Saturday, December 24, 2016

Accepting the Emptiness

Saturday, December 24, 2016

This time last year was my first holiday season without family. Thankfully, Steven's brother came to visit, as well as friends, making Christmas and New Years in Chicago as lovely as ever. This year, it will be just us, and even without hosting and entertaining, I've been feeling extremely anxious these past few weeks. I was still new at the museum last year, so my work-load was considerably less. This year, I'm still getting back into a routine since Japan. Holidays, as cheerful and celebratory as they are, can definitely be stressful. Be it the holiday season or just plain old homesickness, I'm feeling more anxious than ever.

In looking for peace, I've been making a lot of changes to my routine. I started doing yoga weekly during lunch breaks with my coworkers. While I'm usually not a bath person, soaking in the hot springs in Japan taught me how relaxing it can be. So I've started taking baths a few times a week, with a candle, and some Netflix. I even downloaded a guided meditation app called Headspace that my dear friend Andi recommended a while back. Having a calming 10 minutes of meditation once I get home from work and city traffic has been the perfect reset. 

After all of these new routines and still feeling overwhelmed, I was still searching for some mental relief. I saw a book on our shelves, one my brother gave to Steven as a gift a few years back, called Going to Pieces without Falling Apart. It's a psychiatrist's take on incorporating Buddhism into your life and mentality. So far, it has been the most helpful. The first chapter is on the feeling of empty that we all get in our hearts. It teaches that instead of attempting to fill our emptiness, Buddhist's learn to accept the feeling of empty without judgment, and learn to live with it. By acknowledging feeling empty in certain aspects, and trying to come to terms on how it feels, rather than trying to fix it, it's already helped me process so much. It's a very new exercise for me to accept my feelings when I get emotional rather than trying to fix them, but each day is a little bit more practice of accepting my emptiness and happily living with it, as the Buddhists do.

Many of our closest friends have already gone to their families for the holiday. Thankfully, we have a French friend who invites all of the other nomads from other countries and other states over to her apartment for Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas Eve with her last year, so by now it's a tradition. Having a little Chicago tradition makes it feel a little less lonely, a little less empty. 

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