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     I was wearing flip flops when I retrieved the mail this morning. Catalogues of shiny Christmas baubles, cashmere sweaters, robotic reindeer, sinfully expensive chocolates and gorgeous gifts wrapped to coordinate with the living room decor (who, besides Martha Stewart, really does that?) are jam packed in the mailbox. Here it is again. I am in flip-flops, the bags of Halloween candy are still unopened on the counter top and the BIG Holiday push has already begun. The shininess of it all seduces me, but I also feel that a tiny knot beginning to form in my gut.

 I recognize that knot. It returns every year when Holiday Havoc shows up at my door masquerading as a Norman Rockwell Painting. The excitement and wonder of the season still lights up in my little girl brain and wrestles with those memories of holidays ranging from disappointing to disastrous.

 Halloween represents the kick off to a nonstop cacophony of celebrations, commitments, chaos and Charlie Brown Specials.  Regardless of your marital status, family configuration, family history, ethnic or religious preferences, there is really no other time in our calendar when we are collectively confronting our family issues than the “Holiday Season.” But as if that were not enough, the holiday season heralds a time when we spend too much, eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little and expect MUCH too much of ourselves and our families. We yearn for something akin to a “Norman Rockwell Holiday.” After all, according to television and magazines, everyone else has “that magic” in their lives– except us.

 Then comes January; we collapse from exhaustion and stress. Now we must deal with the usual holiday fallout–regrets of one martini too many, buying lavish gifts for the entire office, temper tantrums and diet debacles– wash over us as we survey the already faded remnants of the holiday hoopla. In the cold, dark winter months, as the unopened credit cards statements accumulate, the idea of sinking into the couch in our stretchy sweatpants with a plate of nachos slathered in chocolate sauce and watching hours of reality TV seems like a remarkably good idea. As if this were not enough heartache, the media now bombards us, yet again, with ways to lose weight, pay down debt, mend fences or quit drinking. Oh Goody. It is time for New Year’s Resolutions.

 New Year Resolutions are just another spin on saying, “I really am a mess”. They simply point out where we fell short. All those January articles on making resolutions are based, to a large degree, on regrets we have about our behavior of only a month ago. For example, just a few weeks earlier we are encouraged to spend like mad women and now we are bombarded with more media coverage about how to clean up our credit.

 Consider this, how would you like to feel when the holidays are over?

If you have money issues then think of ways to minimize your spending before hitting the mall. The internet is full of creative, thoughtful and inexpensive ways to do that. If you are concerned about overeating or drinking, now is the time to up those Weight Watcher or AA meetings rather than abandon them for “holiday cheer”.

If there has been a significant change in your family this year-a death, divorce or job loss – don’t even attempt to keep everything exactly as it was last year. Nothing will measure up and the loss will loom even larger. Instead create new traditions, or even skip the entire season and plan a trip to some far off destination. How about a “staycation” where the emphasis is not on the “getting” but on the “doing”?

Maybe this is the year when you move away from the glitter and glitz into a more introspective and spiritual place? Reconnecting with or finding your spiritual side brings grace and gratitude. This dynamic duo can help the holidays feel more joyous while keeping you mindful and centered.

Perhaps you are worried that if you change old traditions and decrease holiday glitz your children will suffer. Allowing your children to experience change and creativity helps build resilient flexible human beings. Engage them in the process of thinking about the holidays a new way, and instead of loss, they will see these changes as an adventure.

Finally, simply redefining words such as “celebration” or “holidays” can change the way we experience them. Focus on doing what feels “healthy for you” rather than what is required by society norms. This authentic attitude can alter our emotions and behavior. Rather than aspiring to a Norman Rockwell Christmas, aspire to have a Holiday Season that reflects your values and interests. Then in January, you will face the New Year filled with enthusiasm and self confidence instead of regrets and nachos with chocolate sauce.   

What do you plan to do differently this Holiday Season?

 

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. CJ Golden on the 23. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    I so dislike having to think of the holidays – being forced into walking past aisles of Christmas and Hanukkah cards when I enter the local Hallmark.
    Donna, you have given me a positive spin on all of this forward thinking stuff: instead of bemoaning the upcoming holiday season I shall spend my time and energy thinking about how I shall deal with it – looking at the “after” rather than the “before” or “during”.

  2. Nancy Van Tine on the 24. Oct, 2011 remarked #

    Hi Donna,
    I started reading your blog professionally, kept at it because I love your writing style, and this post hits home for everyone!
    Best
    Nancy

    • admin on the 24. Oct, 2011 remarked #

      Certain themes really are just universal to us all. Holidays are stressful regardless of our personal situation. Thanks for your kind words and support!

  3. Family vacation spots on the 31. Oct, 2011 remarked #

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  4. Wendy on the 03. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    Hmmmm so much pressure from both (all) sides of the family to rise to the occasion. I think it’s high time I start my own traditions – but I’m sure to disappoint many by doing so. Perhaps your next blog could focus on guilt trips!

    • admin on the 06. Nov, 2011 remarked #

      GUILT……Good idea for a blog! Let me work on it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  5. Shirley Bloethe on the 13. Nov, 2011 remarked #

    Every year our family changes up what we do during this time of the year. It takes the stress and guilt “out” of the equation.
    One of the best “gift idea’s” we had and still do it to give the gift of time to each other. We decided a number of years ago to
    have all the adult children ( myself and my siblings) who all have children ( now aged 5-32) each pick an activity after Christmas that everyone would come to, and pay for it.
    We have gone bowling, indoor rock climbing, movies, eat out, and even go-cart racing! We all are there together and enjoy the company of each other and the cousins have time together too along with the grandparents. We all look forward to these events.

  6. Adrianne on the 26. Jan, 2012 remarked #

    Pardon me, but I tried to email you with respect to something on your website but the given e-mail address didn’t work. Is there an alternative place I might contact you?

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