Dear Reader, I don’t need to tell you life can be hard. But during the holiday season, hardship for many of you is on steroids. For twenty years, I’ve gladly held my clients’ hands as they navigated the end of the year. Even now I ask my clients, are you ready for the holidays. Dear Reader, are you? If you’re reading this, the answer is probably “no.” No, I’m not really ready to face my dysfunctional family, I’m not ready for spending the holidays alone, I’m dreading the shopping, the awful muzak, the cheer that all too often feels false. Whenever I happen to watch the Grinch that Stole Christmas, I root for the “before” Grinch and whisper “boo!” when that heart grows.
Some people DO seem to get through it. Even more, some people actually seem to ENJOY it! For example, my beloved brother finds Thanksgiving to be his favorite holiday. His children and he fix a turkey, the whole family walk/runs a local Turkey Trot, and then the extended family, plus friends, sit down to a lovely meal where everyone describes one thing they’re grateful for.
Which way do you lean? Notice your body. When you think of the upcoming holidays, does your body tense up, your breath become rapid and short? Or do you find a smile curling up into your cheeks, your chest begin to flutter with excitement? If you’re in the later group, please feel free to comment below, and tell the rest of us how you manage to enjoy the end-of-year celebrations. If you belong to the first group, read on. I’ve written quite a bit on how to survive, even thrive, during this season…and maybe, just maybe, it will lighten your load a little.
In my personal and professional experience, people run into some predictable roadblocks to enjoying this time of the year. You might feel tempted to overindulge, or feel pressured to go overboard in meeting others’ expectations. If so, “Knowing When Enough is Enough” might help. If you struggle with social anxiety during the party season, “Holiday Strategies for the Socially Nervous” might give you some survival strategies. And if you struggle with loneliness, or even find yourself facing the holidays alone, perhaps “‘Lone for the Holidays” might soothe your soul.
We are resourceful, creative creatures! And we can reclaim this season for our own. We can defy the commercialism, the expectations of others, the din of the desperation surrounding us and instead use this time to heal, cultivating a deeper spiritual awareness, inner peace and joy. While religion is a hot-button topic, particularly in this country, on any given day, this next month will see an onslaught of it; regardless of how religion has impacted you, you do have the power to reshape it into something that works for you, and “Religion and Healing” might help. “Good Will” cultivates those inner resources that bring peace to your experience, and if you’re struggling with a chronic illness, may I recommend you print out “Trauma 101: For Friends and Family of Those with Chronic Illness” and hand it out BEFORE they put their feet in their mouths!
In this video, I speak to two issues near and dear to my clients’ hearts: their expectations, and their parents. While I encourage you to hope for a lovely time this year, I would strongly caution you against how you expect that loveliness to happen…and family gatherings tend to lead almost invariably to disappointed expectations. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t enjoy you family…here’s how. This is also the time of year when we see our parent(s), even if we may avoid them the rest of the year. In preparation, I debunk the myth that parents “did the best they could.” Frankly, it’s not fair to you or the human beings that raised you, an impossible standard that no one achieves; it’s shaming of your experience and disrespectful of them. So this year, when you sit down with these individuals, let yourself see them as the flawed individuals they are, and were. Be honest with yourself about what you’re seeing.
And maybe, tap a little into that good will you’re cultivating. Peace.