"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."

~Winston Churchill

What’s your go-to greeting this time of year? Do you say “Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or something entirely different? What’s your year-end tradition that you share with your friends and family and the world?

If there’s ever a time of year when it seems like the time-space continuum has shifted into overdrive, this must be it! No matter what your heritage is, or which culture or rituals you adhere to, there’s nothing like the December holiday season to make life feel like you’re trying to fit six pounds of oranges into a five pound bag. Just remember that everyone else is juggling just as fast, and that some of that cirrus of self-care is meant for you!

As much as anything else, it’s refreshing to appreciate the shift in routines and emphasis that surrounds us all. This is the time of year when stories of care and kindness are in the news, and the spirit of generosity fills the air. People drop off the map to be with family and friends, and rare windows open up to tend to things that are long neglected.

And even though it’s pretty much an overworked cliché, it really is more fun to give than receive. Maybe ‘fun’ isn’t the right word here, because who can deny the fun you have receiving a clever or thoughtful gift. But the set of feelings surrounding each side of the equation is different, that’s for sure.

Receiving gifts can be fraught with anxiety. Obviously, when you’re a little kid, and the goodies magically appear courtesy of the big jolly guy in the red outfit, it’s easy to just enjoy all the new stuff and have fun. As the years go by, and disbelief sets in, it’s still like winning the annual childhood lottery, even though the idea of that guy somehow going down every chimney in the world in the space of a few hours is no longer plausible.

As grown ups, when someone gives us a gift, it sometimes takes a bit of presence to receive it gracefully. There’s gifts that come from out of the blue, and did we reciprocate? There’s gag gifts that can be embarrassing and ask us to have thick skin and a sense of humor. The obviously re-gifted items that are beyond useless and are contributors to clutter. Regardless of the circumstance it’s a good time to model and practice gratitude and appreciation.

The act of giving, on the other hand, fosters an entirely different array of emotions. It’s somewhat akin to the feelings that arise when you accept an invitation. You’re probably familiar with what it feels like to be invited somewhere, but then let the sofa get the better of you and wake up the next day with a slight sense of dejection wondering what you missed. The flip side is that sense of elation you get when you rally and make the effort, even if you just make an appearance and bow out early, it’s usually worth it to make the connection.

If you’re like me, holiday shopping can be a deer-in-the-headlights kind of experience. It seems like in the modern world there’s two main ways of going about it. One is to brave the retail establishments and hunt down the things you are looking for. The upside of this approach is that there’s an element of serendipity, you never know what you might run across that is perfect for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list!

The other common modern method is the finger on the screen “Sant-azon” approach. If you’re sure about exactly what you’re searching for, they’ve sure made it easy to have it show up on your doorstep with just a few clicks if you’ve allowed for some lead time. There’s something to be said for avoiding the big-box stores, which can feel like they require hockey equipment and survival gear this time of year.

This year, for some of our main gifts, we took the third path, that of the maker. For my daughter, Teresa crocheted a large and lovely blanket that will provide years of warmth for reading and snuggling. For her son, I TIG welded and hand-punched a 20-sided steel dicefor his Dungeons and Dragons games. It’s always rewarding to see the reaction to gifts that couldn’t be bought in any store.

One thing you can do for yourself this season is to make a list of all of the things that you are grateful for. No matter how weighed down you might feel with the various factors in your life, enumerating your gratitude is a great way to lighten your load. And random acts of kindness are good for your soul as well, this time, and any time of year, so welcome your opportunities to make a difference, wherever they might occur!

I’m still riding a wave of gratitude from last weekend when I went south to contribute my special blend of musical magic to two different Sunday dances in one day. Spinning vinyl in the morning in Santa Barbara, (that’s me with Deanne, the altar-artist at Dance Tribe in the photo above), and then in the afternoon at the San Luis Obispo Ecstatic Dance made for a marathon DJ journey, and well worth the effort.

May your holiday be filled with all of the nourishing feelings you need, and feel a heartfelt hug of gratitude from me as we turn the corner and dance into the New Year!

Thank you and much love for the Holidays!

M+

Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine

Dance First Media Spotlight :: Funny Frank Olivier's

"Tricks to Happiness"!

This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight shines on Funny Frank Olivier and his one-of-a-kind performance extravaganzas! Frank is far more than just a juggler. He’s no ordinary slight-of-hand prestidigitator. And while his improv presence is hilarious, his stage schtick is well beyond any what you might call stand up comedy.

Simply put, to participate in one of Frank’s rare appearances is to be part of a meta-experience that is far more than the sum of the parts. Lots of folks here in the Northern California conscious dance world know him from his larger than life presence and contact improv antics on the dance floors, (he’s somewhat of a fixture at our Friday nightDance Jam in Berkeley), but few know that he is capable of riding a unicycle while playing an electric guitar, doing card tricks, and juggling machetes at the same time.

You’ve got a special chance coming soon to witness and participate in one of his rare events coming up at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley on Saturday night, January 5th. Frank says his new show “Tricks to Happiness” is “A personal and funny show utilizing all my skills: comedy, magic, juggling, unicycling, plus what has stuck with me from 45 years on a meditation cushion.”

Save the date and make your plans now for this inspiring and enlightening kid-friendly fringe-theatre event. If you’ve never seen Funny Frank in action, now is the time, start the New Year off with a dropped jaw and lot’s of belly laughs!

“Funny Frank” Olivier Presents: “Tricks to Happiness”
Saturday, January 5th, Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley, CA