A blog post about celebration? Especially during this time of uncertainty, unrest, and fear? How is it even possible to consider the concept? It seems frivolous, selfish, and unthoughtful. What am I doing writing about celebration when there is so much else to focus on? Serious, life changing topics that must certainly be more spiritual, heavy, and worthy of my full attention.

My mind is filled with contradictory thoughts. Even as the anxiety and fear levels rise in the world, there is a still, small voice in my soul asking to be heard. I hear my inner wisdom whispering about the importance of making space for celebration in the midst of loss, sorrow and death.

What is celebrating?

If it is only about the large group gatherings for weddings, graduations, and birthday parties, then celebrating is not an option right now. One of the losses of this time with COVID-19 and physical distancing, is the inability to host large groups. What are some other ways we can celebrate?

This is what comes to my mind as I think about celebrating. It means slowing down and taking notice. It is being aware of each moment and experiencing it fully. For me, it is linked to gratitude. It may be as simple and profound as seeing the first clematis blossom in the early spring with its rich purple petals and intricate golden centre. When I walk along the trails on my early morning walk, I feel gratitude for my strong body and the beauty around me. My energy is increased as I focus on the gifts in my life. This is one way I celebrate.

I also celebrate when I complete a project and pause to acknowledge what I have accomplished. So often I rush on to the next goal, without taking the time to give myself credit for a job well done. The very act of slowing down and taking a break is a way of celebrating. I enjoy telling a friend about my latest podcast interview or sharing the excitement of a blog post being published.  As I stop and notice my efforts, my energy is renewed, and I have access to increased creativity and ease for the next task.

Why celebrate?

When I share good news, I encourage others. The very act of sharing uplifts me as well. I have an  attitude of joy and gratitude as I focus on what is going well, rather than all the problems in my life. This does not mean that the challenges go away. However, I shift to a view of what is possible, rather than being stuck in the mire of discouragement.

I am reminded that celebration is one aspect of my healing journey. When I consider the paths I have travelled, I see times when I have faced my fear, when I have overcome obstacles that at first seemed insurmountable, and when I have come to accept disappointment with grace and gratitude. Celebrating is not just about marking the joyful moments in my life. It includes acknowledgment of the growth that happens in the midst of sorrow, loneliness and suffering.

What might keep me from celebrating?

I feel vulnerable when I let others know about my successes. I wonder if I am being boastful or bragging when I celebrate with them. What if they don’t share my excitement? Over the years as I have  practiced the art of celebrating, I have learned that I must see myself as worthy of being celebrated and let go of others’ approval or permission to celebrate. Their reaction to my celebrating has nothing to do with me, and I let go of how they might react.

Does my celebrating diminish others? I used to worry that if I shared my success, I would cause others to be jealous, or discouraged. Maybe I should just keep quiet. I no longer think this way. There is an  inviting and expansive energy that happens as I celebrate. My willingness to celebrate fully lifts up and inspires those around me. There is no limit to the joy that is available to all of us in life. I want my celebrating to become a communal dance of grateful love for what is possible.

What about all the suffering around me? Is it okay to celebrate in the midst of the pain and sadness that I see? Yes, I believe that it is! As I share my gratitude and joy, I encourage others to see the gifts in their lives. Holding back on my joy does not add comfort or happiness to anyone else. Life contains the tension of experiencing ‘both/and’ emotions. Empathy for suffering and also the joy of celebrating is what my life consists of.

What will support me to continue celebrating?

Celebrations can be large or small. They can be private or shared with others. They can happen in a quiet moment or a more public way. How will I know when to celebrate?

As I reflect on celebration, I wonder about the relationship between celebrating and receiving. Often it is when others acknowledge me, that I am led to celebrate together with them. This means that I must receive before I can celebrate.

Receiving has not always been easy for me. For years I saw myself as a helper, someone whose identity was about serving others and caring for them. I was usually focused on what others needed, without considering my needs. I was a pleaser and I unconsciously pushed away my own desires.

When I enrolled in a life coaching program, I started hearing about the importance of receiving. It was as if I was being asked to learn a foreign language. I struggled to translate from my original language of  pleasing, which so often said no to me, to a language of vulnerability where I was encouraged to say what I wanted and receive it. This meant that I needed to be willing to admit that I was not able to ‘do it all’ on my own. To come to this point in my life is cause for celebration. I am so grateful that I no longer strive to live life independent of the support of my loving community.

Receiving occurs when I first admit my gifts to myself. Only then am I truly able to receive from others and celebrate. I am also reminded that I do not need the approval of anyone else in order to celebrate my milestones and gifts. The practice of receiving is linked to my choice to say yes to life. I say yes to taking time to celebrate. For me, this is an essential step to my future creativity. I quietly recognize the steps along the way, often steps that could not have been imagined at the beginning.

I am reassured that my focus on celebrating is not a frivolous act. It will replenish my energy and renew my soul with love and compassion for the suffering I see in the world. As I rest and play and give thanks, I will have an overflow of life-giving energy to share.

I write about these ideas in my book, ‘Saying Yes to Life: Embracing the Magic and Messiness of the Journey’. I am continually challenged in my life journey to keep saying yes. I invite you to travel with me by getting a copy of my book. Together we can celebrate and say yes to life!