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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

To Love and To Serve

by Jodi Ritsch, MD (Family physician, owner of The Joyful Doc Clinic, S.C. and Guiding Mindful Change Life Coach)

I am a recovering helper. As the oldest of five children, I learned at an early age that people need help and you get a lot of attention by helping others. However, after four decades of doing what I “had to” do all the time, I was exhausted! Deciding to give up being a martyr was not easy. But as I started to focus on what would bring me joy, serving others became a joyful experience.

Here are three questions to ask yourself as you make plans during the busy holiday time ahead:

1. What are the most important holiday traditions for my family? If you are used to running around like a crazy person to get all the perfect food and gifts, stop, take a deep breath, and consider what would happen if you just did the activities that brought you the most joy. Sure, there may be one less perfect holiday card arriving at your aunt’s house, or maybe the table will look a little less like a magazine photo, but the upside is more time in the present moment with special people in your life. like laughing and enjoying the fire together, a scene worthy of a magazine shoot.

2. What do I really want to do? You are not the sum of all you do on any given holiday. You are awesome! People love you, so don’t deny them access to an engaged you. You want to enjoy the holidays as much as the littlest kid in your life. They believe in the magic of the holidays. The magic is time truly with you, not watching you in a frenzy that leaves you too exhausted to play with the items newly unwrapped.

3. What gift of love can I give myself? Loving and nurturing yourself first will ripple out to everyone in your life. It is not selfish. An hour massage while your kids finish school can lead to the energy to make a gingerbread house or bring cookies to a neighbor. Why would you want to keep sugary carbs from the people you love? You better book that massage today!

Joy to the world…it starts with your joy.

One of my favorite passages is this from Rachel Naomi Remen’s book, My Grandfather’s Blessings:

All who serve, serve life… Service is not about fixing life, outwitting life, manipulating life, controlling life, or struggling to gain mastery over life.

Service is closer to generosity than it is to duty. It connects us to one another and to life itself. When we experience our connectedness, serving others becomes the natural and joyful thing to do. Over the long run, fixing and helping are draining, but service is renewing. When you serve, your work itself will sustain you, renew you, and bless you.

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