Updated: Dec 17, 2018
The holidays are stressful. No one denies it. There are dozens of memes and statistics floating around all the social media platforms. Posts about depression symptoms rising during the holiday months, suicide rates spiking, and medication refill orders soaring. You don’t have to look far for confirmation that the holidays can be a total drag for some people.
Expectations are at an all-time high this time of year. You need to decorate like Joanna Gaines, go to every holiday event, ugly sweater party, buy meaningful presents, create priceless memories, personalized teacher gifts, homemade ornaments, cut down your own tree, matching pajamas, and holiday cards… the list is ridiculous.
As women we want to get it all done, and compete for the perfection prize.
No one wants to be the person that says, “I am not interested in the holiday festivity standards.” That would be totally scroogie.
All the tangible expectations of the holidays create the perfect pressure cooker of mania for sure - but what about all the intangible expectations? How do you manage those?
Think of all the things that you feel obligated to do - holiday parties you don’t want to attend, family members who make you want to pack a bottle of wine in your purse, or better yet chug a bottle before you go to grandma’s house. The list of intangible expectations is just a long as long as the list of actual things you want to accomplish!
Some sort of drunk holiday sorcery happens to people in these last 45 days of the year.
Maybe it’s all the Hallmark happy endings that brings it about, or the cinnamon candles burning or Christmas music playing everywhere you go. Maybe its Facebook fakers posting about all their grateful moments in their matching Sherpa socks and stockings hung with their kids’ gerbil’s names embroidered on them.
Maybe its guilt.
Whatever the intoxication, it starts igniting the reconciliation fires. You’ll get the phone call from your favorite aunt asking you to call the drunk cousin who stole your wallet three Christmas’ ago and you will actually consider not only forgiving him, but inviting him to Christmas eve at your house again.
The expectation of forgiveness at any time of the year is not unreasonable, it’s the right thing to do - obviously. If you want to master being an adult, you absolutely have to master forgiving people who have severely done you wrong. Nonetheless, the holiday season requires you to spend emotional energy on people you avoid 10.5 months out of the year. Emotional energy and misplaced expectations are not free. They cost you time and suck productive energy from those busy to-do lists and your kids and all the actual things that you want to experience in the holidays.
Do you give in to the hype and emotional blackmail of the holiday season? What would happen if you didn’t?
What if you told your aunt that you aren’t interested in having a thief at your home, family or not. What would happen if you told your uncle, who touched you inappropriately when you were 12, to eat shit. How would your family react if you chose to not take your kids to the family Christmas dinner, because you know that your father-in-law abuses your mom and you don’t want to be around it?
Is there any other time of year where you are totally fine with brushing existing wounds under the rug, for the sake of making everyone else feel comfortable?
Setting boundaries and realistic expectations should not be deemed selfish or rude. If the definition of boundaries is limited to January through October, what other definitions change based on the season?
All I am saying is that you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do, regardless of what holiday it is. If being around your uncle makes you incredibly uncomfortable, then don’t go - and more importantly you don’t have to apologize to anyone. Not even grandma.
The holidays are meant to be spent cherishing time with family and friends, who love and support you and care about you the entire 12 months out of the year. Do not try to make your reality compete with the perfection on social media. We all have drama in our families and so much of it is silent to everyone around us, even those who we are closest to.
So be a selfish giver this year, and make your happiness a top priority this season. Set your own holiday standards, so that you can enjoy this season without the obligation of putting on the perfect performance.
I truly wish you all a season of love and joy and beautiful memories made.