This is one of the loudest seasons of the year.  Besides the bellowing of advertising, the adnauseum caroling and the inner voice adding this/that/the other thing to an escalating to do list there’s all the events and the cards and the phone calls and the emails.  Amongst all that doing and communicating it’s no wonder that we assume people will do the things they’ve always done all season, will be the same person we’ve always known, will wear the same mask, like the same things…..We need something to be stable and manageable and not part of the chaos, right?

So we assume and don’t check and things tumble into a slow car wreck of drama, tragedy, comedy or a mixture of all of them.  The way to prevent this is to turn things upside down.  The order I listed them is not the priority order they should be in.  Make the people you care about most the first thing and then move down the list from there.  Not just make them top of your list, make them a priority above the list.  Make them the reason for the season, not as an item to be checked off, but as the foundation of what you are celebrating.  If you do that then the first thing to do is to talk with them.  Not at them, not to them, but with them.  Find out what they want, who they are this season, what they need, and weave that into your plans.  You might find that the plans change radically.  Asking someone what they actually want can take a traditional meal with family gathered around the tree and change it into a day on the train through wine country ending in a restaurant and waking up to presents around the foot of the hotel bed.

Starting with the center, listening instead of assuming, being willing to actually hear what is being said and then act on those things, that makes the magic of the season.  Traditions should form around us, not define us and the worst tradition of all is being a slave to the “to do’s”.  So to don’t this season and check in.