Celebrating can be a vulnerable thing. Wholehearted celebration requires us to take risks and stand up to fears. In celebration, we are forced to be present in the moment instead of elsewhere mentally. Celebrating requires inviting others in more deeply — to our lives, experiences, hearts or homes. Celebrating requires us to spend our precious, limited resources of time, energy and money on others instead of fearfully stockpiling for ourselves. Um, does the ability to celebrate all of a sudden feel like a tall order to anyone else?
Being present. The “practice” of being present in the moment means you’re totally in the moment, not ruminating on the wounds of the past or outwitting future problems. True presence provides the seedbed for celebrating the good in life, because our present moments frequently contain small sacred experiences we miss when we are preoccupied. The sky, the breeze, great coffee or toddler’s curls can all prompt celebration in our hearts if we are mindfully locked into the good of right now.
Being present can incite fear and self-protective responses. It is vulnerable to let go of defending and state definitively, “I love this. I have this. I celebrate this.” We may fear losing good things if we draw attention to them. “Shouldn’t I just lay low and keep my head down?” “Is this bragging?” No! We have to stand up to these fears by celebrating the good stuff anyway. A life dictated by fear and image management is absolutely no fun. You can’t celebrate while defensively playing it cool, detached or safe.
What about a less-welcome life event? A move, a loss … the first day of kindergarten? Courageously organizing a ceremony, gathering or a meal to “mark” these events can help us grieve and accept an unwanted occurrence. This helps metabolize our pain and open more room in our hearts for the next joyful experience of life.
Inviting others “in.”
Negative beliefs about ourselves abound when we consider inviting others into our space. Beliefs like, “My house isn’t as nice as hers” or “I hate cooking” make us feel like our home isn’t good enough, but you can’t let these beliefs hold you hostage. Healthy risks grow us deeply inside. In order to overcome your fear of inviting others in, you have to just do it … and then see what happens. You will be transformed when friends respond graciously, your connection with them grows, and you make a new memory together.
Don’t hold to the negative belief, “No one wants to celebrate me.” This may actually be a symptom of you not allowing yourself to be known by others. If you keep people at an emotional arm’s length they can’t know your fears, triumphs and small victories. They may assume you have others who are closer to you and may not feel responsible for pitching in and celebrating you. You have to choose vulnerability in relationships in order to cultivate the level of closeness that makes people want to throw you a surprise party.
Do you ever think: “Other people have things to celebrate. I don’t”? If you practice being present, your eyes learn to see how many delicious moments even the simplest life contains. If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough attention you probably aren’t — so do something about it! Throw a party for a completely made up reason — you will confront your fears, deepen friendships and increase the collective joy of your community.
Scarcity and abundance.
Scarcity says you cannot afford to spend the time, money or energy that celebration requires because disaster, bankruptcy and famine are imminent!!! Abundance, however, trusts the bills will most likely still be covered even if you have a few extra people over for dinner or buy ice cream for everyone. It feels vulnerable to stand up to the fear mongering of scarcity, but challenge that bully a little and see what happens. I long to live in a co-created world where we experience an economy of abundant celebrating. A world where a friend has a happy occurrence and we all quickly mobilize to gather, congratulate and toast.
It’s awesome to get an invite to a party at the home of a wealthy person, where the abundance is ob-vi-ous. But as for the truly joyful “ordinary” celebration of finishing yet another week of work and school, I prefer my friend Andrea’s modest home, with her creative dinners offering both what needed to get cooked today and talking points from her busy brain as she’s thought about us and our intertwined lives. Always present is a fun drink and Popsicles for excited kids. Her little home exudes abundance. If she feared making herself vulnerable to judgment, scarcity or closeness she would feed her own family and that would be that. But because of her bravery she is knitting a bond between our growing families that will yield a lifetime of friendship, support and celebration.
This originally appeared in Hello, Dearest Fall 2015. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to email@example.com and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.
Kelley Gray, M.A., LPC, is a therapist who is passionate about the process of healing and growing. She lives in Colorado with her two wild daughters and one hot husband. Follow her at kelleygray.com or @kelleygray77.