The Mister and I traveled to my sister and her husband’s home two states away for Thanksgiving this past week. While at a rest stop, I overheard one woman tell another that she is just hoping to survive the holidays. I don’t know her situation so I’m not judging her. Perhaps she recently lost a loved one and the holidays this year bring a wave of tremendous sadness for her. But her comment made me realize that a sense of holiday survival is starting to permeate our culture. Advertisements and comedians joke about the dreaded family gatherings. Health and fitness articles give advice on how to survive the holidays without gaining weight. And on it goes.
I’m wondering when the holiday season moved from being about joy to being about avoiding stress. I have a feeling the “survive the holidays” meme began when we starting buying into the “we can have/do it all” falsehood. This blatant lie leaves us longing for the “good old days” when things were much simpler. But there is hope! We can actually get out of the survive the holidays mindset and enjoy the season by making a few changes.
How to Enjoy Instead of Survive the Holidays
- Tell everyone you are simplifying: Identify those things that make the holiday season special for you. For me, it is the music and the mystical events that are celebrated during this time of year. For others it may be baking cookies or making gifts or decorating their homes or dressing up for holiday events. It is up to you. Make a list and then prioritize your top 3-5 things that will be your focus.
- Remember that you do have options and choices: Except in extreme situations, you don’t have to do anything. If you are doing something out of a sense of resentful obligation, let it go. Talk to the person you think you are going to disappoint. In my own life, I’ve discovered that I’m the one who usually built up the importance of that something more than the other person. A few times they’ve even been apologetic that they’ve given the impression that something was more important to them than it was. Honor their needs, too, so that you create a win-win situation.
- Honor your need for rest and recovery: I am a people-person introvert. Because I am so good with people, they assume that I enjoy non-stop parties. I don’t. About ten years ago I finally acknowledged that big parties are exhausting for me and now I plan accordingly. If I am attending an event, I plan on quiet “around the house” activities–such as baking or gift wrapping– for the next day. I carefully pick and choose my events and consider my recovery time as sacred. I don’t need to apologize or explain to anyone that my “previous engagement” is a much needed rest when I receive an invitation. “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to make it but we will be thinking about you” will suffice. Turning down an invitation may be a great gift to others–getting my rest keeps me from becoming a stressed out grumpy pants who is no fun to be around.
- Step away from the cash register: We moan and complain about the commercialism of the holidays yet we contribute to it out of a sense of guilt and spend money we may not have on gifts for others. If you really want to relive the “good old days,” then a rethinking of presents and gifts must be done…especially in this day and age when people are able to go out and buy what they need year ’round. We no longer need to rely on the annual “underwear and socks” gift to keep us going until the following year. The Christmas before my maternal grandfather passed away well into his 90s, he was telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren what the holidays were like when he was a child. He and his siblings were elated to find fruit in their stockings and they, maybe, would receive one toy. Give gifts because they are from the heart. I know, for The Mister and me, our favorite gifts that we’ve received from others were quite simple and often made by hand (I’m thinking of a letter holder that my parent’s made for us during a particularly tight year for them). But that doesn’t mean we treasure handmade gifts over store-bought gifts! We just want to know that the gift was given from a place of joy and love, not obligation. I know there is a lot of baggage when it comes to gifts but, just because someone expects an expensive gift from you, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. That is on them, not you. Don’t feel guilty. Do what is right for you, your budget, and your peace of mind.
- Remember that we view past holidays through romantic filters: Look at this holiday season as an opportunity to create new memories instead of trying to relive or recreate old memories (that may not really be all that accurate). There is no such thing as a perfect holiday. Thank goodness! Now we can lower the bar to something much more realistic and enjoyable.
In the past, I know that I’ve just wanted to survive the holidays. Will you join me in having a joyful and fulfilling holiday season?
What advice can you give to your fellow Glam Packers so that they enjoy instead of survive the holidays?