Grinch be gone

I must confess, I have had a bad attitude toward the holiday season for years. I had become the Grinch.

I tried to fake it, but my complaining, big sighs, and eye-rolling have given away my ever-growing disdain for the Season. Through the years, my resistance and the resulting pain grew larger and larger.

This year, when our five-year old grandson arrived clutching his pen and toy catalogue, I felt that old resistance and dread rise inside of me. The Grinch was surfacing again. As I looked at his precious face, I knew something had to change.

The holiday season is not going to go away; I knew I had to be the one to change.

It was not always this way. I used to love the holiday season and all it entailed. I loved to craft, bake, shop, and decorate. I loved to volunteer and spread my joy out into the world.

Quite honestly, that past version of myself during the holidays, with all of her joy and vigour for the season, would have annoyed the curmudgeonly Grinch I had become.

As I contemplated my predicament and my bad attitude, I realized that I became the Grinch when I forget the spirit and intention of the holidays because I had turned the season into one big to-do list filled with expectation.

I am the Queen of To-Do lists. I even put things on my to-do list that I have already done, just to feel as though I’ve accomplished something.

As I aged, and my life became fuller, guided by my to-do list, I started to lose the meaning the season held for me. Everything about the holidays had become another task to cross off of my list.

My list became a list of self-induced expectation and felt like sacrifice.

I did not enjoy the holiday activities because I was waiting for each of them to be over, and to be on to the next thing I ‘had’ to do. The joy of my festive activity was lost, because I was already thinking about the next item on my to-do list.

No wonder I had come to dislike the holidays, I was suffering from As-soon-as Disease.

As-soon-as Disease is a plague that robs us of the joy of life when we live life like a to-do list, something to be accomplished. It is the result of not enjoying the present moment, putting off pleasure for some distant date that would arrive ‘as soon as’ everything is done.

What to do?  Life and the holidays are not one big to-do list.

I now remember why each item is on my list, and what it represents.

I now remember my values and intentions as I consider what is truly important to me at this time of the year.

I have gained clarity about expectations and intentions, and difference between the two.

According to Karson McGinley, expectations are a sneaky relative of intentions, and often lead to disappointment. Intentions are internal and rely on personal choice, whereas expectation demand something from external circumstance.

I’ve removed the burden of self-imposed expectations, shortened my to-do list, and remembered the importance of the intentions that motivate me to participate in life in the first place.

I’ve made a new decision about how I want to show up. When I go about the activities of the season, I take a breath and pause to remember the reason behind each activity.

I pause to remember that the attitude and the way I do what I do is what is most important. I’d rather eat turkey hotdogs in joy and happiness than a fancy dinner served from sacrifice and resentment.

It is working! Having made a new decision to imbue my festive activities with intention, meaning, and thoughts of those I love, I even noticed spring in my step as I shopped, actually enjoying the holiday music.

Returning to my values, ditching expectations, and remembering my personal intentions for the holidays has brought me back to the joy and meaning of the Season.

Just like the fabled Grinch, my heart has grown and the holiday curmudgeon has given way to a happier version of myself, one more in alignment with who I really am.   


What is your why?


Why do we do the things we do?

This is an important, but often under-asked, question. What is my ‘why’?

I ask myself this question when I start something new, and when I start living from habit and routine. Asking why wakes me up and helps me gain clarity.

Often extraneous demands and activities fall away if the answer is not in alignment with my values and the places I choose to spend my energy.

I want to live on purpose, my purpose, and to spend myself in ways that bring meaning and richness to life.

I don’t want to waste my time.

Why would I decide to write a column? My life is full and rich already, so why would I add one more thing to my to-do list?

Why, indeed.

As a nurse, educator, and minister, I notice increasing levels of stress, anxiety, depression. These challenges are not reserved for adults, as reports of anxiety and depression are increasing among our children.

We are in an epidemic of stress.

In my work, people say they are working harder and longer, but are experiencing decreased levels of happiness and satisfaction. They are not enjoying ‘adulting’.

Many are living lives of quiet desperation, being pulled forward on the hamster-wheel of life, busy, but not happy. Their life is based on reaction rather than awareness and conscious choice. They may feel out of alignment with their own values.

Many tell me they are racing daily through the motions of life, feeling pulled from one situation to the next, feeling spit out at the end of the day.

They are left wondering what happened, ending their day exhausted, sleeping, or maybe not, and repeating the same cycle again, day after day.

Where is purpose and meaning?

People often appear to be doing well as they put on a mask of pleasantness and control.

Recently, I heard a woman describe herself as being like a duck; from the outside, appearing to float along the surface of life pleasantly and smoothly, while underneath she was paddling like crazy, just trying to stay afloat, just trying to maintain the facade that everything was OK.

I’ve learned the value and importance of a new perspective, a new thought, and the benefit of pausing to ask why;  the value of living a life of conscious choice, reflecting personal values, rather than living life by default.

It is heartening to recognize we are always at a point of choice and change. Living in reaction to life can change into a life of conscious, mindful response. Many times, pausing can offer us a new, fresh perspective and clarity.

A new question can offer us a new perspective; it can cause us to wake up and see things differently. I love asking questions, and offering a new perspective.

Chronic stress is expensive to our physical, mental and emotional health. As the three intersect, it can feel like a downward spiral.

We may begin to see life as something to be survived instead of lived and enjoyed. Stress becomes a habit, but this habit can change.

Myriad research into the neuro-plastic nature of our brains, the ability of the brain to change and rewire offers great hope.

I know the reality of these findings because I have experienced stress, anxiety and burnout. I know, up close and personal, the physical, mental, and emotional cost of living life by default, pulled along by the demands of life.

I was that duck, until the duck started to drown, tired of furiously paddling beneath the surface.

I have awakened from the mental fog created by an over-abundance of cortisol and adrenalin coursing through my system, and have moved from a life of merely surviving to one of joyfully thriving.

I am grateful to have had all of this experience because it serves to allow me to understand as I journey with many people through similar terrain.

The answer to why write a column is powerful for me.  As a nurse, educator, and minister it is the most upstream care I can offer.

My want to offer a new perspective, to offer insights and ideas to cause you to pause and ask a new question, to consider a new perspective, a new thought, that could lead to a happier, more fulfilled experience of life.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.