This is an especially tricky time of year for many people. The television, the advertisements, the radio, the carols, the sermons, the storybooks, they’re all telling us that life should be a certain way. They’re trying to illustrate and direct what your holiday should look like, your tree, your dinner table, your gift exchanges, your family gathering, and on and on. The truth is, life isn’t perfect and many people are hurting. More accurately, everyone is struggling with something; it’s just that some people are pretty good at hiding it. You don’t know what is really going on though, so don’t pass judgment on the other guy. Don’t make assumptions about what they are thinking, what they are needing or why they act/react the way they do. Don’t presume to know what is in the heart of another person. Yes, there are some people that will have the courage to speak up, to define their limitations, to ask for what they need, and if you are one of those people then you are among the strongest of us. In fact, if more people spoke up about their pain and problems then we all might be better off because we’d better realize that we’re not alone in our struggles, that we’re not in the minority, and that we don't have to measure up to someone elses ideal. This season, let’s practice empathy, compassion and a bit of understanding. Don’t presume you know what’s going on with your neighbor, friend or family member or what they need. This holiday season, try a little kindness and most importantly, give yourself a much needed break. That life that the greeting card companies and the media are trying to feed you…that’s not real. Your life? Now that’s the real deal and you are not lacking if your holiday doesn’t look like the one in the magazines.