When we’re kids the holidays can be a magical time. We’re excited for presents and all the festivities. Everywhere we go we see decorations and lights. We may be in Christmas plays or other holiday-themed concerts and such.
I looked forward to and was so thrilled to watch all the specials on television. I loved helping my Mom bake holiday treats. Our house smelled of a glorious mix of pine, sugar cookies, and Vick’s VapoRub. (One or more of us invariably had a cold almost every Christmas.)
I remember coming down the stairs Christmas morning and being greeted by the Star of Bethlehem itself (my Dad’s 8 mm movie camera light). God bless Pops. He tried so hard to not blind his precious wife and kids. He’d aim the light toward the ceiling, but the ceiling was white so it just bounced back and amplified the brightness. I was recently looking over some of those old home movies. They’re bittersweet now since both my parents have passed. But it’s fun to go back and visit those days of innocence and sheer fun.
Things can change a great deal when we get older. The holidays can go from being a time we look forward to all year to a time we dread. Visions of sugar plums no longer dance in our head. We’re stressed out, anxious, sad and depressed.
What happened? When did we go from being holly jolly to melancholy?
In my case, one year not that long ago, I just got tired of it all. Don’t get me wrong. As a Christian, I’m beyond grateful for the greatest Gift ever given. I want to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. I’d just prefer to celebrate it in a quiet way.
Having young children around does help get you into the spirit. Seeing their big eyes sparkle and their laughter fill the air can definitely perk you up. But it’s only temporary. Eventually, you may find yourself feeling low or disinterested in partaking in all the hoopla. And don’t get me started on the day after Christmas.
There’s such a build-up to Christmas day and it’s over so quickly. As an adult I would always get a bit sad on December 26. This lull would typically last until…well…spring. But for the past few years I’ve not been able to really connect with the merriment of the holiday season at all.
I could blame it on how commercialized it all has become. I could say how it went from being about a baby lying in a manger to a 50% sale on the latest electronics. I could ask Linus to explain for everyone what Christmas is all about. (If you know you know.) But it’s more than that.
The holidays can be a very difficult time. We’re facing a lot of pressure to have fun and be of good cheer. We can start to feel as if there must be something wrong with us if we’re not having fun or feeling happy. We can feel isolated, like we’re the only one who isn’t enjoying the season. We can feel ashamed because of how terrible we feel.
Loneliness can definitely increase during the holidays. Folks are focused on their own families. They may forget about the neighbor who is alone or the single friend who has nowhere to go. Everyone sort of assumes the people they know have somewhere to be and are doing OK. I’ve been guilty of this unintentional neglect myself. I’m caught up in my own business; I don’t take time to consider those who may not have anyone around for them. By the same token, you can have somewhere to be and still feel ill at ease.
You can be with wonderful people and still feel lonely.
I know this is true because I’ve experienced it firsthand. I’ve been with friends or family and I feel awful. It’s not necessarily due to someone saying or doing anything wrong or hurtful. I’m just sad. Sometimes I can’t even pinpoint what’s causing my mood.
Some of my best acting performances were never on the stage or screen.
In the past I would suck it up and forge ahead. Later that night when I was alone I would cry. I don’t want to do that anymore. And you shouldn’t want to or have to either.
Recognize your feelings. Don’t be ashamed or try to hide them from yourself.
I’ve learned my emotions are like zombies. Just when you think you’ve got them good and buried six feet underground, bam! Out comes the hand from the grave to grab you. (If you’ve ever seen the movie Carrie, or a lot of horror movies come to think of it, you get the reference.) My point is we do ourselves no good by denying and suppressing our feelings.
I’m not suggesting we express every feeling at any given moment we’re experiencing them. But in quiet moments, we need to be honest with ourselves. If we’re supposed to go to someone’s house for a holiday party and we’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, we need to pause and try to find out why. We shouldn’t just ignore it and go out of obligation.
I can’t count how many times I went somewhere because I felt I had to and then regretted it. Suffice it to say it was many more times than when I went begrudgingly and had a marvelous time.
You need to take care of yourself. You’re the only relationship you’re guaranteed to have for your lifetime.
As I’ve written before, I understand there is a lot of guilt and pressure this time of year. But once we are adults we do have some control over how we invest our time and energy. When my parents were alive, I would defer to them. I tried my best to honor them. I spent many an afternoon or evening feeling uncomfortable, but I was there for them not me.
I don’t have to do that anymore. I can choose what’s best for me now. How about you? I’m not suggesting becoming a selfish, self-centered jerk. You should always consider others, of course. But don’t forget to factor you into the equation.
You matter as much as anybody else.
You know how I can write that with absolute confidence? Check this out. (Unless otherwise indicated, all bible verses are from biblegateway.com, NIV, emphasis added.)
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
You knew I wasn’t coming without bringing receipts. God loved you so much He sent His Son Jesus so you might spend eternity with Him in paradise. I’m fairly certain there isn’t any deal on any website or store that can beat a Gift like this one. If God loves you that much, maybe you should show yourself a bit of love this season too.
I’ve decided to do my best to acknowledge and, if possible, identify the cause of my feelings. I’m also giving myself permission to participate (or not) in any holiday festivities as I choose. I will not dwell and wallow and completely shut myself off from the people I love. But if I need to take a day or two (or maybe more) to recharge and process, I’m going to do that. In the end it’s best for me and my relationships with them. And if I find I still can’t handle it or it’s just still too much, I won’t feel ashamed. I’ll ask for help either from my loved ones or a professional, if necessary.
In any case, the best gift I’m giving me this year is: honesty and authenticity. How about you?
Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,