Gifting in 2016

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Over the past few years my immediate family has spread itself across the country: originally we all lived in central Illinois, and I moved to Chicago for school (and stayed), my parents moved to Florida to retire, and my brother has moved around the state a few times for work and training. And while traveling to see each other for Thanksgiving has never been much of a priority, we still make an effort to come together on Christmas, whether we make it to Christmas Eve at my aunt’s or not.

This year has been rough for a lot of people. My mom lost her mother over the summer, my last grandparent, and that was the most recent time I saw my whole family, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. Figuring out how to express my emotions during that time was a struggle. I turned to (finishing) reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead when I learned that my grandma was in the hospital with an inoperable infection and would probably die soon. I finished the book shortly before she died, but never got the chance to visit her in the hospital. Again, dealing with my emotions in the matter was difficult. I cried and recited mantras while facing south when she died, and my eyes were dry at the funeral. She was a member of a Croatian Lodge, and I felt satisfied that her practiced spirituality would help her, and my imported superstitions were for my own benefit, despite how similar some of the imagery was to Christian ideas of angels and judgement.

Other difficulties this season were due to my own actions. I left a job because it was physically demanding and lonely. I had a temporary job to go to but that ended and I’ve been just working odd jobs lately. Thus the lack of funds right now. Thus the emotional breakdown earlier this week thinking about talking to my parents about my failure to find a job, and about finances. Thus the painting them a gift instead of buying them gifts.

Seeing friends and strangers struggling as well doesn’t really help. I don’t feel good in a sinking ship with all of my friends in it.

But what I do see is people being resourceful. I see people making the best of a bad situation by focusing on the people they love, or on just trying to be happy. We are all seeking sanctuary in the chaos.

One way I have been dealing with my struggles is by focusing on improving my skills. This has come to mean not just job-related stuff, but working on my emotional, social, and coping skills. I think that stress has really been building up inside of me lately, and I’ve really had to practice not letting my anxiety get the best of me. I’m super susceptible to getting swept away in negative emotions and shutting down, and I’m discovering how much my physical actions and postures affect my emotions moment to moment.

One thing that helps is making art. Really, any kind of movement or meditation is great for me, and the combination of the two does wonders. Plus I get to claim that all the doodling I do contributes to my career success. In fact, it contributes immensely because it helps me produce more sellable art, and helps me keep my portfolio updated.

So I guess what I really want to say that as bad as 2016 has been for some people, there is always something you can DO to improve your position! You can even call it professional development, since we should all be professionals at living our lives!

Happy Holidays!

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