About this time every year people start to get jittery about the holidays. There is so much angst about it that we start to wonder what it's all about.
For some it's the emotions that get triggered about having to get together with family, the expectations that they fear won't get met....again...., the reliving of past hurts and rejections, the hopes that all the bad things that happen every year maybe won't occur this time.
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For some it's the lack of friends and family to celebrate with, the lack or loss of traditions. Whether it's due to moving somewhere alone or death or a rift in relationships, often people find themselves without anyone to celebrate with. They are hesitant to ask to be invited by people they know because they don't want to be intrusive, they want to be wanted. Even if being alone doesn't seem like a bad idea you might be worried you will be seen as a loser because you are alone.
First of all, it's important to think about what these holidays mean to YOU and be in charge of your plan for enjoying them. Most of the time we approach the holidays as if we are victims of everyone else's whims. What if you decided for yourself how you want the holidays to be and then invited the people you wanted to celebrate with?
You say you can't change the plans because it's the way your family has been doing it forever? Have you tried? First we have to try suggesting a change and see if there is any flexibility. If you have a rigid family/friend system they may not be willling to change anything but your family/friends might surprise you.
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If you have a rigid family/friends who won't change, you do have the choice to not go. I know this seems like sacriledge but we do have the choice to not attend holiday gatherings that leave us feeling hurt, angry, resentful, unfulfilled or disconnected. While it's usually best to tell the truth and tell people why you don't want to come, it is ok for you to decide to handle it in your own way.
Do you get scared that setting a boundary about the holidays, or anything, will mean you will lose your family? Are you worried about the fighting/conflict you'd have to deal with? Does your partner disagree with you and still want to go? Can you go but de-emphasize that gathering by creating your own rituals and traditions and emphasizing those plans? My ex-husband could never consider saying no to his family so after lots of discussions and fights I decided to do his family events but not focus on them. I started up some traditions of my own with friends that were much more satisfying and I put my energy into those times even though they might not have been on the actual date of the holiday. Cookie exchanges, art projects, potlucks or cooking together, shopping dates, travel, car trips, etc can be nice ways to spend time with people you love and feel some satisfaction being with.