What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com

What Need Have I?

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The holidays are the most stressful time of year for most people. Balance is lost, and the pressure can squeeze every last drop of joy from life. By taking a step back and giving thanks for the small things in life, we can regain our balance, equalize the pressures, and once again enjoy our holidays.

Have you ever had a French horn day?

You know – the kind of day where left is right and right is wrong. The kind of day where no matter what you do, you end up 5 steps behind where you started with your hair messed up and a missing shoe. The kind of day that makes you want to turn your face to the sky and shout “WHY?!”

Or maybe it’s not a day.

Maybe it’s a week. Or a month.

Or a season. Maybe a holiday season?

Ahhh, that’s it, isn’t it?

What is it about the holidays that can bring out the absolute best in some and the miserable, scowling worst in others?

I suppose everyone has their own toxic brew of reasons for ratcheting up the stress meter from mid-November to January 1st.

Money would be near the top of most people’s list. Or the frustrating lack, as the case most often is.

How about family? Some get along. Some don’t. And some used to get along in the days before politics ran roughshod over manners, decorum and tact.

What about keeping up with the Joneses? It’s even harder in this digital age, isn’t it? Because it’s not just the Joneses anymore, is it? Nope. It’s every damn picture you stare at on your screen during the holiday season. It’s every perfect life lived in a perfect house eating perfect food at perfectly styled tables.

Except it isn’t yours, is it? Your house doesn’t look like that. Your table has never looked like that. And even though you followed the recipe to the letter, the “no-fail” pie you just baked actually slithered across the counter and hurled itself to the floor in what may be the first apple pie suicide on record.

And why do we do it? Why do we go to such hair-pulling extremes? Thanksgiving is coming up next week. Isn’t Thanksgiving supposed to be a time of thanks? Well, how the hell are you supposed to be thankful when you’re stuck in a kitchen for two days and then confronted with mini Matterhorn of dishes in the sink when it’s all over? Was it all worth it? Does your distended stomach know what it ate, or would it be feeling just the same with a take-out pizza?

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
Chopping lump charcoal to make a cooking fire in Saigon.

Handan and I feel the same pressures here. Maybe more so, I don’t know. We find ourselves comparing our life to all the other bloggers out there. Comparing our house (They live in perfect colonials. We live in something odd-shaped that defies categorization). Comparing our decor (They look like they just wrapped up a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot. We have floors covered in dog hair, counters buried under tools, and walls speckled white with spackling and the promise of new paint soon. Soon.) Comparing our holiday spreads (Their tablescapes are like something out of Masterpiece Theater. My tablescapes look like something from a puppet theater.)

And we keep a hawkish eye on the budget, too. It’s the time of year that breaking budgets comes even easier (and this coming from a guy notorious for not keeping a budget).

At least we don’t have to worry about family. Yes, like most, we are now split by politics, but save for a few heated exchanges in recent years, it hasn’t come between our love and respect for one another.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
Life on the tiniest budget: a desert flower in Afghanistan.

All this holiday stress really got me thinking this year. I kept thinking that it doesn’t have to be like this. The holidays don’t have to be stressful. Jeezum Crow, they shouldn’t be stressful! This is supposed to be the happiest time of year, and yet this is the time when we see an uptick in suicides! Something’s broken. Something is terribly wrong.

I looked back at the places we’ve been, and it struck me how so many with so little could be so happy. Old Doha in Qatar, Afghanistan, Vietnam, India – these were countries with parts of the population living in crushing poverty, yet overall, their happiness seemed greater and more genuine than what I see in America.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
Food vendor in Saigon

How could that be? What do they know that we don’t?

The fact is, I don’t know. Perhaps they were raised to see joy in the face of adversity. Or maybe their faith pulls them through. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu. The devout can find comfort where none should be, as they put their fate in the hands of something greater.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
Sugar cane juice vendor in Gurgaon, India

I’ve never been a religious man, but I am awed by the power of their faith. And who am I to say their beliefs are wrong? For all of our knowledge, we know so very little and understand even less about our vast and mysterious universe.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
Family in Gurgaon, India

It calls to mind one of my favorite quotations, attributed to a Tamil (Indian) poet named Auvaiyar sometime around the first or second century. There isn’t a lot of information on her out there, but the quotation reads like this:

What need have I of this?

What need have I of that?

I am standing at the feet of my Lord.

All is Bliss.

All is Bliss.

Alternatively, it is written:

What need have I of this?

What need have I of that?

I am dancing at the feet of my Lord.

All is Bliss.

All is Bliss.

I like the second version better. It calls to mind a beautiful image of perfect joy through perfect faith.

I’ve made a simple printable for you with that quotation. It’s meant to be printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. No need for big fancy prints from Staples or Amazon. Just something small you can print out, frame and put on your desk as a reminder that joy and happiness can be found no matter what your circumstances if you are willing to look beyond this world and into somewhere deeper and more mysterious. You can find the full-sized image without the watermark in The VIP Patch.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com

Oh, and about Thanksgiving? This year, we’re skipping the turkey. We’re skipping the stuffing. We’re skipping the creamed corn, the green bean casserole and the ambrosia. Everyone hates ambrosia, didn’t you know that? They only pretend to like it while they’re at the table, but on the ride home, your in-laws hoot and holler about it. Just sayin’.

Yep. This year, Thanksgiving will be steak and mashed potatoes with Handan, Barish and my mom and dad. Hell, I may even bake an apple pie. I just won’t set it down near the edge of the counter.

What Need Have I | Holiday Stress | Happiness | TheNavagePatch.com
The first two pies I ever made: apple and pumpkin, Thanksgiving 2014.

Handan and I wish you all the happiest and most stress-free Thanksgiving. Please take the time to look after yourself. Stress steals years from your life, and it’s a real bummer for the whole family. Rise above. Look beyond. And may all the gods smile upon you and your family.

Oh, and just so you don’t go away thinking French horns are bad because they look like a plumber’s temper tantrum, here’s the Jurassic Park theme arranged for French horns and percussion. Enjoy!

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  1. This is a thought provoking post! With technology, Bloggers lives can be presented to look perfect when they’re not. My theory about the people in those other countries being happier than us is that crushing poverty has NOTHING on the crushing stress of a fast paced life where everyone feels they must keep up with the Joneses. With us, there’s always something better over the rainbow. Those people don’t have to put up with being ‘on-call’ 24/7 with cell phones and all our ‘wonderful technology’; they live their lives in relative peace from the constant barrage of being ‘connected’ and having everything available at their fingertips.

    I fear for the next generation. I hear about so many kids these days being riddled with panic attacks and being put on drugs to manage their ‘symptoms’. As a society, we’re literally driving our kids crazy as they feel the pressure of trying to keep up with expectations put on them by schools, peers, parents and a society that wants things done yesterday.

    I think you have the right idea about skipping the turkey. It’s not what you eat, it’s who you share it with. Take the time you would have spent decorating and preparing all that stuff and spend it with the ones you love. It doesn’t get better than that: happiness is simple pleasures.

    1. Thank you, Sara! I have the same fears for my son’s generation. Too much has changed in too short a time, and I struggle to find the good in any of it. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. Thanks so much for this well written and thoughtful post. We’re Canadian, so we already enjoyed out Thanksgiving. For my family, Thanksgiving falls at the same time as my brother-in-law’s birthday and this year he turned 60. So…my Friday night was dinner (2 homemade soups: creme of broccoli and Italian sausage& tortellini for the lactose intolerant), 3 kinds of bread (bought!) and 2 salads, then Saturday was the birthday party feast – roast beef, mashed potatos, etc. We had our family of 5, plus 2 sister-in-law, 2 brother-in-law and my mother-in-law & father-in-law for all the meals, so needless to say, I declined making a Thanksgiving dinner! lol My sisters-in-law took it on though and we had a lovely time. I managed to keep the stress down by focusing on the fact that we’re all together…most of that family live in Edmonton, Alberta, while we live in Ontario. (did I mention that we only have 2 chairs in the house, one upholstered and one a rocking chair? We just moved here 2 months ago and are waiting on living room furniture for the living room until the old house sells…we’re waiting….At leat I had enough dining room chairs! lol
    The key to happiness is doing good for others and being grateful for what we have. It is hard! But, it works. πŸ™‚ Happy thanksgiving to your family! Bon appetit!

    1. Good lord, Claudine – I got tired just reading about that meal, LOL! I’m glad you took Thanksgiving off, though. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, too!

  3. This is a beautiful post. It bothers me to see the holiday that celebrates being thankful of our blessings, pushed aside for the holiday of give me, give me, give me. We strive to present the picture of perfection so others can see and be in awe. True happiness and contentment comes from within. When your peace of mind is built on possessions, you will never have enough. Instead of being happy when a family member or friend or neighbor is blessed in some way, we become envious and discontented. A few years ago when I was going thru a bad time, I found by thanking God for what I had, I found I had a lot to be thankful for. May the Spirit of the holiday, the spirit of thankfulness , be with you and your family all year through.

    1. Thank you so much, Annetta! I agree with you 100%. Handan agrees, too! A few years ago, she made a printable for our house (which she has since shared in The VIP Patch) which reads “Give thanks in all things, for gratitude is the key to contentment.” Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  4. wow greg this post made me get all googly and gushy, if you were here i would hug you and squeeze you… you positively feel exactly as i do, i am scared for my grandsons, who at age 4 and 5 already play video games and each own a tablet and i have to bite my tongue over and over because i have to let my kid and her hubs raise their children as they see fit, i am not against technology or i would not have met wonderful people like you and handan, and i sit my butt in front of this pc day after day for lack of real life friendships, we will be spending thanksgiving at my kids brother in laws and all i have to do is eat and try to keep my mouth shut about the current condition of the world, i wish for y’all to have the most wonderful thanksgiving, love chris xx

    1. Awww, thank you, Chris! Handan and I are so happy to be counted among your friends, even if we are digital ones for now, LOL! I hope you all have a joyful and relaxing holiday!

  5. Loved your post. I have a friend that’s family has pizza in the shape of a turkey and they eat it in their pj’s. Our family makes up a menu and everyone is assigned to bring some thing simple. No stress. Everyone cleans up the mess. And all the grandkids go crazy having fun. Nothing is better than hearing them laugh together. Having a grateful heart gives you a joyful life. God Bless. Marsha

    1. I love your friend’s tradition and yours! Maybe next year we’ll start trying out new traditions like those. Thanks so much for writing, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Marsha!

  6. I luv the French Horn (played in High School!) and even “decorate” with replicas. THANKSgiving is what you make it!! Happy thoughts!! franki

    1. Oh, that is awesome, Franki! It always seemed like one of the most difficult brass instruments because of its tiny mouthpiece. I love it, though. It’s my favorite in the brass section. I like the oboe best in the woodwinds and the viola in the strings. πŸ™‚

  7. This quote is from auntpeaches.com/2014/06/counting-my-blessings.html :
    It is not the happy people who are thankful. It it the thankful people who are happy.
    I really enjoyed your thot-provoking post. When I practice an attitude of gratitude, all the speed bumps in my life remain molehills, not mountains and I can remain calm. ” Crisis” in Chinese is a combination of the forms for “danger” and “opportunity.” Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. That is so true, Kathy – very well said! I didn’t know the Chinese translation – thank you for sharing! Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the time with your family!

  8. Thanks Greg for the post, I think like you do on all this, and am so glad I am not the only crazy in the world.
    The french horn well, its sound is like no other despite it looking like a plumbers temper tantrum.
    Have a wonderful thanksgiving (we do not have it here).

  9. You nailed it, Greg, and beautifully! Thank you. It is refreshing to hear from someone who respects the faith of others, rather than mocks it. This wonderful poem is going to help me make some changes and it comes at just the right time. Thank you, and big hugs to you and Handan, and Barish if he’ll have one. <3!

    1. Thank you, Derry! You know, it’s been a long journey to get where I am today. I grew up with religion but rejected it my senior year of high school. I spent years thinking the faithful were nuts. But time and travel and circumstances have slowly opened eyes I thought to be already open. I generally cringe when I think of the young man I was. Yeesh, what a pompous jerk, lol!

  10. Greg, I totally understand where you are coming from. I worked hard to put myself through university to get a good paying job but unfortunately genetics had another idea and due to severe scoliosis and other issues I am unable to work. While my income is meager I know it is much more than many in the world and yet I too, found myself comparing my home and lifestyle to others on social media until I decided to no longer follow those people. It was the best decision I ever made! While I know these people appeared to have these perfect lives I knew better and yet I still felt inferior. By not being bombarded on a daily basis with their “perfect lives” I have come to appreciate all that I have in my life, a beautiful, smart, loving daughter and partner who loves me greatly and whom I adore. While I may not have designer clothes and expensive jewelry I have so much more! You and Handon have a house most of us would love to own and your style and skill to create it are enviable. Having been divorced, trust me when I say the love of a good partner is invaluable! Also, how many blogs are nominated for an award? Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I am thankful for all of The Navage Patch’s posts! Keep writing and creating!

    1. Thank you for writing this, Giselle. I know that terrible feeling of always comparing yourself to others and always feeling like you’re coming up short. That was my life in San Francisco. I’ve tried to stop it living here in CT. I know we have things that others may not, and I know there are others with much more than us. I try to be thankful for the former, and I try not to think or care about the latter. Nice clothes? Jewelry? Fancy stuff? We traded all of that for our current life – a life of work and creation. I don’t miss the fancy stuff, and I can’t believe I once cared about it! I hope you and your family have a fantastic holiday season!

  11. Wow Greg. Just Wow. No words.
    All I can say is I am privileged to know You and Handan. Although digitally, it is still an Honor.
    We hope you have a fantastic Thanks Giving.

      1. I second what Shaun said. You’re both amazing people and when you make that trek over here, not only will we welcome you with open arms and paint stained has but our fur babies will probably lick you to bits and leave some hair for you to take back home with you

  12. I am still laughing. Puppet Theater! My very first DIY project with wood was a tv ‘armoire’ that my friends called a puppet theater. When we finally dismantled it, we did a show with sock puppets. no children present. Thanks for the walk down memory lane and the reminder that its the who, not the what we are thankful for.

    1. LOL, thanks Amy! I’m doing an armoire repurpose right now, and it’s at the puppet theater stage, where all the guts are ripped out, leaving a large, ornate frame. I think I have some old socks lying around somewhere…I could put them to good use! πŸ™‚

  13. What a thought provoking post, thanks for taking the time to write it. Enjoyed the comments too. I sit at my dining room table, which is covered in papers, groceries and a couple of plants that do not look so good. In three days, there will be a lot of people gathered around this same table – loads of work to do to clear the spaces they will occupy and I’m feeling a bit snarly, so I appreciate the reminders that from gratitude comes contentment.

    May you have a peaceful weekend!

  14. I printed your dancing girl dancing for our Lord on Glossy Photo paper, and it is SO SO SO BEAUTIFUL! I bought 6 frames at the Dollar Store, 3 are gold and 3 are black, they are 8 by 10’s and cost a buck apiece and the print I just printed up and put in a frame looks like it was done by a professional, not just a mere lady who is better with drills and saws than printers LOL. Thank you so very much for the print. I am looking for many more!

  15. Would it be possible for you to include the 8″ x 10″ size in your prints? I like to group any where from 3 to 5 of that size on walls.. I’m out of glossy photo paper, so I need to run to Walmart. Can’t wait to get at least 3 printables up! Thank you again! .

      1. You forgot I said I was ” just a mere lady who is better with drills and saws than printers” LOL
        It took me almost 2 hours to print the dancing girl… I tried the 8 x 10 size in Paint, and it came out more like a 6 x 6, I tried every available choice in Paint, and then in my Photo app. By the fourth print, I had it down to where it would fit in the frame with no white border LOL Maybe I’ll have some good luck (aha ha ha ha ha) and will be able to scale the 16 x 30 sizes down. Will let you know! Thank you again, and I’m so glad I found your site. I’m sending my son and daughter in law to you as they are moving into their first ever home of their own this weekend… and it’s a fixer upper, but it comes with 1.2 acres of land. Finally no more renting for them, and their kids will be going to the number 1 rated school in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. I can’t remember the suburb they are moving to.. Eden Prairie??? My son said they live in one suburb and if you go across the street from his house, you are in Chanhassen, a different suburb. I’m so happy for them all.