Menus and Maybes: This Holiday Season

Written by: Shenise Gatson

It's that time of year! 
It's that time of year.
It's that time of year

Can you hear it? 

How different these sentences sound when you place the emphasis on a different word?

In each phrase, the italicized word changes the tone of the sentence. Take a moment and consider these statements as if they were describing the holidays.

In the first phrase, excitement rings true.  I envision a person smiling happily as they plan their menus, guest lists and decorations. In sentence two, I hear the sound of a person who dreads what this season will bring.  In the last sentence, I envision a person reflecting on what a tumultuous year it has been. I can hear that person inwardly wondering, “Will the holidays bring more negativity to an already negative year?”

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For many, holidays are a time for fun, food, fellowship and festivities.

For some, it’s a time for celebrating with loved ones and dining on delicious dishes.

For others, holidays are just a reminder of all that is missing from life.

I found myself on the latter end of the spectrum.

As a kid I always loved the holidays. My mom was a great cook. My father, siblings and I always looked forward to planning a scrumptious menu! We looked forward to gathering with relatives, out-of-town-guests, watching movies, exchanging gifts and playing games. It was a time of bonding. It was a time of smiles and laughter. It was a time of scraping the plate clean and getting seconds, thirds, and fourths!

This year, my excitement waned.

I asked myself, “Why?” The answer, “Too much has changed.” The holidays remind me of how different things are.

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My parents are deceased. This is the first Thanksgiving without my father. Family dynamics have changed since the loss of my loved ones. The glue that once held things together is no longer there. Death changes things for sure.

But not only that, life has changed. Circumstances and connections have changed. For me, the holidays magnify this reality.

Recently, I found myself looking at people as they discussed amazing holiday plans. I caught wisps of conversation that floated around me.

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  • “My cousins are coming in town…”
  • “My grandparents are staying with us….”
  • “My mom is cooking…”
  • “My husband’s family is bringing…”
  • “We’re going on a holiday road trip…”
  • “My parents are visiting with us…”
  • “I cannot wait to make this dish…”

I began to slip into what I like to call the holiday “maybes”. Some call it the holiday blues. When the season is rapidly approaching, but you do not feel in the spirit. I wondered to myself, “When will my holiday spirit kick in?”  The answer, “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t”. My hope is that it will. I have to push past this. Not only for myself, but for my husband and daughter.

I know that I am not alone.

While many people love planning and celebrating, there are people who feel loneliness, anxiety, or stress during this season. It may come in various forms for different people. Maybe someone is feeling:

  • Disconnected this holiday season due to a loved one’s death
  • Anxiety over increased financial stressors or obligations during the holidays
  • Stressed because of anticipated family conflict or drama during the holidays
  • Nervous about meeting a significant other’s family for the first time
  • Alone because of familial conflict, disconnect, or estrangement
  • Sadness over a broken marriage or relationship
  • Fearful of a major life decision or change that has to be made
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If that is you, I want you to know…..And I am telling myself this as I write……

Your present circumstances do not have to impend your holiday season. If you are feeling the holiday “maybes”, there are three things on the MENU for you to remember:

  1. Be honest with yourself.

The first thing I had to do is be real with myself about how I was feeling. I acknowledged that I was feeling low key. I even started journaling about it. It helped to be able to express myself in a constructive way, and it gave me an outlet to really reflect on why I was feeling that way.

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    2. Be honest with the people around you.

You do not have to share your deepest, innermost thoughts with every person. Share your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, spouse, counselor, mate, significant other, church member, or spiritual leader. Basically, someone you trust or can confide in. 

For example, there might be a woman out there who dreads the holidays because it reminds you of all the work you have to do. While everyone is talking and laughing, you feel stressed about hosting holiday parties at your house. You want to sit down, kick back and relax. Instead, you are preparing dishes, keeping the kids out of the kitchen, making sure your house stays in tack, and dreading the cleanup that comes after everyone leaves.  

In your case, you might consider sharing the load with someone. Delegate some tasks. Ask someone if they can co-host with you, help with the party logistics, food preparation, and shopping. You never know. The person you confide in might be surprised by your revelation, but excited to help. “Wow, I didn’t know you were feeling overwhelmed. I would be glad to help. What do you need help with?”

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When the topic of the holidays comes up, be honest and let them know. I have had to tell a few people, “Girl, I am just having a difficult time this year. With everything going on, I have not been as excited for the holidays. It reminds me that so much has changed in my life”. It is okay to admit that you are not feeling it or that you are not there yet. In fact, it can even be therapeutic and freeing. There were people that did not even realize how I was feeling until I voiced it. Doing this allows people the chance to sympathize and support you during a time when you may need it the most.

     3. Find your space!

If the holidays makes you feel bittersweet, brings stress, anxiety, feelings of loneliness/sadness …. Or, if you are a person who feels disconnected during the season, I encourage you to find your space!

This does not mean pretend to be in the holiday spirit. Believe me, faking it is hard! Fake smiling hurts! LOL! It’s exhausting! And it shows! What I mean is…..find something that makes you happy/brings you joy. Something that you can focus on during the holiday season that will help you cope and navigate through it.

For example, for someone nervous about family conflict or drama this holiday season, spend a little time with the family then separate for a little while and do something else! Meet up with a friend for a shopping trip. Go to a movie. Find a holiday event and take your trusted person. Take your child to a kid-friendly holiday store. Looking at laughing, boisterous toddlers definitely keeps me busy. Whew! But I also love seeing my daughter laugh and play. It brings joy to my heart to see her happy. Go visit with a long-lost relative and catch up. Plan a holiday date for you and your boo. There are so many options out there!

And finding your space does not always mean finding a physical place. It can also be a mindset too.Sometimes finding your space means stepping away and doing something alone in a place that gives you time to think.

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Holidays can be a joyful time for many! For some, it can be a bittersweet time.

I encourage you to think of the good that is to come and not let anything impend your holiday season!

Do not let your “holiday maybes” destroy your MENU. Remember….

  1. Be honest with yourself. 
  2. Be honest with the people around you. 
  3. Find your space!

You deserve to close this year out with a smile!

Copyright @ 2018 Shenise Gatson

Photos provided by Pexels.

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