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Fri Dec 5, 2014, 11:01 PM


The best Christmas present I ever received (HuffPo)

Thirty-years ago, when my children were small, I dreaded the arrival of the holiday season and by the time Christmas arrived I would turn into Scrooge. I hated the holiday traffic jams, the dearth of parking spaces, department stores as crowded as a sporting event, and checkout lines longer than the ones at the DMV. I loathed going to holiday parties and making small talk with inebriated people I hardly knew, and dreaded my relatives who stayed for a week. I grumbled when my wife asked me to hang the outside lights and disliked decorating the Christmas tree with the family. The holidays seemed to be nothing but stress. The way I saw it, the holidays were a month-long mania that reached a frenetic climax on Christmas day, and then collapsed into depression when the credit card bill arrived.

Then one year, a week before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was benign but would kill me if it wasn't removed. My doctor outlined a number of disturbing neurological problems that the delicate surgery was likely to cause and he referred me to the best neurosurgeon in the area, who couldn't schedule me until after the New Year. This meant the tumor and I would have to face the holidays together

Then one night a week or so after Thanksgiving, while staring out the window into the dark, I reached the point where I couldn't take it anymore. I asked myself, which was worse? The neurological problems that might happen to me in a few weeks, or the intense fear that was happening in me every day, all day long. The answer was clear; fear was worse. I could see that I was believing every fearful thought I was thinking, and it was painting me into a tight corner of gloom and doom. Obviously, I needed a new attitude. For the next half hour I was alert to every fearful thought my mind produced, and I practiced letting go of these thoughts simply by not believing them. Gradually, my mind grew quiet and eventually I began to feel at peace. When I looked out the window again, the cold, dark night that loomed like a black hole about to suck me in had changed. What I now saw was the glow of moonlight shining on the trees that made the night feel sacred.

I made the decision, right then and there, to work at letting go of fear whenever it raised its ugly head and to strengthen my willingness to be at peace as I faced whatever I had to face that day. I found that choosing peace wasn't as hard as I thought. Stress and fear were hard. Peace actually made the day easier, better.


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