The Dark Side of the Holidays – Or the Best Season that Money Can’t Buy!

Some of us go into this season dreading it….

We have a sense of impending doom, when we think of the long to-do lists that loom, when we consider all the decorating, cooking, buying, giving and planning that goes into the season.

Some find that the financial situation is so tight that being able to live up to the perceived expectations means going into debt for the coming “happy” New Year. The resentment follows like a holiday hang-over when the presents are unwrapped. Presents that effectively will need to be paid for with uncertainty and fear in the coming months.

At this time of year, glossy portrayals of family bliss, adored children with wrapping paper piles, tons of presents, old and dear traditions, lights and lovingly prepared family meals are everywhere.

And for many of us this is far from reality.

For some money is not the problem, but they are not looking forward to the emotional toll of having family members bicker and fight over the turkey. Or they dread the disrespect that their children, their spouses or their relatives show them, even as they try to give everyone a pleasant time.

This is a time of heartache and suffering for many of us. Even the ones among us who are not looking like we are on the surface. It can be a time of  pretending as we put on a happy face and allow the merriment of the season to wash over us, at least in public!

If you or someone you know is in this situation, there are a few things we can do to create a more joyous Holiday experience. First a quick internal assessment:

  • What would you really like to experience this Holiday Season? Try to back up and focus on internal aspects. So, for instance translate “I would like to be able to afford this or that” to the feeling that is below that wish. How would it make you or someone else feel?

If the “home is where the heart is” – then what is truly in your heart?

Sometimes we discover that our focus on how to set the table, what we would like to give, etc. is a cover-up for what we really want: A feeling of love, kindness, togetherness, meaningful relationships, a way to matter to others or simply absence of pain, despair and loneliness.

  • Identify what might be holding you back from having this experience that you would like to have

Is it money? No family? Not enough time? Or is it a perception that this is what others expect? Is it the sense that you by sacrificing yourself for others at this time makes you feel important?

  • Find out how you can step out of habit thinking, and find a way to create the experience you would like by thinking about it in a new way that includes what you have and not what you wish you had.

Can you show your love for your family without having to stretch yourself thin? How can you prepare them (and yourself) for this in a way that allows a new sense of anticipation?

If you are alone, how can you plan a meaningful time for celebrating you – or where can you look to find others who are in the same situation and help create a great experience for them as well as yourself?

If you family is bickering – how can you create new rituals with them that will further a spirit of togetherness and not the same old same old?

  • What components are needed to make this new way of doing things work?

As part of the preparation we can ask family and friends for input as they help us create new traditions.  The mad dash we normally engage in is largely self-imposed. And many of our relatives actually appreciate a less stressful season with more emphasis on togetherness and less on keeping up appearances.

Convention is a town in our own head!

And it is possible that all that we need to change our “have to’s,” is to just have the conversation – first internally, and then with others. You might be surprised at what you find when you lift the veil of convention.

Happy Holidays. To coin a phrase: Have it YOUR way!


The Merry Shopping Season


      We eat ourselves into a coma gorging on as much food as we can stuff in our bellies on Thanksgiving and then rush out before dawn and try to stuff our shopping carts with more stuff… Stuff, stuff, stuff… Are we happier after all that food? Does the rush to consume make us feel whole and satisfied?

     T’is the season to be jolly – and what exactly is it that makes us happy? Often we revert to the “shoulds” and “have to’s” at this time of year. We rush around because we have to “get everything done”.
Christmas and the Holiday Season – what does it really mean to you?

     I encourage you to make a list of what means the most to you at this time of year. What are your favorite memories of all time? What went into those memories? Was it stuff or was it people? Was it donating time in a soup kitchen and seeing the thankful faces that brought the most joy – or was  buying gifts for others? Was it receiving gifts? Was it thinking up thoughtful gifts from the heart or was it stampeding to get the best and cheapest deal of the year? Was it making decorations with others, or was it hearing all the compliments from others? Was it doing the complimenting that felt the best? What was it? It might be eye-opening to also sit down with your family and make a list of such favorite moments together. What is important to them? What is it that makes you all feel special at this time of year?

     Whatever has been the most meaningful for you and your family could lead you around the “shoulds” and the “have-to’s”. If you and your family love giving and receiving presents – great! Make that the most meaningful and joyous event possible. How can you increase the enjoyment? How can you make “games” or “rituals” that prolong the unwrapping and helps everybody delight in others’ presents as well as their own? Or how can you celebrate the love expressed in each gift? How can togetherness around playing with a toy, lighting candles, watching a movie or reading aloud be incorporated? What might be a new special thing to do together?

     Maybe we sometimes think that we can buy, bake, eat, or decorate ourselves happy. And maybe that is part of the equation. There might be amazing joy to be found also in just being with others. Truly appreciating them. Giving them the gift of your undivided attention. Whether that person is in a homeless shelter or it is your spouse, child, mother or friend!
     What would it take for you to get through this season joyfully and feeling alive rather than being weighed down by it and feeling “put upon”?

     Here’s to a Merry Conscious and Aware Holiday Season!