I struggle with holidays. The winter holidays to be specific. People endlessly call me a scrooge and a curmudgeon but it doesn’t change the way I feel about them. As if reprimanding me for having my feelings would actually change them.
I’ve felt this way for years and it comes up every November. The small dread as the leaves start to change, the building swell of resistance as the month progresses and the downright panic that sets in as I have to actually commit to whatever plan we decide on for Thanksgiving Day.
I’ve examined my feelings about the holidays so many times that I should know the whats and whys of my hatred inside out. But I don’t. As I sit here writing this, what pops into my mind is that I hate being told what to do. I hate having a designated day for happiness and gratitude. There’s so much pressure. I have a huge family and they require separate holiday celebrations so I always end up feeling like I have to please everyone else. Run around to a handful of places, smile and rejoice, eat more food than is humanly healthy, make sure everyone is happy and that I’m also feeling and expressing the appropriate amount of gratitude for this day of giving thanks.
And really, it just pisses me off. (Ah, there you go, you’re thinking I’m a curmudgeon aren’t you?) It’s hard to cultivate a sense of gratitude and appreciation when you’re running around in a futile attempt to make everyone else happy. So stop the running around, you say. That doesn’t go over very well. If I did what I really wanted to do on Thanksgiving (which is stay home and chill around the house, no pressure from anyone to be anywhere or do anything), there would be poorly concealed hurt feelings and subtle guilt trips. I’ve tried it. And sometimes it’s just easier to play the game and suck it up.
So it feels like a cycle. Every year in the fall, the panic begins to build and… so be it. I feel it today as I sit here. We have 14 people coming over later and I don’t even have to do most of the cooking, and yet I sit here feeling alternately irritated (don’t even get me started on how the plentitude of gratitude on social media makes me feel) and frozen. I have to go to the store and clean up this house and I’m just frozen. I’ll sit here until an hour out and then pop into hyper anxious mode and make everything that needs to happen happen in that hour. I’ll be on edge and smiling a huge fake smile as people start to show up. I’ll likely snap at the children and other family members.
But here’s what I want to do this year. I work with clients on this all the time, and I’m committed to practicing it myself. I will let myself feel whatever comes up. This doesn’t mean that I plan to act out on the feelings (I would rather not snap at the kids), but if I’m feeling overwhelmed, instead of numbing those feelings with food or alcohol, or shaming myself into not feeling them “you shouldn’t be complaining- you have so much to be grateful for”, I will just let them be there. Feel them. As I feel them, they will dissipate and I will also get some helpful information about why I’m feeling them.
This will be good practice for Christmas, which is really my ultimate challenge. Wish me luck.
Oh- (and dare I say it?) Happy Thanksgiving...