These holidays are a tough time for everyone. Doesn’t matter what your religion or creed, it can be a struggle. Sure, we love to spend time with friends and family. But it’s hard not to get caught up in all the other stuff.
We may say that we’re ‘not commercial’ or ‘don’t have expectations’ about the holiday season, but if we’ve been raised in this society we’ve been inculcated with Norman Rockwell’s perfect Christmas. We don’t have to consciously buy into it, but subconsciously it is the standard against which we judge ourselves. Don’t have a turkey? don’t have the perfect gifts? don’t have the perfect family? you suck. At least that’s what we think in the back of our minds. And advertisers are really good at playing up against those subconscious feelings.
The reality is that no family is perfect, no gift is perfect, no amount of money or cooking time is going to make everyone behave and get along. Doubly so because we’re all stressed about getting along and that makes us even crankier.
So what can we do? Here’s what I’m trying.
1. relax. there’s nothing you can do about it at this time, so you might as well go with the flow. In a very Zen fashion, if we let go of our expectations of others and events, we might actually enjoy them. Sometimes hanging on to expectations only sets us up to be disappointed, so if we go in with no expectations we have a better chance of having a good time.
2. avoid if possible. Some people and situations are just toxic. If you can, skip them. If you can’t skip them, minimize them. If you can’t minimize, be as good as you can to yourself while you’re there. Go for a walk to get away. Spend time with the pet — they usually don’t talk back. Do something that can mentally take you away from the situation. I’m an avid knitter, so I always have knitting with me. People expect me to have yarn in my hands, which I can use in stressful situations in my favor. If I expect it’s going to be a tough time, I’ll take knitting with me that involves cables. For those of you that don’t knit, cabling involves having an extra needle on hand that you use sporadically to create the cables. When I’m not actually using it, I hold it in between my teeth. It’s kept me out of several arguments — although I have to be careful sometimes not to bite through the needle!
3. don’t expect perfection from yourself. I’m a big girl. I could stress myself out more by telling myself that I can’t eat this or that. It’s not worth it during this season. There’s food EVERYWHERE. So I pick and choose what I eat, but don’t deny myself except where I know it will hurt me. I’m gluten intolerant, so I absolutely avoid wheat. I’m diabetic, so I should avoid sugar — but it’s not worth the extra stress right now, so I just be careful and choosy about how I’m taking in my sugar. And food triggers abound for everyone right now, because so many of us have equated food with love. The messages we get (either spoken or unspoken) from family and friends is that I will show my love to you through food — and you damn well better eat it and accept the love! Boy, what loaded messages! It’s no wonder we make ourselves nuts trying to eat well.
4. try to be good to yourself. The more slack we cut ourselves at this time, the more we can cut others.
5. understand that people are carrying their own griefs. Whether it’s grief at missing loved ones who have passed, or grief at not being with someone far away, people are in pain. If I can understand that and remember that part of the reason someone is being so mean is that they’re hurting, I can empathize with their pain and maybe not get so hurt by their actions.
So part of why I’m posting this is that I can go back and re-read my own suggestions to help myself remember!
One last note. It doesn’t matter whether we say Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannukah (yes, I know Hannukah is over already this year, but you get my point) — it’s a holiday. Someone is celebrating it. Accept their wishes and give back your own. You don’t have to be celebrating the same holiday, but you can exchange good will. Don’t get picky about which holiday is being celebrated. I heard one of my knitting students the other night exclaim that she didn’t understand why people celebrated Kwanzaa, because it was just a ‘made-up’ holiday. Here’s a clue — ALL of our holidays were ‘made-up’. Some were just created more recently than others. Each is just as valid as the other to the people who are celebrating. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we’re celebrating. Let’s just celebrate!
So a joyous holiday season (no matter which one you’re celebrating) to all!