One day recently at the start of a life coaching session, my client shared that since we last spoke her mother had been hospitalized and had surgery. And that she might need more. After expressing how sorry I was to hear this, I said what next came into my mind.

“In the future, please don’t hesitate to cancel a session when something like this happens.”

Her response surprised me and, more importantly, taught me something.

“There’s always going to be something. And these goals we’re working on are important to me. I can’t keep delaying them.”

Why, of course. Life keeps happening.

A reminder to the coach why she’s there in the first place. Talk about an a-ha moment.

The same day, another client who has been steadily and impressively creating a new career path in her 50s, told me that she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps at this age. She felt they just gave up and she had other ideas about her own life. Full speed ahead for her and I am gratified to partake in the mission.

Both inspiring, but even more so than I could have imagined. They’ve brought me to a place where I realize that a lot of people around me are struggling with a mindset of “just getting through” the holiday season. Emotions this time of year are like a pinball making its rounds – it hits “joyful” and goes ding-ding-ding then ricochets to “exhausted” and bounces to “sad” with a clang. When it finally rests on Jan. 2, it’s hard to say if we enjoyed the game or just a few of those dings and clangs.

I see clearly, via the messages of those clients, that in fact enjoying a few of the dings and clangs is what it’s about. Who’s going to be ‘on’ and giddy 100% of the time? Not even Santa, my friends. Those packages are heavy and how to gracefully deal with ingrates?

But I think of these clients’ messages now like this – Make time. There will always be something to distract us and it will range from life-threatening to silly. But keep on. Live now and don’t stop. Oh yes, and hear what people are saying.

This week I’m feeling that of everything that goes on this holiday season, it’s likely the things I profess I don’t have time for that are going to be the most memorable. For example, there is a man I see almost every day in a local café. He is homeless. He sits with headphones on and types away, sometimes humming or singing. I pegged him as a song writer or at least a writer of some kind and have been admiring his dedication from afar. Finally the other day I got up the nerve to talk to him about it.

I found out that he’s not a writer but lost his job in data entry. He’s typing to stay sharp. And let me tell you, this guy is in a zone when he hits those keys. I also learned his laptop no longer works (the screen is shattered), so he’s typing but nothing is coming of it except staying fresh on the movement and rhythm.

Now when I see him and make an effort to meet his eyes when I say hello, he meets mine and even smiles. This connection is my Christmas.

But you know, these exchanges have taken place when I’m on the run, either working or running holiday-related errands. I had to consciously slow down and just remind myself there’s more to this than getting people the right gifts.

I have yet to write my Christmas cards, yet I stopped what I was doing one day this week just to send one with a special note to someone I know who was profoundly impacted by Hurricane Sandy. It couldn’t wait. It was pressing on me.

The feeling after I deposited it in the mailbox? Again, the reason for my Christmas.

Yes, I will enjoy the heck out of making cookies with my mother this weekend. And taking her to lunch for her birthday. You know what’s special about that? Her birthday is Christmas Eve and every year we try to take her out and every year it frustrates her because her repeated “I have too much to do” falls on our deaf ears. This year, 50 years into my life, I heard her. So we’re taking her out a week early. And you know what? She was happy to pick the restaurant.

Duh.

Hear people. Hear them. They will like this more than that fancy wrapped gift you paid a fortune for.

Reach out. The rewards of that, I don’t even know how to fully express.

And always be open. Just because you’re the coach doesn’t mean you’re not going to learn a whole lot from the people who hire you.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.