Tomorrow opens the holiday season here in America – Thanksgiving. And while many of us do give thanks, for our families + friends + resources, this day also often opens familial, political, and other cans of worms.
I know the holiday season opens on other days in other parts of the world (and plenty of places don’t celebrate Christmas at all!). But I am going to guess, based on my Facebook feed (I know, I know) that other people in other countries have this same worry-angst about the holidays, too.
Before we talk about how to make the most of this season, I just want to deeply acknowledge something: how much most of us long for the perfect (family) holiday.
The holiday we see in the movies- where despite all the silliness and misunderstanding, people eventually get along and show they care for one another. The one where people love each other, despite their difficult personality quirks (or addictions or inability to communicate). The one where all the food is done on time and looks gorgeous. The one where we feel loved, and not…(even just a little bit) alone.
Our culture feeds us this ideal of holiday perfection and honestly…the ideal puts a lot of pressure on people. And I think that pressure, along with the giant longing for ‘nice holidays’, and the Hollywood images, makes the holidays really tough for some people. Even depressing.
In this time of year that is so dark, we just want one star of warmth and brightness to hold on to. And we look to each holiday as a way to find that star.
We all still want more connection and love in our lives. And who can blame us? We are meant for just that. So, I want to start off by acknowledging that we all want something special from the holidays. And that we all feel a little sad about them sometimes.
We can make the holidays better and brighter, with a few choices. Today I’m sharing a couple of tools to help you tackle two of the biggest issues of the holiday season: experiencing more joy and dealing with the BS.
Tool One: Schedule the Joy
What most of us want during the holidays is a certain experience- we want the joy and the warmth and the fun. We want the twinkle in the eye. And we can get that- we just have to make it a priority. We do that by scheduling it. (I know, sounds f-ing boring, but this shit works.)
What I mean by ‘scheduling joy’ is taking a few minutes to sit down and think about what brings you the most joy during the holidays.
Music or noises?
What do you like to feel on your skin at this time?
What touches you?
What do you want to feel? And what helps you feel it?
For my family, we love holiday movies. So all of those get scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights. (And a few repeats on Sunday afternoons.) We always take a walk in the dark on Solstice. We make certain candies that are the smell and taste of Winter. And we get out the cocoa and blankets for snuggling. I try to make a new (simple) ornament or decoration each year. I also like to take a walk with my husband through the downtown lights.
And how do we make that happen? We schedule that shit.
And then I defend it like a mama bear.
I book these things in my calendar and then I defend those hours and experiences like the jewels in my castle that they are. Because they are my joy. And they are the joy of my family. And we deserve that.
What about ‘outside’ stuff? You schedule that, too. And if you have to decide between something that would really bring you joy and something that really feels like a drag, dare to schedule for joy. Be brave. Model what you want your kids and community to do.
In five years of doing this – and we discuss our desires as part of Thanksgiving – we have made our holidays really enjoyable. We each get the experiences, and the emotions, that we want. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has always been better than when we didn’t plan.
Tool Two: Lower Your Expectations
You know the ideals and expectations I mentioned earlier? I think we unknowingly carry some of that into our holidays. We hope (hope hope!!) that Uncle George will finally shut up and just eat the turkey. Or that we might feel a little more love from our mother. Or that your sister-in-law would just bring what you asked her to bring.
We have a lot of expectations that we don’t even recognize. And those expectations lead to a lot of suffering. And internal screaming.
So, in order to avoid more difficulty and suffering, I am going to suggest that you gently recognize your own expectations for the holidays and the people and the environment.
And then I am going to ask you to lower those expectations. As much as you possibly can.
Imagine that Uncle George will not only talk the whole time, but he will also say something ridiculous (and by ‘ridiculous’ I mean, ‘fucked up.’).
Your mother is going to be herself. You know what that is. Expect it.
Understand that your SIL is just going to bring whatever she wants. Make a Plan B for the yams.
Expectations are probably the most problematic thing in the holidays because we often don’t know they are happening. But they get shoved into our heads from every conceivable place. Even our own hearts.
This year, notice what those expectations are- and let as many of them go as you can. You can only control you. And only you can bring you peace inside your head.
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The holidays are never going to be perfect. Let’s let go of that ideal. But they can be enjoyable. And they can contain more of what we want. We just have to bring awareness to the process and let our joy guide us.
Let me know if you try these- and how they work.
Big hugs, chicks.