Celebrating Gratefulness during the holiday season by D.E. Haggerty
Day 8 Advent 2017
I had an entire blog post planned out in my head about Christmas traditions and how my husband and I had developed our own as he’s often in foreign lands far away from either one of our families during the Christmas holidays. But then I went to a BusinessBoost event and heard a talk from Mo Gawdat. This evening was supposed to be about entrepreneurship and risk-taking. Mr. Gawdat is the Chief Business Officer of the futuristic dream factory Google X. I expected him to talk about Google and taking risks in the IT industry. That is definitely not what I got.
Instead, Gawdat talked about his novel, Solve for Happy, and his happiness formula. I haven’t read the book, and Gawdat only had twenty-five minutes to portray his ideas to us, but this is what I got out of his talk. Career success does not equal happiness. We need to stop seeing success as a monetary goal. Mr. Gawdat wants us to try and achieve happiness instead. How do we do that? We need to stop being individualistic and materialistic. We need to appreciate what we have.
What Mr. Gawdat said is not revolutionary. It’s one of the life lessons/affirmations we hear all the time – appreciate what you have and all that. One thing he did say resonated with me, however. The Netherlands has one of the happiest populations in the world yet the Dutch claim they have a ‘klacht cultuur’ – a complaining culture. Mr. Gawdat responded with the wise words What are you complaining about? This reminded me of a Christmas with my family two years back.
My husband hasn’t celebrated Christmas with my family in this millennium. It’s impossible. He’s a pilot, and planes keep on flying on Christmas. Mostly, airliners are sympathetic and offer pilots the opportunity to have either Christmas or New Year’s off. My husband never asks for Christmas off as we don’t have children, and we only feel it’s fair those with children get the holiday off.
So, it wasn’t unusual that I was celebrating Christmas with my family in Wisconsin while my husband was flying in Istanbul. I hadn’t seen my nieces and nephews for a few years and I was not only surprised by how tall they’d grown – when did that happen? – but by how whiney they’d become. Now, I know all teenagers can whine like champions, but it was Christmas! What was there to complain about?
My patience – always in short supply – snapped. While I was partaking in an abundance of Christmas wine and opening presents with my family, a mortar attack happened at the airport where my husband is based and two cleaning personnel were killed. Fortunately, the attack happened after the passengers had disembarked. Then, during my Christmas call to the husband, I learned he was flying to the Syrian border to transport military troops.
I lost my ever-loving mind and decided it was time to bring a little perspective to my whiney nieces and nephews. I asked them if they had the first clue where their uncle was while they were sitting around opening presents and complaining about them? No? I told them in a voice laced with fear and language liberally sprinkled with profanities exactly what he was enduring and the danger he was in while they were safe and warm with their families.
What’s the purpose of me telling you this story? Except to prove that I can be a big ‘ol meanie when I want to be and am therefore not the most favorite aunt in the world (although I’m totally the coolest, right?). It’s exactly what Mr. Gawdat was trying to tell the audience about being happy. What are you complaining about? Is it that you haven’t got clean water to drink? Or a toilet in your house and you’ve got to walk in the dark to a communal toilet during which time the chance of being raped is frighteningly high? No? Then, maybe you should be grateful for all you have. And what better time of the year is there to be grateful than at Christmas.
I will be celebrating an Orphan Christmas this year on Christmas Eve with several friends who are also away from their families while my husband flies wherever it is he’s flying. But I’m still grateful that I have those friends and in-laws with whom to celebrate. Besides, I’ll see the hubby on New Year’s Eve and who knows what trouble I can get into then?
D.E. Haggerty (aka Dena) grew-up reading everything she could get her grubby little hands on, from her mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When she wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, she was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing her of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion she did manage to sneak a book into her rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, she went back to school and got her law degree. She jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into her legal career, she was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. She quit her job and sat down to write a manuscript, which she promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t her thing, so she quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t her thing either. She polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where she decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from her adopted home. She packed up again and moved to The Hague where she’s currently working on her next book. She hopes she’ll always be working on her next book. Her twelfth book, Searching for Gertrude, will be hitting (virtual) bookshelves on January 22nd.
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