Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos have already sped by, and we’re well into the holiday season. Ready or not. Buckle your seatbelts. The “big ones” are on the way and already dozens of ever-varying daily activities that demand your commitment are jockeying for position on your calendar. Double that if you have kids. Do you dream of cloning yourself and letting the clone take care of that overloaded calendar while you indulge in a toes-in-the-sand stroll on a sunny St. Martin’s beach in the Caribbean, a restful day at Ashville’s Grove Park Inn spa, or a sunset kayak paddle along the marsh at Palmetto Bluff?

     Well, unless you have the time, staff, and/or means for any of the above escapes, local your focus, get creative, and rock on through the holidays with a bit of quality “you” or “you and your family and friends” time, whichever you prefer. All is with the help of the ageless author Julia Cameron and her innate wisdom gifted to the world in The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. More about Julia later.

     A few days ago, I took a stroll downtown to Lulu Burgess for a few sympathy cards. Seems that many souls choose to leave the earth during the all-too-busy holiday season. At any rate, after perusing Lulu’s superb selection and choosing the perfect “my heart is with you” cards, I left with a full bag, as always. Because of the nature of those sentiments, however, my heart was heavy and the Sweet Bay store window nearby caught my eye.

     Oh, what the hey, I thought, I’ll just pop in for a few minutes of Christmas ogling and give my mind a rest.

     Those “few” became nearly a half hour, as the years slipped away and I was immersed in an 8-year-old’s wonder, wandering past beautifully decorated, themed trees; oohing and ahhing over a Tannenbaum laden with creatures of the sea, tumbling back in time via a purely old fashioned tree, and becoming mesmerized by lovely, lighted, glass spires sparkling with “golden snow” reminiscent of snow globes, but larger. A smile lit my face when for a few seconds, I morphed into a child looking through a snowy window in a Charles Dickens’ novel. (You had to be there!) My heart lifted and I left the store with a lighter step.

     Suddenly I thought, I’m on an artist’s date. This is one of Julia Cameron’s recommended tools for aligning my creative energy with that of the universe. And armed with a reason to be there, I stepped into the next shop, The Emporium, where I allowed myself to look at every single item that interested me in this fascinating, multi-vendor store’s “something for everyone” for yet another 30 minutes or so. That’s a definite cliché but in this case, true. Colorful scarves and shawls, vintage books and games, regional art, skinny-lady flower vases, exquisite soaps, and swanky doggie collars and leashes. By golly, they even have something for the pup.

     Don’t worry. We’re not going to visit Downtown Beaufort shop-by-shop, but only because I had limited time before work called me back to my laptop. Our downtown rocks!

     That said, a holiday gift to give yourself is a mind expanded to blast the following assumptions out of the water… or snow, should we be so lucky:

  • “There’s never enough time.” Actually, there is, for the important things.
  • “The holidays are always” They don’t have to be if you stay present.
  • “I hate those braggy, holiday letters.” Reach deep for your sense of humor, read it aloud in a foreign accent, and entertain your own, beyond-compare family.
  • “Our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners always become Family Feud, but it’s the nightmare version withoutSteve Harvey to moderate.” Throw tradition to the curb, serve pizza, and watch a funny movie. Dress down.

     Of course, the questions arise: How can you possibly determine what’s really important in your life, get remotely present, locate a sense of humor that deserted you on Halloween when your house got rolled, or summon up the audacity to change two traditional family holiday meals that have been dress-up-to-the-hilt occasions since your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower?

     Enter Julia Cameron, whose seminal book mentioned above about reclaiming your creative spirit was first published in 1992, changed who only knows how many lives for the better, and continues to do so today. As does she, spunky as ever at 75, offering video classes and participating live in workshops. Everyone, she affirms, is creative, not just artists, writers, musicians, and actors, but in how others live their lives. Changing holiday dinner traditions is certainly creative.

     According to Cameron, what she calls “creative recovery,” i.e. getting back in touch with your creative spirit and opening your mind to a broader perspective, requires two basic tools – morning pages and the artist date.

     Considered neither art nor writing, morning pages, which are to be created daily, preferably first thing upon rising, consist of three pages of longhand writing, purely stream-of-consciousness. Says Cameron, “There is no wrong way to do morning pages.”

     Are you panicked by the approaching holidays? Write about how that makes you feel. Is your inner critic blathering on and on about how you backed through your garage door when you were talking on the phone and forgot to raise the door? Whine about it on paper. Morning pages can be colorful, silly, or nonsensical, but negativity can seep in, as can self pity, fear, or confusion. Write about whatever you’re feeling. All that emotional angry, petty stuff hangs out in the subconscious and muddies our days. Put it on the page for no one ever to read. Not even you, at least for at least the first eight weeks of practice, if ever.

     Once you start your day with three pages of whatever comes to you, especially if it’s drivel, you’ll notice a lightness, perhaps a relaxing of your shoulders, an easing of your mind, a beginning to be more present as you go about your day and strengthen your connection to a source of inner wisdom.

     Tool number two, the artist date, is a block of time, maybe an hour or two weekly, set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner “artist” or your inner child. Consider it a play date or an excursion you take by yourself, with no hangers-on. I described an artist date above that I “happened into.” Take a walk on part of the Spanish Moss Trail you’ve yet to explore, treat yourself to a bonbon at the Chocolate Tree and meander through the Point, browse the 14 working artists’ studios at Atelier Off Bay, or walk on the low-tide beach at Hunting Island and see how many shore birds you can name.

     Treat yourself with love and you’ll have more to share with those around you. And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

     “Doing your morning pages,” Cameron writes, “you are sending – notifying yourself and the universe of your dreams, dissatisfactions, hopes. Doing your artist date, you are receiving – opening yourself to insight, inspiration, guidance.”

     Make these two commitments to yourself and watch your holiday season turn more joyful. Perhaps, like the Grinch, your heart might “grow three sizes.”