Every year, I await Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day with giddy excitement and anticipation. The former holiday provides the beautiful opportunity to pause and express our gratitude for the people, places, and things in our lives, while the latter holiday offers up a collective, world-wide fresh start. In the middle of this holiday sandwich of sorts is what some regard as the holiday of all holidays. Christmas.
I do not hate Christmas and am not a modern-day Scrooge or Grinch, but I do not particularly like Christmas, per se. It took me years to admit that to myself, much less to announce it publicly, but there you have it. For many years, I threw myself into a gift buying and wrapping, card sending, and decorating frenzy, and I jingled, carolled, and cheered with the best of them. Despite my best efforts, every December, I was left feeling as empty as the boxes of opened presents strewn across the floor on Christmas morning. Finally, I threw in the towel, and came clean. I’m Kristi Jo, and I don’t like Christmas. No offense to Baby Jesus and Santa.
Usually, by the time Christmas arrives, I find myself emotionally and physically exhausted by all of the hustle and bustle of a holiday season that begins earlier and earlier each year. Instead of a Christmas countdown, it has become the Christmas meltdown. I have greeted many Christmases feeling void of good cheer and lacking much holiday spirit, and it has been made all the worse by societal and self-imposed pressure to buy into that this is the most wonderful time of the year.
With another holiday season upon us, I began to feel the underlying sadness and anxiety gradually make its presence known. Nothing accentuates one’s loneliness or challenges quite like being inundated with messages and images of peace, love, joy, and picture perfect celebrations that may not resemble one’s reality. As I began to dread the upcoming month of festivities, I realized that I needed to make a list, check it twice, and set intentions to make this season nice.
Embrace the quiet and simple pleasures of the season. The scent of our freshly cut Christmas tree. The twinkling of Christmas lights that illuminate the darkness. Christmas carols. The story of the birth of Jesus. Time off of work to spend with loved ones. These are some of the subtle gifts that I enjoy, and I will choose to focus on them.
Just say no. While there are plenty of activities to partake in during the holidays, I have given myself permission to participate at my own discretion, instead of out of obligation. As much as I enjoy get togethers and events, I also need time to myself to relax and regroup. So, I will feel free to say yes to myself and no to others, without any guilt.
Put everything into perspective. In reality, December is one of twelve months of the year, and it will come and go just like all of the other months before it. Each one of us decides the meaning and significance that we place on the holidays, and I will keep my expectations positive and realistic. No matter what transpires, this, too, shall pass.
Maintain routine. The holidays can bring plenty of distractions, surprises, and interruptions of both the naughty and nice variety. We cannot control or change certain circumstances, but we can control our reactions and routines. For me, making the time to exercise, choosing foods that fuel me, connecting with others in a meaningful way, getting enough sleep, and reframing negative thoughts are daily practices that I will continue to employ during this busy time of the year. I want to end the year on a positive note, not a sour one.
Continue celebrating Thanksgiving. No, I am not referring to adopting a perpetual turkey and stuffing diet, but rather, I am referring to a perpetual practice of giving thanks for what I have and giving back to others. When the meaning of the season sometimes gets lots in the commercialization of it, it helps me to begin and end my day identifying moments of gratitude I experienced. It also helps to find ways to donate my time, money, and resources to those who are in need. I will remind myself that it is better to give than to receive, and I will focus on everything that I have to be grateful for during this holiday season.
I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to wrap themselves in tinsel and fa-la-la-la to their heart’s content, and I have not declared a war on Christmas. Rather, I have declared a truce with it.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story