October 30, 2013
True celebration is full of feeling and comes from the heart. It is an outward expression of who you are inside and it is grounded in appreciation. Unfortunately, that’s not the way celebration has evolved. It is far too often showy, full of meaningless dogma and a display of who can outspend another.
I saw this often during my corporate career when I attended many closing dinners to celebrate successful acquisitions. At each one we were served tasty delicacies and full-bodied wine. After a short speech and a few jokes our lead investment banker would pass out commemorative gifts aptly named ‘tombstones’. The following day the tombstone joined the graveyard of other ‘done deals’ on the office credenza. The more you had, the greater the status. Such were the trappings of celebration in the traditional world of money and power.
There was nothing about those evenings that came from the heart. They were deliberately devoid of feeling, deep meaning or connection, all key components of wellbeing. Arianna Huffington advocates that we include wellbeing, alongside money and power as the third metric and she is encouraging women to lead this charge. As women have historically been responsible for organizing our events we are well-positioned to help rethink our celebrations and imbue them with meaning. Men as well as women will be the beneficiaries but we should start with ourselves.
Most of us celebrate the big days that are part of our culture of origin. Women supply the food, decorations and gifts and the day on the calendar often isn’t significant to them. They end up doing the work and are left exhausted, which is a hollow celebration at best. Celebrations should give us energy, not take it away and those relegated to following senseless convention are huge drainers.
I’m not saying that we should drop the parties. I like balloons, flowers and chocolate as much as the next person but it’s time for women to streamline traditional celebrations and add some that are significant to them as individuals. True celebration is showing our gratitude for who we are and what’s important to us. It needs time and space for acknowledgment and the experience is enhanced by sharing with others. It is time for women to claim our right to "bask in the glory" of who we are by finding some celebrations that capture our unique spirit and personality. Here are some ideas:
1) Honor your family and friends. One friend told me about a pub-crawl that her aunt organized for her matriarchal family line. The youngest of the group was 16 (shhh!) and the oldest was 88 (women weren't permitted in the beer parlor in her day). They had tons of fun celebrating their membership in a strong and admirable group of women.
Another friend celebrates something she calls "Ancestor Day." She gathers family and gives tributes to those who have gone before her. Celebrating the roots and values that give her life meaning is enriching. But the pleasure starts with the fact that the date and theme are of her choice - no one is telling her how or when to celebrate.
2) Make it significant to you. Peggy Holt, an instructor at Canyon Ranch, described to me how one day each year she celebrated "Holt Holiday" with her children. After waking them she would surprise them with an unexpected change in routine - rather than being hurried off to school, they would take the day off to play with the family! Now that her children are grown they continue this ritual by having these annual celebration days with their own children.
To create your own celebration ask yourself what gives you energy and honor that. Start by finding a date that holds special meaning. Then create something that is fun for you. I love to dance so one year I invited women to a dinner where we celebrated femininity by doing some belly dancing moves together. I also make a point of celebrating the new mobility that came when I lost a lot of weight. In my travels, I now include such activities as zip lining, trekking, and white water rafting. Each time I stop and appreciate my ability to partake.
3) Celebrate the little things. Women are guilty of only acknowledging their big, hard-earned accomplishments and even then they move on too quickly not giving themselves time to appreciate what they have done. It is important to notice the little things that you do right and stop to congratulate yourself. Acknowledging small accomplishments throughout the day will give you lots of regular energy injections. Women who have adopted this strategy tell me that taking time to celebrate their hard-earned ability to bake bread or stand up and make a presentation increases their sense of wellbeing.
It is time to let go of our belief that we need to have pretentious celebrations for them to be worthy as little things can be even more enjoyable. Something as simple as buying a book and taking time to reflect on it can be celebratory. Rather than getting co-opted into excessive Masculine Energy value of ‘go big or go home’, we should instead celebrate by enhancing our inner experience as Feminine Energy would have us do.
There is nothing wrong with carrying out familiar traditions on calendar holidays, or even having a closing dinner, but we need to let go of spending time and wasting energy on things that have no meaning and don’t generate positive feelings. Money and power are not worth celebrating without wellbeing. Appreciate the special and unique person that you are and celebrate that, for you will truly be celebrating the third metric.