I think so. The holidays are news in my book, mostly because they are the greatest example of recursive moments. What, you are probably asking, is a recursive moment?
The definition of recursive is “Drawing upon itself, referring back; the act or process of returning or running back.” The big news of these winter holidays is just that returning process, where we draw upon the strength of rituals and traditions.
I recognize that sometimes these holiday rituals and traditions feel old, repetitive, and perhaps even stale. But just like the work that we do day in and day out, it’s the approach that we bring to the recursive act that makes all the difference.
What’s an approach? I see it as choosing to be either tight or loose. When we anticipate stress, our whole body tightens up. It’s part of our built in DNA response to fear and anything that threatens us. The opposite of the fear response is the comfort of safety. When we feel safe, we loosen up, we’re more open to whatever comes, we don’t topple over so easily when life pushes us around. And safety, comfort and looseness is exactly what recursive moments offer us. When we’re loose, we put on fewer airs, put up fewer walls, and let ourselves be truer.
Holiday traditions are all about recursive moments. When and how we open presents, playing games, singing songs, having a traditional dinner that we all look forward to, having time and opportunity to talk, and simply be with each other. That is the grist of recursive moments. The comfort, the stability of it all, the routine in fact, give us a solid feeling. There is something comforting about looking forward to a recursive moment, just as it’s comforting to look forward to the seasons changing.
I have gotten a lot better at appreciating the recursive moments over the last few years. Maybe it’s the effect of the rampant consumerism and the hyperactive focus on how stressful the holidays are. The more I see it, the more I realize it’s only hyper and stressful if we make it so.
We make the choice. And the application here to life and work situations is that even though we know intellectually that we make a choice to engage in stressful activities, we still fail to see that we are at the center of the choice. This sounds so insane, but it’s true for all of us at some point.
Why do we do this? Are we just really bent on hurting ourselves? Or do we simply let other’s perceptions and judgments influence us too much? Perhaps a little of both.
So I say, at this holiday season, let’s get more recursive. It can become a new kind of mantra. When we’re feeling overwhelmed or over-stressed, how about a little recursive-ness? Running back to what is comforting and safe, to draw upon our own ability to find normality. Now that’s a new year’s resolution worth working on.