at.
Moments of bitter revelation can feel like a punch in the gut; don’t make them worse by adding self-deprecating judgment to the mix.
Practice for patience and forgiveness: Instead of focusing on what you didn’t realize before, focus on the new information that you now know. Focus on what you can do in this moment to move forward.
6. You used up all the glue…on purpose! (Dropping the drama)
We all know this one: creating drama where there just ain’t any. It’s so obvious to the onlooker, but in the moment it can feel so good, so intoxicating to point the self-righteous finger (nadda finger!).
In these moments, it’s important to realize that it’s all about the person creating the drama. We all know it’s not about the glue, but about some underlying and usually long-standing dis-ease. These underlying issues are brought to the surface by some stress, expectation, self-judgment, etc., and they are projecting their suffering out onto others and the situation.
Remember that people are generally stressed over the holidays and don’t realize the impact they are having on those around them. Your practice is to not take it personally. Recognize this and look under their anger to their pain, and hold them with some compassion.
Practice for dropping drama: When the finger of projection is pointed at you, practice the simple exercise of Complete Breathing. Use this breath to consciously let go of any built up energy…don’t let it intensify and explode. And if possible, remove yourself from the situation until you feel rebalanced and resourceful.
7. Deck the halls with “bawrs of haurry,” fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra (Open-mindedness and flexibility)
Along with play and letting go of perfectionism, the holidays often demand open-minded flexibility. I actually think it’s one of Mr. Parker’s most exemplary scenes when, moments after the Bumpus hounds wreck their perfectly bronzed turkey, he turns on a dime and decisively changes their Christmas ritual.
It’s obviously not an easy moment for him, yet he displays flexibility, and then open-mindedness by exposing their family to ‘Chinese Turkey’ (it’s smiling at me…). And of course, this transforms a potentially disastrous moment into a favorite Christmas memory.
Let’s take a cue from Mr. Parker and keep an open mind in these coming weeks. You will be thrust into new situations, so make the best of them!
Practice for open-minded flexibility: Say yes when every fiber of your body wants to say no (within reason). Especially when balanced with rule #2, you will find that saying yes will bring a lot of fun and growth into your life while still getting your needs met.
Remember, winter holiday comes hand-in-hand with intense energy and high stakes; you can’t avoid it. Even if you don’t celebrate anything, the collective frenetic energy of those around you is palpable.
We’re bound to make mistakes, put our foot in our mouth, and even utter the f dash dash dash word from time to time. Don’t sweat it; come back to these seven rules to rebalance, and then get back to enjoying this time of year.
To quickly recap:
4. Letting go of perfectionism
5. Patience and Forgiveness
6. Dropping the drama
7. Open-mindedness and flexibility
I’d love to hear stories of how you keep your sanity and wellness over the winter holidays, so share it up!
Your deranged Easter bunny
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