I think just about everyone loves the ideas of the Winter holidays.........at least from a distance. We typically associate Thanksgiving with the family around the table, eating food we don't normally get to eat.......and of course Christmas, with the giving of presents we normally wouldn't buy for ourselves. That's all well and fine if you live a fairy tale life, but the reality is, many many families start out with the best intentions, and then find themselves fractured and broken, just trying to put on that "happy face" for the rest of the world, when we really feel like we're going to whither away in a corner somewhere.
Families find themselves coping with death, divorce, fractured relationships, loss of income, illness, broken dreams and promises........it runs the gamut of emotions, and I dare to say, no one is immune. So, as the holidays creep closerand closer, many people tend to feel the pressure to "fix" what's broken or not there, or find themselves sinking deeper into the sadness they long to avoid. No doubt we've all had the friend that tried to mask the sadness by inviting unhealthy relationships into their lives, or using "retail therapy" to take away the pain, if for only but a moment. What typically happens is the unhealthy relationship just becomes another "rock on the pile of hurt", and the momentary gratification of buying things, only adds to the realization of sadness when you get it home.
Rather than trying to mask those feelings, or cope on your own, find ways to deal with them in a healthy manner. There are support groups to be found everywhere, as well as mental health counselors. That being said, not every support group or counselor will prove to be the right fit for everyone, so it's a kind of trial and error thing until you find the right one. If that doesn't suit your life, then it's a matter of focusing on what you DO HAVE, versus what you DO NOT HAVE!
Easier said than done.......that I know all too well! It's human nature for the most part to only see the proverbial mountain before us, rather than the step we need to take to get over it. This dawned on memany years ago when I was going through a divorce and had no idea how I was going to raise my two daughters as a single parent. Everything looked too big to handle.......everything was terrifying......my world was literally blown apart. Then one day it dawned on me that I was only one person, who could only do so much in any one given day, and beyond that, if it wasn't critical, it would have to wait. The amazing thing is that once I adopted that attitude, I wasn't focused on how much I could accomplish, and it freed me to relax--finding I typically accomplished more than I planned on for that day.
The holidays are still difficult. I grew up in the "Leave It To Beaver" days of Harriet and Ozzie, and that perfect family. Ever time they faced a crisis, it always had a happy ending......I grew up thinking that's how life was, and that that's what my adult life would be like--it's been anything but that! When I start to feel the regrets or sadness of what's not there creeping in, I've learned to look around and be thankful for what is........to be thankful for two beautiful amazing daughters........to be thankful for three incredible grandchildren.......to be thankful for the negative experiences that have taught me so much. And, no, it's not easy to do....you just get better at it the more you try! There is no magic formula......it's an act of your will.
Although when you're in the midst of a crisis, people always want to tell you it's really a "blessing in disguise" (let's be honest here....at that point I think we all want to backhand those people!), you really just have to get through it. Remember--things will calm down.........things will take on a new normal.......and then it's up to you whether you let it become the looming mountain of negativity, or a lesson that taught you just how strong and resilient you can be.
So for the upcoming holidays.......if you're one of those that dreads this time of year, try some new things and see just how amazingly strong and blessed you are! Ideas......
- Don't allow yourself to relive the negatives that have happened in your life.
- Forgive yourself--you are allowed to be happy no matter what has happened.
- Visit the elderly in a nursing home.
- Volunteer at your church, or any non-profit group helping those less fortunate.
- Take an account of what is good in your life each day (that can literally be anything!).
- Give an anonymous gift to someone who would never expect it from you.
- Call a friend you haven't talked to in forever.
- Invite someone over for a movie and pizza--be the one to take the initiative even when you don't feel like it! You never know what others are going through at the same time!
And remember that by living in the present, and enjoying the positives now, you are not just pretending your pain, anger and fear don't exist.....you are just making room for some positive experiences to be in your life too, and allowing the healing to begin and blossom.