The holidays are stressful, onerous, and painful for reasons your therapist(s) could take months and years to analyze and spit back to you.
It goes back to your childhood, they’ll tell you.
Your parents didn’t love you enough. Or they loved you too much.
Or they were immigrants who worked themselves to your despair. (Your therapist permits you to blame them. Let it out. Be angry.)
They happen to be decent people, once well heeled back in the motherland. They were caring, attentive parents until they decided to move, small children in tow, to America. Here, they work themselves to sickness and divorce for the American Dream. This is how they ruin Christmas for you.
First they pool their life savings to buy a dingy gift shop in the poor part of the city. Then they work thirteen-hour days, almost every day of the year. They take one day to rest, on New Year’s Day.
But Christmas Day they work the longest and hardest. They don’t come home until way past midnight.
Several years over your childhood, you spend the day home alone. Your siblings have better social skills than you, so they find friends to spend the day with. You are a loner. On Christmas, the house is cold, empty and sad.
One year at school, a substitute teacher puts on the movie Home Alone to pass the time. Watching it, you feel a little confused. How is it that this white boy can have so much fun being home alone? It deepens your sense of isolation, of being different and apart.
I fired my therapist this spring.
Every family has their own hurt. Everyone has a story.
If you feel pain, isolation and sadness over the holidays, I feel you. I mean, I get where the Grinch comes from.
Even today, the sound of canned Christmas carols in the drug store makes me wince.
Who am I to tell you how to survive and thrive over the holidays? I’m just another speck on this tiny planet orbiting around the sun, a small burning dot in the Great Big Scheme of the Universe.
I can tell you that, twenty years later, as a grown-up living in a nice, warm apartment and involved in a loving, steady relationship with a kind, responsible grown-up, I relish the holidays.
I have fun doing all the things, buying all the gifts, and eating all the sweets.
Here’s how I went from being a Grinch to feeling pretty awesome over the holidays.
Forgive your parents for what they never gave you as a child.
Here I am quoting Amy Poehler in her best selling memoir Yes Please. The quote is from a chapter titled, “Talk to Yourself Like You’re Ninety.” The book is a quick, punchy read.
If your holidays are awful, read a good book written by a funny person, like this one. Nothing heals like laughter.
Choose to not see yourself as the victim.
The brain wants us to play the victim role. It’s the easiest part in the fiction your brain creates under the guise of keeping you safe from harm. The brain is also really good at making you perceive harm where there is none.
Negotiation is a conversation to reach agreement with both parties having the right to say no. You have to negotiate with yourself too. You have the right to reject the role of victim. Say no to the brain. Stay consistent in your choice, stay vigilant. The brain likes to be in control.
Read self-help books. Read comedy books. Read books on print.
Choose to heal. Choose to laugh. Spend some time away from the monitor, reading and relaxing in bed.
Just do the things that you need get done. When done, relax.
Go, go, go is like ingrained in me from watching my parents work so hard. Relaxing without guilt feels unnatural and takes work for me. But I know it is vital to one’s health and sanity (and the irony is not lost on me as I bang this one out at quarter to eleven on a school night).
So now I carve out at least ten minutes every morning to sit in solitude and silence. I practice listening to the beat of my own heart and the quiet hum of every day noises. Most of the time I struggle to quiet the din of my own thoughts, the endless listing of to-do lists. I’m working on it.
Whatever it was that you were yearning to do all year, do a little of it every day.
I was born on December 31st. So December marks the last full month of me being a particular age. As of today I have twenty-seven days of being thirty-two. All throughout my thirty-second year my heart kept telling me I wanted to write. So I am trying to write a blog entry every day of December. (n.b. I may have initially been too optimistic about updating my blog here, so ratcheting down my expectations to one blog update a month.)
If coupled, wear less clothing to bed.
It’s cold out there. You know how this works. Thrive every where, especially in bed.
Photo by the talented Melissa Maples