There is no better place for me to find inspiration than in my office, where I have the privilege of listening to my clients. This time of year, the common conversation threads have to do with the holidays and having too much, yet not enough.
What is too much this holiday season?
The list will sound familiar — too much traffic, too many gifts to buy and receive, too much food to make and consume, all in all, too much.
What is not enough this holiday season?
This list will sound familiar, also — there’s not enough time, not enough love, not enough being, resting, mattering, connecting.
We all long for those moments, and yet we make sure they do not happen. Believe me, I don’t just mean you — I am definitely including myself in that struggle. We over plan and over schedule, and we do not ask for help or for the things we want and need.
Take Bill and Susan, for example. Once again Bill missed buying his wife a gift. He knew the problem; he didn’t know what would please her. Was Susan understanding of his confusion? No, she was angry. Why does she shop for everyone yet no one shops for her? This year, she vowed, she’d make sure Bill knew what it felt like not to matter.
Sam and Mandy, however, are a different story. This year they decided they will create their own traditions and share with each other what they always missed growing up. Mandy wanted to know that Sam would go shopping for HER, and he agreed. But first, she gave him a list so that he could succeed at getting her what she wanted. This holiday season they will cook a meal together, one they consider festive and elegant. They will invite the people they love to join them. Sam and Mandy are making the holidays work for them.
Most of us will do a bit better than Bill and Susan this season, but not as well as Sam and Mandy. Maybe the holidays will dredge up unpleasant memories. Maybe we will have to spend time with relatives who we usually spend the whole year trying to avoid.
Here is the advice I will try to follow this holiday season: Set boundaries. Say no. Keep it simple. Accept that some holiday gatherings will be less than perfect, that there will be family tensions and over-cooked meals.
When you feel disappointed or down, share those feelings with someone who will listen and support you. There is nothing shameful about struggling this complicated time of year.
And finally, be gentle with yourself. I guarantee it will improve the holidays and the new year.
Thank you to all of you who have been reading my blog, and happy holidays to all of you.