Beyond the Gifts, Food, and Festive Cheer – Using Christmas as an Anchor

For years, half of Christmas day was celebrated at my Nonna and Nonno’s with my aunty, uncle and cousins over a huge Italian feast. Forget the prawns! It was all slow cooked veal, rich napoletana sauces, homemade gnocchi and penne (until my mother introduced Nonna to the freezer – doh!), salads and fruit pastries, rockmelon sorbets and vienetta ice cream. What is it with Italians and vienetta ice cream???!

Like all Nonna’s, mine would never sit down because she was too busy force feeding everyone seconds and thirds. After filling up to full capacity with food and laughter, we’d roll out onto the balcony of their red brick two storey house, proudly designed to remind the whole of Regents Park what 70’s Calabrese architecture looks like. We’d reminisce over the years before as we took in the view of Nonno’s monstrous veggie garden and wine sheds. If I was lucky, Nonno would sneak me a glass of his homemade brew, which could probably fuel a 747.

Celebration for most of my life was about presents, hanging with relo’s, tonnes of food and later on in life, a shit load of alcohol. Due to the religious messages lost in translation, my family weren’t practicing Catholics and the origins of Christmas and Easter were therefore glazed over.

But as of the last couple years, the act of celebration has taken on a new meaning for me. Spending time lost in the dark showed me how accountable we are for our own emotions. It showed me how courage, confidence, humour, gratitude, presence, whatever it is that makes for a happy and fulfilling life, need to be cultivated. If you are like me, you were extremely lucky enough to come from a family that instilled those qualities in you. But if they’re not purposely preserved, life’s challenges will surely eat them up – I thought those traits were invincibly “me”. Damn I was wrong.

Neuroplasticity says that “nerve cells that fire together, wire together”. Buried by anxiety, this quote gave me light. It said to me, “You can cultivate any quality you want, all it takes is practice”. This also meant that I wasn’t stuck living with the irrational emergency brake on forever. However, if Neuroplasticity states that we can lay new pathways based on how we habitually walk through our day, this also means it can work against us if we aren’t self aware.

It’s so easy to be focused on our goals and smashing through the weeks worth of “to-dos”. I’d spent enough time focusing on the future, over-achieving, “nexting”, anticipating, reacting and worrying, that those traits became a part of my personality. They became reflex thoughts and emotions. I had laid new pathways without even realising, solely because I wasn’t aware of my daily actions nor did I take the time to look at the big picture. It was a lack of education really.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when fear took over (since it’s an anticipatory state of mind), and relaxed, carefree, present socialising became strangely difficult. Every moment felt like the hour before stage time – it was totally the opposite of the person I’ve been my whole life.

Times of celebration for me are now like little anchor points. They’re opportunities to strengthen the qualities that I want in the forefront of daily life. Hell yeah, I’m still a proud giver and receiver of materialistic goods, and it’s definitely a time to get shit faced on food and booze, but given my intentions of late, I seem to be getting more shit faced on the smaller things. The conversations with the people I love dearly and really soaking up and appreciating feelings of belonging. Now, the food explodes in my mouth when I’m not focused on tomorrow, when I’m pushing aside aspirations, plans, goals and living the day thinking, “I’ve got all I need right here. I have enough at this moment. I don’t need to do anything else.” Times of celebration are opportunities to give yourself and those around you big pats on the back. And for me personally, a useful one is embracing a powerful mantra ”Ehhhh fuck it. I’ll deal with it another day!”

At first it was difficult, the mind always shoots for whatever is the most stimulating. It’s defence mechanism is boredom. A wise friend once quoted- “Enlightenment is actually quite boring as there is an absence of drama”. And this is what rendered me insensitive to the simple things. The secret is in riding out the boredom. Boredom is a natural state when transitioning from “nexting” mode. But like anything under the light of curious acceptance, it dissolves. What’s left is magical

Massive Christmas and New Year hugs! Guys, I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this creation. It’s been a fantastic addition to my week. You are all another anchor point where I get to listen, absorb, learn and re-fuel. I struggled running social media for my previous band Nat Col & the Kings because of the content limitations that come with being a collaboration. But here, I get to just be me, as I am.

I hope you guys are having a great festive season. Love yas!

Joe Dispenza – Neuroplasticity

My old band Nat Col & the Kings

For those who are new to the site, hit up my introduction post and the about tab to understand what inspired this website as well as what’s to come. 


  1. Roddy26/12/2016

    I enjoy reading your weekly post every Monday.

    I hope that one day they will come together in the form of a book for all the fans to read and learn or at least have an inside of what is like being Nathan Cavaleri the Blues/Rock guitar slinger from Downunder.

    All the best.

    1. Nathan Cavaleri27/12/2016

      Hey Roddy…. I’m flattered. Hope you had a great christmas!

  2. Glenn26/12/2016

    I can really relate to being “insensitive to the little things” mate.
    This Christmas has been a real struggle to be “up” but for my son’s sake I have tried my best.
    Such wise words Nathan!
    All the best to you and your family this festive season.

    1. Nathan Cavaleri27/12/2016

      Yeah I hear ya! Being “up”… That’s actually a future blog post haha…. That was a big challenge for me – That to be anything below “up” was branded sub-par. When all along, it was more about being at peace and enjoying the moment. Not in a pumped and excited way unless it came naturally. Hard to explain.
      Right back at ya mate! Glad it resonated.

  3. Malcolm Gully26/12/2016

    I too enjoyed a couple of Italian xmas’s ahh to be ladled home made wine to my heart’s content from 14 yrs old “you sensible boy I was working your age, come-a here maybe about 15 just one suitcase a no English” …” Tell me what is it with this bloody tea All the time? Eh?” My dad’s mate would call my dad Enrico (dad was called harry and as he was bald and Giatano (guy) pronounced it more like ” hairy” so he was dubbed Enrico. My name was too wierd shortened Mal was evil or something so I got a nearly Oxford English Mahlcolm. Dad got roped into pig business the full works right up to sausage making and wine of course. They enjoyed classic Italian moosica, fiat cars and learning all the correct folklaw of Australia finally properly from a non racist culturally aware Aussie . Enrico was something special and way ahead of his time. He met Guy a fellow shift worker at the nylon factory after he was humiliated by some so called friends at an RSL on Anzac day. Guys son Mark (Marko) calls often and talks of my dad with great affection. Like my dad and Giatano , Marko and Mal solve the world’s problems but unfortunately over molto Kilometers and using a phone ,not across a table with good wine but the wines here and many friends in arms reach too ? now this social media! Grazi . Years later Marko strikes up the conversation of his difficulties with autism spectrum and hassles and misunderstandings at home though successful the blend of spectrum issues subtle racism and just plain crazy Australian lifestyle expectations take their toll. We swap stories very similar I’m late autism diagnosed, successful yet nearly driven mad by banging my square peg head into only the round holes our crazy society seemed to offer. I get hypnotised for stage fright and memory retention, that kind of works because I don’t get the massive blanks and music , for me landmarks my progress but I neither need the money by it or fame just the learning and collaboration. Julie did hypnotism for pain for MS and it helped get her off long term pain killers and got her up and going. So neuroplasticity I’m right into however it’s achieved . Funny though as we’re talking, as a young kid my mind went at a million miles an hour but only in the safest mostquiet environment would I open up and one laugh one smile or snigger, id lock up or cry. So the thought of public guitar performances forget it. Yet now though way behind for my age on skills I so look forward to continuing at Tafe nextyear and from how I journeyed from around your now present age, constantly justifying to my army superiors that my family came first, not promotion courses, leave was for school visits not trips to Bali. I was asked to put on line to say how I managed nappies and 4 kids all under 7 by my daughter who wants to show off her engaged dad. Well Nathan fasten your seatbelts because you have the skills kids and now this defining of experience and reflection in a supporting environment….Enrico would say ” let er go ole son!” Guy would laugh and nod “Si Si you bloody aussies”
    What’s the saying? Buon Natale? Thanks for sharing ….And love the stones new album, thoughts? Let’s have a virtual vino…Clink!?

    1. Nathan Cavaleri27/12/2016

      I think Italian Xmas amongst many other cultures of celebration are worth experiencing. It’s so different. But hearing you talk about wine and food…. mmmmmmm yum! I’m really excited for you mate. Pushing the envelope at Tafe! What’s the alternative huh? When we’re not pushing the envelope at some stage or another we’re not growing right? YOU go get’m! Clink!

  4. Andrew Tierney27/12/2016

    I always enjoy spending Christmas day with my family, as a child it means getting presents from Santa Claus, now it means spending the day with family, some of the best presents I got throughout the years includes your first two albums, which I got for Christmas in 2012, your vocals on 12 Page Blues is amazing.

    1. Nathan Cavaleri27/12/2016

      Hahaha!!! Wow what a gift haha! I’m the same as you… The magic has shifted but is still there if we want it to be!

  5. Andrew Tierney31/12/2016

    Happy New Year Nathan

    1. Nathan Cavaleri03/01/2017

      Right back at you mate!


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