Now put it to use.
Here in America we have this weird cycle starting when the kids go back to school after summer break. The kids go back to school, we get a few weeks to breathe and settle into the ‘new normal’ for the year, AND THEN it’s this weird roller coaster of holidays. Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa (and about 15 other major religious holidays, if we’re being truthful) and then New Year’s. I know that in the Southern hemisphere you may not have all these things jammed into a few weeks, but you’re dealing with Christmas and summer hols all stacked on top of each other, too. [And Happy Diwali today to my Hindu readers!]
It stretches a lot of us very thin.
Because this time of year isn’t just about all the crap we have to get done, it’s also about money + wishes + fun + celebrating + stressing out + family boundaries + traditions + making everyone happy + food, and…UGH.
It’s not just a lot to juggle, it’s a lot to manage and it leaves a lot of us feeling depleted and frustrated amidst all the joy and goodness we’re ‘supposed to be’ feeling. (I’m not a big fan of ‘should’ or ‘supposed to be’ anything.)
So, I know it’s early days, but I want you to do something before the metaphorical shit hits the fan. It’s kind of a big deal, but it’s also going to make things a little (hopefully a lot) better.
I want you take some time out this weekend – the very early days of November – and figure out what you want to do for the holidays. Because here is the amazing trick you have up your sleeve at mid-life: you have done this shit for 20+ years now. You know the routine. You know the players. You know the expectations and the budget and the traditions. You are fucking WISE AS THE HILLS when it comes to this holiday song-and-dance. So take some time and figure it out.
And I don’t mean answer everything so everyone is happy but you. No. I mean sit down and have a good think. Maybe bring some paper and a pen along to make notes or doodle if it helps you think. Put on some music you like in the background. Grab a cup of your favorite drink. Tell everyone to leave you alone. And then think about what you know is coming and how you want to handle it.
You get to create the map this year. Use your notes from the past.
You could start by listing out the holidays and what you know goes along with them. And then start breaking things down.
You might think about what boundaries you want this year. Maybe Uncle Harry always gets drunk and says stupid stuff. Maybe you decide, this year, you’re gonna leave when that happens.
Maybe you’ve been working your ass off to lose a few pounds and so you know you’ll need to make an extra veggie tray this year for New Year’s so there is at least one thing to eat that will help you.
Maybe you need to let go of some tradition that just doesn’t feel good anymore.
Maybe you need to block off an hour on a Saturday to do the holiday cards, so you put that in your schedule.
Maybe this has been a hard ass year and you know you’ll need a couple hours to yourself to feel some grief because these holidays are different than the last ones and you need some space to be honest about that.
Maybe you need to cut the budget and have a good, long chat with your kids/partner/people about what that means and actually looks like.
Maybe you need to divvy up the shopping duties to other people (the kids are old enough to make decisions this year, right?).
Maybe you need to have a good, old fashioned ‘make cookies and drink’ party with your gal pals. So you send the email and make the time on your calendar.
Maybe you just decide that there needs to be more joy and less stress, so you vow to focus on that. It doesn’t have to be something big.
At my house, I am sticking with a tradition that has helped us for years: each person picks *one* activity they really want to do for the holidays. We find the dates and mark them on the calendar before anything else. It has helped cut down on feeling obligated and run down from doing 15 things instead of four. I am also working on something I’m terrible at: getting the holiday cards out on time. My goal is to have them done by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.
It doesn’t matter what you decide, really. What matters is that you put your wisdom to good use for you and yours during this crazy holiday ride. What matters is that you give yourself permission to make some changes so that there is more joy and ease in these next 8-10 weeks. Because you know a lot about how the holidays go, and you can use this knowledge to help you and your family have better, easier holidays. So make it easier on yourself and take a bit of time this weekend to think, remember, and plan for something a little better this year.