Florence: An Exercise for Enjoying the Holidays

By Sandy Dale


   Much is said these days about how to get along with your friends and relatives in this time of differing opinions and beliefs. The news and happenings of today can be confusing and overwhelming. I am going to share my simple rules for surviving and even enjoying this season.
   These rules are the same simple ones we tell our five-year-olds before they cross the street.
   STOP. That’s right, stop. Breathe. Breathe in the crisp December air and the beauty of the bright stars. Or inhale the mist and taste the snowflakes. (When is the last time you had snowflakes on your tongue?) Now, exhale the stress, hurry and worry you have given yourself for whatever reasons. That’s not to say that some of those reasons are not worthy of concern, but we are practicing an exercise here. You can go back to worrying afterwards.
   LOOK BOTH WAYS. Look around at the places and things you love. Remember why it is you love them. Now, look at the friends and relatives you love. Remember why it is you love them. I’ll wager it had nothing to do with their politics, religious beliefs, or gender. (If you can’t remember why it was you loved them, then just respect them as the beautiful, unique, living creatures they are.) Look into their eyes and…
   LISTEN. Put away your need to be right or your desires to change their beliefs. Or, to teach them what you know to be true. Ask them why they feel the way they do. (You must be prepared to answer why you feel the way you do when they ask you. Remember “feelings” don’t have much to do with facts, the news, or sometimes even the truth.) Hear what they are saying and feeling.
   MOVE ON. Here is where you tell your child to cross the street. Here is where you let your differences go and start a dialogue about the opinions and beliefs that you have in common…there are some, you might have to dig deeper to find them. (If you were really listening, you might have heard one or two things you actually agreed with.) But this is like any treasure hunt; the deeper you dig, the more precious the treasure.
   A great way to practice the exercise above is to visit Florence. STOP and park because we still have free parking near your favorite places. Have lunch at one of the great restaurants or cafes. LOOK BOTH WAYS at the lovely holiday decorations. LISTEN to your friends and relatives tell you stories about the time when they had items just like the antiques in our fabulous shops. CROSS THE STREET because there are shops, galleries, and eateries up and down both sides of the street.

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