I had the opportunity to hear “Eat Pray Love” and “Big Magic” author Elizabeth Gilbert speak at the Center for Women’s annual conference. She delivered a powerful presentation that had some audience members in tears and gave everyone who attended a lot to think about. My takeaway from the evening was that we all need to strive to be more relaxed — not the get-a-massage-type relaxed, but the real, deep conviction that there is a higher power and that everything is going to be all right in the end. She told us to set priorities — not lots of them, just a handful — and then set boundaries and hold them sacred. Draw a line around those sacred priorities, and don’t let anyone cross them for any reason. Be firm. Learn to say “no.” Say “no” not just to the things that are easy to say “no” to, but also to the fun stuff that you want to do. “What are you willing to give up to have the life you keep pretending you want?” she asked pointedly. She encouraged us to worry less. It’s OK to be concerned, but all-encompassing worry about how to control every aspect of our lives is suffocating and destructive. This month, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and in the coming year, I’m going to practice holding things sacred and finding deep relaxation. Remind me when you see me!
I also had the incredible opportunity to talk with Polly Sheppard, one of five survivors of the Emanuel AME church shooting. She invited me and photographer Libby Williams to her home to share her story. On the night of the Bible study after shooting nine others, Dylann Roof pointed his gun at Polly and said, “I’m not going to shoot you. I’m going to leave you here to tell the story.” Two-and-a-half years later, Polly is still telling her story. But it’s not the one Roof expected her to tell. Instead, she tells the story of the power of prayer and forgiveness in the face of terrible tragedy and loss. Polly’s strength, dignity and deep faith are powerful and inspiring.
The inspiring messages from both women, though heavy at times, seem appropriate for the holidays, when we all strive to find comfort and joy no matter what we might be dealing with. We recognize that it’s a time of year when you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to say “yes” to everything, to make everything perfect. We recognize it can be a difficult time if you’re lonely or grieving. If you are fortunate enough to have joy and comfort in abundance, seek ways to bring comfort and joy to others. After all, it’s the season of giving.
In our December issue, we celebrate the joy of the holidays. We find joy in celebrating with girlfriends — whether it’s getting dressed up for parties or hosting one yourself. We learn to seek comfort and embrace the Danish concept of Hygge with local items that also make great gifts.
Contributor Angie Mizzell explores how to make your house really feel like a home, and we talk with the founder of Scentervention candles, a therapist who found comfort and joy – and a new business – in a spark.
Hope your holidays are full of comfort and joy!
Shelley Hill Young