Or is this the same Rachel I’ve always been and just peeling away the layers, smoothing the callouses from my heart that have made me so cynical and jaded?

It’s been 26 days since I got home from Peru. It’s been a process getting acclimated to an environment I was so comfortable with prior to October 25. I have more compassion and gratitude but I’m also so much more curious and confused. How can I walk amongst people with so much hate in their hearts? How do people automatically think the worst in others? What happened to the benefit of the doubt? Or asking for clarification of someone’s intentions? When did we stop talking to and loving each other and just decide we’ll assume the worst in others? I thought it was innocent until proven guilty. Trust until given a reason not to.

I understand old habits die hard but they do die! When someone is trying to quit smoking, people generally hold them accountable but also encourage them. When someone is trying to reveal a better version of themselves, where is the encouragement?

I’m currently in a state of feeling like it’s me against the world. I know I’ve got a support system in my soul siblings that I acquired during my healing ayahuasca retreat in Peru but what about my friends here? Or my family? I know that it’s not about changing their mind or convincing them but I feel like it’s either they understand and accept me and my process or they may need to go. Harsh, yes, but are they serving me and my soul, no. If it doesn’t serve you, send it on it’s way.

People behave a certain way because of their circumstances and the events they’ve gone through. When a boyfriend, parent, coworker is lashing out at you, that’s not them, that’s a product of what they’ve gone through. Were they rear-ended in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s? Did they have a bad day at work? Is it the anniversary of the loss of their mom? What would you do to help them through their situation? Would a hug help? And listening? So why don’t we start doing this ‘just because’ before they have the bad day? Why don’t we start living a life in love?

It was incredibly uplifting during my 10 days in Peru seeing coworkers everywhere from the airport to restaurants hug each other on arrival and on departure. The CSAs at the check in gate stopped helping passengers to hug their colleagues ‘goodbye’. The plane wasn’t going to leave without us. We didn’t need to be first in the boarding line just to sit on the plane and watch people struggle to find overhead storage space. So why were other people in line getting upset about these people taking 15 seconds to spread love to one another? Maybe those angry people need a hug…

Frankly, I need a hug. It’s the holiday season. Just as much as I love the smell of Evergreens and the sound of Frank Sinatra crooning Christmas songs on the radio, I dislike this time of year. It makes me sit with my feelings, which come January 2nd I’ll be glad I did, but those are feelings of loneliness and sadness. I see families picking out trees and their annual holiday photo. There’s an abundance of engagements on my social media feeds. I’m without my mom and without a partner to share the season of joy.

I had a small meltdown in Whole Foods this week when ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ came on. It was my least favorite Christmas song as a child and my mom would taunt me with it when I was misbehaving. ‘Yooooou better watch out. You better not cry. Better not pout, I’m telling you why.’ She’d kneel down to get on my level while singing it, poking and tickling me as I tried to wiggle away from her with a pout on my face. Now, I hear the song and think of our Christmas memories together. And I miss her, hard.

So I try to love more during this season than resist. It’s going to come regardless of how much I protest and being happier during the holidays will make it easier to create new traditions surrounding this normally lonely time of year for me. For example, today I sat with my friend’s two young sons and we wrote letters to Santa, he is a friend of mine after all. We agreed that three presents were plenty and if there is ANY misbehaving between now and Christmas Day, those presents will be regifted to other children that did behave. Let’s get real, those little boys will get what they asked for regardless of their behavior, which is ok. Especially since the youngest one asked for 25 cents. Auntie Rachel can swing that. And you know what, after that few minutes of coloring a decorated Christmas tree on a piece of paper, I felt better already.

We’ll be deciding our New Year’s resolutions in a few short weeks. People are going to try to manage their finances better. Get into better shape. Maybe even plan that trip they’ve always wanted to go on. And we’ll be encouraging to our family and friends! We’ll make plans to go for walks. We’ll cook at home more and go out less. Let’s treat every single day as New Year’s Day. You can wake up any morning of any month and decide you want to be a new person. You have that right to put your best foot forward any damn day of the week. Let’s be cheerleaders for ourselves and others. Let’s support people’s choice to be that better version of themselves. Let’s hug them when they’re having a bad day. Let’s hug them because we love to and fucking want to hug them! Everyday is an opportunity to make progress and it’s not always easy. Hugs help.

So, pat yourself on the back for smiling at that 4-way intersection when you wanted to yell, ‘IT’S YOUR TURN, DUMBASS!’ That’s called progress.