• Jessica Richmond

Happy Holiday or Hell-a-day?

We are on the brink of the much-anticipated Christmas holiday…just three days now before ‘ol St. Nick makes his journey to deliver presents to all the good little boys and girls around the world. My sisters and I used to get so excited thinking about Santa coming to our house. On Christmas Eve, we used to stay up as late as we could, hoping to catch sight of that jolly old man who was going to dump a ton of presents under our tree. On Christmas day after a present-opening frenzy, we would feast on bacon, eggs, and waffles dripping in butter and fresh Vermont maple syrup. The rest of the day, we would stuff down as many Christmas cookies and as much candy as we could. We would laze around in our fuzzy pajamas all day, and play with our new toys. At night we would watch Christmas movies snuggled up on the couch by the warm glow of our oversized wood stove. Those childhood years celebrating Christmas with my family were magical. I remember as a kid, eagerly counting down the days until Christmas as soon as the calendar showed the month of December. Many of my friends in the little New England snow-covered town that I grew up in also experienced a similar type of Christmas.

However, Christmas doesn’t seem so special anymore. Perhaps it is because I am no longer a kid. But, perhaps Christmas lost its steam for an entirely different reason all together. For it is not only me who has this sentiment. In fact, many of my friends and clients actually dread Christmas and the whole holiday season. How could something so wonderful, the greatest day of the whole year, come crashing down like that?

Christmas now is about obligation. It’s about keeping up tradition for the sake of it, using phrases like, “We’ve always done it like that,” as the reason to keep doing it. Christmas is about expectations, mine and the others. Trying to please the other with a gift, card, donation, or holiday party invite. Trying to keep ourselves busy so we don’t have to face that sinking lonely feeling lurking inside. It’s about doing special things for the kids, to help them experience the Christmas excitement we once felt. Some adults make Christmas special for the kids, so they can have the Christmas that they never got to have.

So why don’t we feel happy or as happy as we once used to about Christmas? Try as we might, we still can’t get the same buzz as we did when we were young. Why not? Because of others. Other people let us down. They say something rude, or do something ruder at a holiday gathering. You see, as kids, we are happy without all the Christmas stuff. Kids play everyday, and laugh 20 times more often than adults, on any given day. Kids don't have expectations. But, as we grow older, year by year, slowly the expectations creep in. And then they become "traditions." And these traditions zap our joy and spontaneity. Then when we are all together, we remember why we don’t see each other but once per year. Our holiday starts to feel like a hell-o-day. We see how unruly our brother’s kids are, and how selfish our sister is. We see how angry our father has become, and how distant and cold our mother really is. We see the lies and sadness that makes up our family. We see how cheap our cousin is, and how fake our aunt is. We feel disconnected. We wonder if anyone ever really can understand us. We reach out to friends. We see how no one is really happy, and everyone is using different vices to cover up their unhappiness. We overeat. We drink too much. We make promises. We let loose. We lose our temper. We become frustrated. We cry. We laugh. We start wondering when this holiday will be over so we can get back to our normal life. We post pictures on facebook of what a great time we had.

The root of the problem here is our mind. We have expectations for the holiday, for others, and for ourselves. We like things to be like they once were because that is what gave us joy. So we try to re-create that experience so we can get the same joy. In our life, we are always seeking and chasing after what we like, and avoiding what we don’t like. That’s the nature of the mind. There is, however, a trick to get through this holiday season with our mind feeling peaceful. The trick is to stay connected to ourself. Most of us are not connected with ourselves in the first place. So, to start with, figure out what you need for yourself to feel happy and peaceful this holiday season. It’s not too late! Just get out your journal or a piece of paper and write it down. What do you really need? The only snafu here in answering this question is that your answer cannot include another person. In other words, an answer that won’t work for creating a peaceful state of mind would be something like, “I need to spend time with my family.” The reason why this doesn’t work is that you are relying on others to determine your peaceful state of mind. That never works. They will inevitably let you down in some way.

So, try to think of what you need for yourself. Don’t fret about being selfish. Everyone needs to take care of their own needs before they can please another. Dig deep. Don’t be bashful. Just write it down. For example, “I need to do yoga, sleep in, drink a green smoothie, and go on a walk on the beach on Christmas day for me to feel happy.” Then do it. Drop your expectations for this to be a magical day full of love and giving. If that happens to occur on that day for you, wonderful. But don’t hold your breath. Better to take care of yourself and your needs. Then you can be the beacon of light shining your radiant smile on others, just by your peaceful presence.

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