When Your Holidays Aren’t Perfect – How to Embrace Joy
As we enter into the holiday season, it's important to remember that for some people, the holidays are anything but magical.
From money struggles to illnesses, from losses to plain ol' parenting burnout, there are many ways that this time of year can be hard. There's just something about feeling like the rest of the world is happy and joyful and snuggled up, warm and cozy, like a Hallmark movie, when you're struggling with sadness, trials, or feeling like you don't have the energy to make holiday magic happen in your own life.
Yet the holidays continue to march on, whether we are ready for them or not. So what do you do? Is there a way to embrace some kind of holiday joy and rid yourself of the envy, even when your own holidays aren't perfect?
Well, first of all, it needs to be said that no matter what you're going through right now, it is important to honor your journey. You may be dealing with a serious loss or illness or something that just makes the focus of your life right now on getting through. And that's OK. Only you know what you are carrying right now. No one else can make the call of what you can handle.
Maybe you need to opt completely out of the holidays this year. And if you do, please know that that would be 100% OK. The holidays are another part of the year and they will be here again. What matters is getting you to a place where you can move forward.
But if you're looking for some way to reclaim some of the spirit of the holidays in a way that works for you, consider making your own rules this holiday. Life isn't perfect and neither are the holidays. So consider this your permission to mix-and-match from the holiday buffet of happiness. Here are some suggestions to help make that happen:
Focus on what matters to you. Maybe all your neighbors are throwing picture-perfect holiday dinner parties and hosting epic skiing weekends and you can barely muster up the energy to slice up some pre-made sugar cookies. So what? Take out a piece of paper and write down the things that really bring you joy about the holidays.
If that means baking with your kids, but you hate the process of making the dough, go with the store-bought! Half of the fun is in decorating them anyway. Do you love having a tree but secretly despise cleaning up pine needles? Go for the fake tree and enjoy the extra time not spent cleaning up, drinking hot chocolate in front of it. There are a zillion options for holiday activities out there. But the important thing is narrowing down the ones that are meaningful to you–and why they are meaningful. Often times, it's about the love behind them rather than the act themselves.
Don't feel guilty for skipping holiday parties. Sorry, but I'm a proponent of this. Sometimes, you have to do what works for you. Maybe you've just had a miscarriage and are dreading facing all the questions and apologetic faces at the family party. Maybe you just can't stand trying to find a holiday outfit that fits after having a new baby. Maybe the thought of packing the kids up stresses you out more than you can handle. Skip it! No one will hate you for it. And I promise, there will be other holiday parties. Protecting your own heart first matters too.
Start a new tradition. Guess what? There's no such thing as the holiday police, going around making sure that you do all the right holiday things. I mean, no one even likes eggnog, right? And cookies can be overrated. It might help create more joy this holiday season to break out of the holiday mode and start an entirely new tradition. How about a sunny cruise? Afternoon trip to the movie theater on Christmas? Family prank night? Do something new and create fresh memories and traditions–and forget about the “perfect” holiday. The holidays aren't perfect. The only perfect holiday is the one that's perfect for you during this season in your life. And sometimes, you have to take time to make that happen on your own.
How do you deal when the holidays aren't perfect?