Holiday: a special day of celebration: a day when most people do not have to work
The holiday season is loved, anticipated and adored by many; for great reasons. Delicious comfort food, family, bonding, travel, presents, laughter, snow, decorations, ice skating, new year’s, and a fresh start. Christmas carols (My fav!) Eggnog, Coquito (MY ABSOLUTE FAV!), etc. However, there are also many people who dread the over commercialized, oppression forced connection; glutton, overspending, unhappy memories, mourning, loss, toxic - nosey relatives, obligation, unhealed pain, personal struggles, boundary violation, expectations, competition, etc., that the holiday's usher in.
Beginning around November 1st, through January 1st, every year, in addition to the SAD, I resist experiencing, holiday anxiety knocks on my mental and emotional door. SAD you ask? (Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. Most people with SAD, symptoms start in the fall and continue throughout the winter months, sapping energy and making one feel moody) Oh, Vey! Deciding between succumbing to the pressure to cook a feast, (because that's what society says a woman should be doing). Visiting my parent's house, then my husband's parents’ house, and spend the day on the highway and in traffic driving back and forth. Or making the begrudged choice to separate for the day and see our families individually. All of this vexes me out! When did a season about gratitude, Jesus' birth, and goodwill towards men, become an exhausting tug of war, wrapped in expectations, manifested in mental, physical, emotional work? The excitement and anticipation for excessive food, alcohol, and relative interaction, expensive - unaffordable, gift giving and heating up leftovers I once had in my youth, no longer appeal to me. When I sit back and think about it, it only appealed to me back then because this agreement was given to me, and like many, I assumed that that was what I was supposed to do and enjoy. Many of us are still practicing behaviors, traditions, and religions, which we never understood, or even agree with. Once I became independent and began to remove the sheep mindset from my being, I realized that I was allowed to define the holiday meaning for myself, that's if I wanted to acknowledge the holidays at all.
Emancipating from holiday oppression, this time last year I was preparing to disappear for a week in paradise. For the first time in 30 plus years, I didn't participate in the tradition of Thanksgiving. I booked two tickets to all-inclusive paradise, in Jamaica. My husband and I were headed to Ocho Rios and traded in cold weather and turkey, for sand, the sun, and unlimited rum. My level of excitement was high. No excitement for some of our family, and understandably so. Their normal was being compromised and their expectations of automatic attendance were not being met. This act of 'defiance' was frowned upon and considered selfish by many. Fortunately for me, I no longer carry the burden of pleasing others, and absorbing their labels, at the expense of my sanity or happiness. Thanksgiving on an Island = AH-MAZING! Spending holidays and winters abroad, with adventure, luxury, and wonder. I speak it, write it and claim it!
Some people are alone and claim no family as their set. Some by choice, others not by choice. I believe that there is a difference between family and relatives. Just because your share the same DNA, doesn't mean you are connected and obligated to share the same beliefs, ideas and space in life. Many plant their flag in "family first, no matter what!" Wherever you stand, it is NONE OF ANYONE's BUSINESS. To each his or her own. In my line of work, and in my personal life, the opinions, judgments, and cold-blooded disrespect, that I have witnessed, experienced, and at times inappropriately given out is violating scary. Families, their drama, choices, beliefs, and dysfunctions, have many, many levels and layers. And if you choose to accept all of your family, and their traditions doesn't automatically mean others have to do the same. Even if we are privy to the 'why' we have no clue what the 'what' feels like for the person(s) involved. To that point, if you're 'bah humbug,' and are not interested in partaking in fa la la la la, family and festivities, serving reverse judgment and negativity on those who do is not okay. I now choose to give kindness, comfort, offer a safe space, or nothing at all.
If you're experiencing anxiety about the upcoming holidays, here are some of my personal tips for decreasing and managing those feelings.
- Plan x Prep - Not just arrival times and what to bring, but a plan on what to do when it is getting to be too much. Have a safe word, phrase, or gesture you can use with your spouse, or loved ones you came with, when you are DONE. Always remember that it is more than okay not to engage, accept or participate in behavior that doesn't serve your best self. Especially, if you're the one who is about to display the toxic behavior.
- Leave Your Baggage At Home - If you choose to participate, show up as a grown up! You already know that you're in a space where you can almost guarantee annoyance, try having compassion, for yourself and those around you. Family’s created the ticking time bombs buttons we have in the first place so they damn sure know how to push them. But not everyone is out to insult, offend, and hurt you. Sometimes, it is "just a joke." If you're walking in with high guarded walls, and your past childhood trauma on your plate, next to your yams, you will be met by the kind of energy that wants to challenge those walls. Give yourself a break, and your family a break too. Try to enjoy them and take a moment(s) to yourself, be aware of your breathing and try a mantra. “I am in control of my actions, no one else's." "I am love. I give love. I receive love.” "I do not have to take everything personally." "I will not bring allow my baggage to be a part of my day." Phrases like these are repeated A LOT around the holidays and are reminders for ourselves as well.
- Chill and Pay Attention - Throughout the day, pause, put your phone down, connect, and notice the 'little things.' Your mother's smile, your husband's full belly happiness, your father’s corny, but loving stories, the laughter in the house, the nostalgic taste of your favorite dish, etc. Try to remember the good inside these people who helped shape you. When we slow down and notice something around us that brings us joy, we can limit our anxiety.
- Gratitude - Tis the season for giving, right? Give someone, anyone, and everyone in the house the gift of a time you appreciated something they said or did. Without any expectation of a response, be it big, or small, speaking appreciation into someone’s life, breaks down walls, opens communication lines, has the possibility to begin heal, and help you grow.
I admit, at times I feel a twinge of guilt for feeling oppressed by the holidays, and for sometimes choosing to detach from relatives and family when so many people pray for a family and belonging. Though my feelings, needs, and actions, may not be ‘right’ to some, they are mines, need no validation from others, and I will respect them and allow them breathing room. While it is nice to be wanted, and yes, I do dearly love and want to make my family happy; the burden to always do what serves someone else, and ignoring what serves my soul, is one that doesn’t sit well with me. With that said, I refuse to be a 'Debbie Downer,' so when I choose to participate, let's turn up! Agreed? I'm not some 'diva;' (maybe just a little bit) - I am a woman who has taken ownership of her time, how and who it is spent on and with. As I continue to find my way, and create my own traditions, I appreciate the freedom and creativeness of ‘Friendsgiving’s,’ themed holidays, and fun activities, that are now taking place, all over the world. I will continue to miss the kindness, love, joy, and pressure-less days of the actual meaning of the season. And while I do so, I will examine my resistance and the feelings that I've attached to the holidays, as I continue to enjoy life.
My mother and father worked hard and gave their time, money, love and attention, over the years to create, honor and pass down their holiday traditions to my sisters and I. There efforts are greatly appreciated, were not in vein, and are the details in my fabric. I will always hold and miss those times and memories dearly. I look forward to creating and experiencing new traditions together. Thank you, mommy x pops ♥
What do the holidays mean to you? Do you enjoy or dread them?
Your point of view matters and is safe here.
Stefanie, Life Architect.
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