Unwrapping Presence

December 22, 2008

Unwrapping Presence 

 Competency # 22 Social Wellness and Friendships               ReferenceThe How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky 

 It’s the Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Eid season and I can’t wait to get together with my family.   I look at Sonya Lyubomirsky’s book, The How of Happiness and I think of this time of year and what it is that I look forward to.  I want to be with my family, to share the love and caring we feel for one another.  I want the presence of their company.   Not presents, presence is what I want. 

 I’ve unwrapped enough gifts.  Heavens knows, I wrapped enough gifts too. So, it was a surprise on opening our church bulletin and reading the insert from Donna Schaper, one of our denomination’s leading contemporary writers, to see her comments comparing presents to “presence”.   The smallest present in the world, she writes, is someone all wrapped up in themselves.  

Unwrapping presence is what this holiday season should be all about.  The presence of ourselves with our families.  The presence of the “Christ” child is the presence of peacefulness in our hearts because of the contentedness we feel when we are surrounded by love.  When we unwrap ourselves and let our hearts flow out to one another, we forget our own small desires and ambitions and find ourselves drawn into those around us. 

There’s evidence to show that “Nurturing Social Relationships” is one of the gifts you can give to yourself.  When you let yourself become “unwrapped” and nurture those around you, you become more connected.   Lyubomirsky details how those communities with strong social support systems live the longest.  The Sardinians in Italy, the Okinawans of Japan, the Seventh Day Adventists in California all have communities of very long-lived people.  And when asked what their first priorities are, all three list, “Put family first”.    

What’s unique and interesting is that the amount of possessions, income, size of homes, job title all change with our life circumstances.  We adapt pretty quickly to those events, and don’t change our happiness much with increases in income or increases in “stuff”. So, that’s something no one can take away from you.  Caring for those around you is not just good for them, it’s good for you.  What do I need to do to make that happen?  I need to unwrap myself.  I need to give time to my family.  Talking time, silent time, playing time, but time.   I need to make sure my loved one feels appreciated.  I need to make sure each day that I say “thank you” for something she’s done.   I need, each day to listen to her dreams and support her in what she looks forward to and let myself feel the pleasure of observing that I listened well enough to catch the opportunity.   It’s those activities, Lyubomorsky writes, that indelibly write happiness into your life.  That’s the sacredness of everyone’s story this season. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  I’ve wrapped enough presents.  Sonya and Donna teach me to think about presence.  My happiness is something I can invest in.  And in these very tough times,  that’s what I really want for Christmas.  Unwrap yourself a little this season.  Maybe we’ll have Peace on Earth after all.

Written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)