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Live Life Fully: Tidings of comfort, joy and contentment

By Linda Arnold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "And to all a good night." With the night before Christmas right around the corner, I find the last line of Clement Moore's seasonal poem so comforting.

You know the feeling. When you're ready to go to bed and you stop to reflect (unless you're running tomorrow's to-do list through your head -- or you haven't hit the off button on the TV remote!).

I have a sign on my nightstand that says, "Today was a good day." That's not always the way it feels, so this is a good tool to tweak my awareness of my blessings. And I realize the line in the poem can be interpreted in a lot of different ways.

A good night for one person may mean their children are safely tucked in. Or things went smoothly at work that day. Or the tension in a relationship has eased. For others, it may mean one more day of sobriety from alcohol or drugs -- or a warm bed for the night.

And for many others, it's a "first." That first holiday without your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or close friend. It may feel like nothing will make it a good night. And you're right. Because your feelings are valid. No amount of reassurances by others can change that. And it's more difficult this time of year because, after all, "'tis the season to be jolly."

While I'm all for positive thinking, I also realize the value, and necessity, in genuinely feeling our feelings. We need to give ourselves permission to do just that (whatever it means for us). Maybe it's seeking the comfort of loved ones. Or having more alone time. And then there's the combination request I've received to "just hold me while I cry."

I'm not sure if it's the heightened awareness of the season -- or this season in my life. I'm finding myself seeking more "heart space" moments -- those internal and external experiences that give meaning to life. I'm reminded of that quote that serves as an effective email signoff: "It's not the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away."

I realize we can't stay in a state of perpetual awe. We'd never get anything done! And it's the contrasts in our lives that weave the rich tapestry. I'm just reflecting that it would be nice to have these heart space moments a little more often. You probably have them more than you think -- when your dog or cat greets you with unconditional love (well, maybe not the cat so much). Or when you get an unexpected smile or are permitted by a fellow motorist to switch lanes. Now, there's a biggie (and one more reason to be grateful we live in one of the friendliest states in the country).

The point is we may not consider these little things as blessings. It's the little things that make up our lives, though -- especially the quality of our lives. Don't get me wrong: The peak experiences are great (and I'll still gladly accept those tickets to the Oscars if anyone has a couple of extra ones!). It just doesn't take a steady stream of those peak experiences to equal contentment, though.

Which reminds me of another theme: the variations on happiness, contentment and joy. Each has its own special sauce. The distinction may come down to duration, and their individual time capsules. To me, joy is more of an episode, while happiness and, particularly, contentment signify ongoing states of well being. (Cue the sound effect of a happy sigh.)

I have a sign in my kitchen that says, "Count the really good blessings twice." And when I stop to count them, there are lots of really good blessings. That's the challenge -- stopping to count them.

Whatever situation you find yourself in on this Christmas Day, stop to think for a moment or two about those blessings in your life. If it's one of those "firsts," it may be hard to find them (understandably so).

If you're enduring another extended family get together that could be described as "Norman Rockwell Not," this too shall pass. And your attitude toward it has everything to do with how you feel. After all, we pick our battles. Just stop and ask yourself, "Is it worth it?"

Here's a little mantra I composed that may help you out:

Peace on Earth

Is a lofty goal.

But inner peace

Is within my control.

Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefully@arnoldagency.com.


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