One of my friends wrote on Facebook: “Why I don’t love the holidays… actual Christmas break/family time is more than a week away and I’m already stressed over everyone’s plans, expectations, being upset about how they were or weren’t included, miscommunications, assumptions, and surprises. God, how I dislike the holidays. Way too much stress. What I need to do is just go off somewhere by myself.”
Many people feel this way, whether their lives are already overloaded and the holidays just add to the stress, or perhaps they suffered a loss during past holidays and that memory tempers the joy that some people believe everyone is supposed to feel during the holidays.
Going off by yourself actually is an option. Announcing that to your family/loved ones may result in some serious pushback, but you never know. Perhaps others envy your empowerment to do that. Perhaps they’ve secretly wanted to do that, and you’re blazing a trail for their future happy holidays.
I believe in taking care of yourself first. Sacrificing your needs to avoid conflict with others just creates more stress for you.
What’s wrong with getting gift cards for the kiddos, making donations to nonprofits for the adults, and going off on your own personal winter retreat? Or even just going for a hike in the woods and eating Chinese food?
What’s wrong with having a fun Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange when everyone already has everything they need?
What’s wrong with spending your time volunteering at one of the numerous activities to compassionately assist less fortunate humans, instead of shopping?
Maybe you are the person who insists on having a big traditional gathering every year with a fancy tree, nicely wrapped new and expensive gifts for everyone, and a major feast where everyone is required to be there and be happy. If someone finds that difficult, do you behave as if they deliberately ruined your happiness by not adhering to the script you wrote? Who appointed you to this role, anyway? More importantly, where’s your joy in it?
Regardless of religion, because of the calendar proximity to the winter solstice, these holidays in some way revolve around humans experiencing light during the long, dark, cold nights.
How can you be a light for others by lightening up your expectations, unspoken rules, and castigations?
How can you experience more joy and more en-light-enment during the holidays?