Your one and only Christmas 2022
As they say, “What screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be.” We hold images in our minds and expectations in our hearts of how our existence should unfold and when it doesn’t go that way, we often feel we’ve failed ourselves and those we love.
I’m not sure where these images come from. Perhaps stereotypes from American sitcoms and movies, or Norman Rockwell paintings where a white middle class family with a dog sit around a perfectly-adorned table full of food. Nonetheless, these visuals greatly impact our experiences and our mental health.
Many of us are taught when we’re young that the holidays should feel cozy and bright and that being good boys and girls will result in lots of gifts under the Christmas tree. Later in life, women are conditioned to inherit traditions from their mothers and grandmothers, even if those traditions are outdated or exhausting.
I would never wish the death of a parent or divorce on anyone, but these two life events forced me to look past what was “normal” or “expected” and instead look inside of my own soul and figure out what truly makes me happy and my existence meaningful.
I’ve worked hard this year to create a new paradigm for what the holidays should look like and feel like for me and my tribe. From that introspection, I have gleaned wisdom that I want to share so that if you’re struggling with the stress and pressure of the season, you can find some relief.
Nurture the energy: Anything that makes you feel drained, unhappy or “less than” is causing energy leakage. In my world, this includes social media scrolling, saying yes when I want to say no, or trying to live up to someone else’s standards or expectations. In contrast, energy consumption is anything that makes you feel calm, fulfilled, boundless or empowered. For me, some examples are exercise, cooking, walking my dog, reading, watching a movie with the family and attending my kids’ sporting events.
Look up: Once you learn how to be mindful of the outside world instead of hyper focused on your own thoughts and worries, life instantly becomes more enjoyable and manageable. Instead of looking at the ground or your phone when you are out and about, look up. Smile at people, engage in conversations, notice the trees and flowers. Make everything you do its own little memorable moment. Mindfulness is very powerful. Give it a chance, and you’ll see for yourself.
Play your own hand: There is a quote by Marcus Aurelius that says, “Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own.” I read this quote every day. It reminds me to be grateful for my own hand instead of wishing I had a different one. It also helps me extract the benefits and advantages of my life situation instead of bemoaning what’s missing. There is little we can do about what’s gone from our lives so why focus on it?
Find the flow: In positive psychology, “flow” is a state in which you are performing an activity that feels fully immersive. It makes you feel energized and completely involved. Afterward, you feel more content. For me, I reach this state when writing, doing puzzles, reading, cooking and swimming. Other people reach it when drawing, running, playing the guitar or building something with their hands. It will be different for each individual. The trick is to zone in on this one activity and eliminate distractions or multi-tasking.
Rise and shine: If you don’t already have a morning quiet time routine, you’re missing out on one of life’s precious gifts. This can take a mere 15 minutes, although longer would be better. There is something magical about the early morning when it’s dark outside, silent in the house and the stimuli of the world has yet to infiltrate our minds. This sacred time should involve activities like reading, journaling, mediating, prayer or setting intentions. Even sitting quietly with your thoughts for 10 minutes will do wonders. Do not even look at your phone until after your quiet time. It doesn’t happen often, but if I fail to honor my morning routine, my entire day feels a little “off.”
I continue to struggle with what the holidays are supposed to be like, but I’m getting better at catching myself and remembering that I have control over my own actions and emotional regulation. As we move into the last few weeks of the season, remember this is your one and only Christmas 2022, not to mention your one and only life. Don’t waste time worrying what others think. It’s no secret the holidays can feel overwhelming and chaotic, but the trick is to slow it all down and find the beauty in the mess.
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Beautiful article. I needed this! Thank you.