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Phoenix Rising in Resilience (AZ)

We are an online collaborative dedicated to raising awareness about ACEs, trauma-informed practice, and resilience-building in the greater Phoenix area. Given the unique history of this city and region, Phoenix Rising will explore personal and historical sources of trauma.

Changing the Legacy of Holiday Trauma


We are resilient! We work. We are raising children. We are riding relationships. We are in search of healing. We are facilitating healing for others! These facts alone speak to our resilience as human and spiritual beings. Therefore, we have the ability to change how we live and how our children live moving forward. 

My mother's generation was the first generation of Black professionals that were highly educated and obtained jobs that were good enough to provide the financial security that was comparable to White Americans. They were so proud of their accomplishments and wanted very much to give their children the same material things that were common in White homes. With this in mind, Christmas at our house was crazy! We were a small family, so there weren't many relatives that enjoyed holidays together and my parents weren't big on socializing. The focus of Christmas was on presents. My sister and I had the great fortune of opening box after box after box on Christmas Day. The number of gifts was always equal and we probably averaged 20-30 presents under the tree a year. I cannot say that holiday time was particularly traumatic, but I realized very early in life that gifts could not cure depression. 

As I grew older and had my own family, I had a strong desire to do the holidays differently. It was a difficult decision. There was so much ego involved in the lavish Christmas's of my past and I felt that my identity was tied into that legacy. It was an idea in the back of my mind, but it took a long time for me to act on it. On my oldest son's first Christmas, he was 6 weeks old, and true to family form, he had so many presents under the tree that he fell asleep as we opened them. I felt stupid and cowardly. I knew that I needed to change the tradition, but I couldn't muster the strength and let go of my ego. The greedy Christmas's continued.

Years later, after my children had been well christened into our gift giving tradition, I was in Africa a month before Christmas. While I was there, I watched as village kids played soccer barefoot with a lemon. There were dozens of kids, running, laughing, playing and having a wonderful time. The joy on their faces was medicine to my soul. I saw freedom. In that moment I truly understood what it meant to be free. I wanted that for my children; I wanted them to be free. We didn't do Christmas that year. It was a difficult transition. I explained and tried to make them understand. I shifted the focus to intense giving. My kids were generous children, and they were happy to help others but honesty, they were sad and angry. Society teaches them to be consumers and receivers. Even adults ask each other, "what did you get for Christmas?" This question alone teaches us to assign self-worth based on gifts received. It is difficult to live on the periphery of that tradition. Even while living in India, in the Ashram, Christmas and its legacy of gifts haunted me in the form of celebrations for expats which included the Secret Santa tradition.

In the early years of my Christmas transformation, I completely excluded myself and my family, which was often lonely and provoked anxiety as the holiday season approached. As years have passed, I have become less rigid and make decisions about which traditions are in alignment with my spiritual and individual self and practice those things with my family. What I am happiest about is the fact that I am free. I have the ability to create the life that I want for me and my family. What happened in the past does not have to be relevant today. The more I practice a new way of being, the deeper the new way of being is imprinted in my soul. 

The holidays can be a very difficult time of year. It's tricky because society bills it as the happiest time of year and when our painful realities surface, we believe we are at fault, unlucky or tainted. We however, are resilient. Create the life you want. Be flexible and break the mold. This year, give yourself the gift of freedom.


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I agree with Mary! I love this line: "The joy on their faces was medicine to my soul."

I had a similar observation when visiting Egypt, where I had been warned was so poor and terrible. Within the first hour of my visit I saw more authentic joy in people than I had ever seen in the US, and it made me sad for us. We don't really know what joy is. Part of healing society-wide will be discovering these lost connections. 

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