Decorating for the Holidays – Shifting Perspective and Leaning in

Hear from Angela Vernola, how to transform your holiday season and decorating, through perspective and Feng Shui, into a season of empowerment and careful intention.

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I used to work with a woman, who in her sixties and nearly retired, had given up on decorating for Christmas in her own home.  She was divorced, her kids were grown, and she lived alone. Her life was mostly work and not much time for anything else.

She worked long hours at her job and was too tired and exhausted by the time she got home to even think about anything other than sleep.  “It’s too much work,” she said, “to go into the attic, and drag out the tree, and pull all the ornaments out, and make space for everything, and rearrange furniture, and my kids are all grown and why bother, and and and..…”

It wasn’t even my home, but it literally hurt my heart to hear her go on and on about how she “just wasn’t going to do it.”  As a Feng Shui Consultant, part of me wondered though, if it was too painful for her to pull out all the memories of the past.

Decorating for the holidays is for sure nostalgic for most of us, but for others, the pain of the memories and the process of taking everything out itself is unbearable.

I can totally relate to those feelings as well on a multitude of levels.   The first Christmas after I was separated from my now ex husband, was probably one of the hardest for me.  Even I didn’t want to unpack all of the Christmas memories.  Why, would I want to voluntarily evoke those painful memories and be reminded of a time in my life that didn’t exist anymore.  I get it.  I TOTALLY get it.  But then there is my daughter who was only 9 years old at the time.  I had to keep the magic alive for her.  It was one of her favorite times of the year, and I couldn’t let my pain rob her of her happiness.

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I drudged through it, box after box.  I literally had to push myself through, pick myself up off the floor, maybe even with a scraper at times.   While pulling out the ornaments, I would  secretly run to the bathroom to cry sometimes, not wanting her to see me, then come back out, and feel the raw emotions; ornament, after ornament, after ornament.  I needed what felt hard to hurry up and move through me in order to be able move on from the pain.

But I slowed the hurrying and felt what was hard.  I allowed the memories to sink in.  I was setting time aside to do just this.  Not only was it was sacred, but it was an important part of my healing.  I was grieving and I was releasing.  I didn’t just “let go.”  I was letting go.  This allowing of my emotions didn’t (and still doesn’t) always come easily.  But without me going through the motions, I knew there was no moving forward.

Around the same time I was processing all of this, my sister talked me into attending a workshop at Omega up in Rhinebeck, NY, given by a man named Panache Desai.  “It will change you,” she said.

She was right.  My biggest takeaway, and there were MANY, was that our emotions are just energy in motion wanting to be expressed.  When we don’t allow them to move through us fluidly, they cement themselves deep within our bodies creating sickness and dis-ease.  Hmmmmmm…..feeling and releasing? (Healthy)  Or neglecting and cementing? (Disease.)

Easy to see how powerful this lesson is right?

Now enter the Feng Shui part.

Feng Shui isn’t just about moving a piece of furniture and feeling better, or setting up the Christmas tree and feeling the magic in the air.  (Although it can be!).

It’s about looking at things differently through the eyes of energy, and EVERYTHING is energy.  The things we own are energy, the thoughts we think are energy, and the emotions we feel are all energy.

When you look at something in your space, does it uplift you?  That is the ultimate Feng Shui goal, to uplift you.   When you feel better in your space, it can be life changing, on a multitude of levels.  Unfortunately though, many of us hold onto things that energetically, quite honestly, deplete and drain the life out of us.  If there was an energy sucking vampire, we’d all be goners, but I’ll save that for another article.

When was the last time you took a good look around you and truly paid attention to the things you own?  Is your basement or garage full of stuff?  Are you closets and attics jam packed?  Yes?  With what?  Are you at the point where you need to ask yourself if you are living in a home or a storage unit?  (Thank one of my teachers, Tisha Morris, for that jewel of wisdom.). I don’t know about you, but I like living in my home.  Forget the storage unit!

Out of sight may be out of mind for some people, but out of sight is never out of your energy field.  And that’s where we need to start paying attention.  If our homes are a mirror of ourselves, and this is a cardinal rule of Feng Shui, then what are we reflecting out into the world?  What is our home reflecting onto us?  Are we able to become who we want to be if much of what we hold onto is from a time in our life that we are trying to move on from?  (Thank you both Karen Rauch Carter and Tisha Morris again for opening my eyes to this.)

But what if what we are trying to move on from is heavier than a bunch of ornaments that remind someone of a marriage gone bad?  And I’m not making light of what divorce feels like, because that shit is hard.  But there is harder.  Wayyyyyy harder.  I’m talking unfathomable hard.

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I asked my friends through a Facebook post to share with me what it was they were dreading about this holiday season and why.  It was specifically for the purpose of this article and to learn how people felt while unpacking the memories of their pasts.  My initial thought was that everyone experiences a range of emotions when they hold an item from the past.  How great would it be, if by sharing some of these answers,  that other people who read this, could know that they are not alone in what they feel and face in their own lives.  What if these answers could help facilitate other peoples healing when they pull out their own decorations, or recipe boxes, or holiday tablecloths?  

The first answer I received was, “My mom died in early December, so that adds a layer of sadness to the holidays. She loved Christmas time and always decorated, made cookies and hosted the holiday dinners. I often stress myself out trying to live up to the holidays she created for my sister and I.”

And this next one I’m sure many people can relate to. “I have a personalized ornament with a photo of my dog, Marley, who passed last year, that will be tough.”

But then there are things we can’t all relate to.  Bonnie, a friend I grew up with, lost everything when her house burned down two years ago. “Not having all my handmade ornaments and all the special ornaments the kids have made and collected over the years makes me really sad. I dread pulling out what little I have but we will work on making new memories.” 

Another friend Lynn, who also went through a divorce wrote, “I miss not having my family together, especially during the holidays! It’s also hard not having the two most amazingly awesome supportive giving parents a girl could ask for around during the holidays.”

I was left speechless when I read what my childhood friend Tracy, mother of three beautiful sons, wrote.  Before sharing what she wrote, I should mention that her first born, Cole, died by suicide just shy of his twenty first birthday two years ago.   This will be her third Christmas without him. 

She wrote, “For me, the holidays will never be the same.  I used to love the songs.  I’d start playing Christmas music in my car as soon as Thanksgiving was over.  I can’t listen to it anymore.  It’s way too painful.  Instead of invoking sweet memories of Christmas past, it’s a stabbing reminder that the happy holidays enjoyed with my family will never be.  That I no longer have an intact family, and that my sweet Coley will never celebrate another Christmas on this earth.”  Tracy goes on to tell how she will never cut down another tree because Cole used to be the one who did that.  She bought her first fake tree for her other two boys after Cole died.  She goes on to say, “My tree used to be dressed in ornaments collected over the years – consisting primarily of ornaments the boys made and ornaments I bought for them or bought on our travels.  I haven’t been able to take those out.  Instead I bought a bunch of generic ornaments.  I’m thinking of opening the old box this year.  Feeling stronger than the past two Christmases.”

It would be wildly unfair for me, not only as a Feng Shui Consultant, but as a human being, to expect that a blanket “remedy” of doing something in your home could help everyone heal equally.   

If the holidays for you are hard, and holding an object from a time in your life, that ceases to exist anymore, evokes your own “layer of sadness,” or causes a “pang,” or feels “tough,” or even resonates as your own  “stabbing reminder,” then I offer you this;

Before pulling out your box of decorations, create a space for yourself that feels sacred.  Set yourself up for success. Help yourself tune into the present moment.  Breathe.  It’s important for us to ground ourselves before doing this to anchor our own energy into the here and now.  Objects from the past can pull you backwards, and if not careful, send you into a tailspin. (And for some,  the tailspin happens just at the thought of taking the box out, and, that’s OKAY.)  Even that is progress in my opinion. 

If it all feels like too much, then stop.  All I can ask is that you do is your best.  Like Don Miguel Ruiz says in one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements,  “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.  Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, sef-abuse, and regret.”

Try awakening your senses by adding life to your surroundings with plants, or fresh cut flowers.  Do you have a favorite blanket you can open up and sit on for this process that feels soft to the touch?  Lay it out.  Do you have a favorite playlist you could listen to help you along?  Listen to it.  How about a candle to honor what you are doing.  Light it with intention to honor yourself and your loved ones whom you are missing.  Go slow.   Surrender to your feelings and allow yourself to cry.  Melt and release the cement inside of you.  Heal and repeat.  Ornament, after ornament, after ornament.

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About the Author, Angela Vernola

Founder of Loving Karma, Feng Shui Consultant and Reiki Master Teacher. Member of the International Association of Reiki Professionals and the International Feng Shui Guild. Since 2018, I have been helping people create harmonious and healthy living spaces both internally and externally through the use of Feng Shui and Reiki principles.

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