Do you look forward to the holidays with a mixture of joy and dread? Does your "ho-ho-ho" quickly turn into an "oh no!"? The holidays always stir up memories, and with them, feelings of guilt and expectations, especially when it comes to gift-giving. Somewhere along the line, how much we give or receive has become the measurement of love and appreciation: "The more expensive the gift, the more you love me." At least that's what I came to believe as a child — maybe you did, too. Many of my relationships were terribly flawed, however. I was in denial of how things turned out, and I did not want to take responsibility for my choices, so my husbands got the blame. Happy holidays, indeed.
For those who are single, the holidays trigger feelings of loneliness, loss and disappointment; "Another year has passed, and I'm still single." It's the trifectas of holidays, and for many it's a speed bump they would rather sleep through.
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Placing unfair expectations on someone else can certainly get us into a whole kettle of fish. This comes from a heightened sense of want — wanting to feel special, wanting that "thing" we believe will give us so much pleasure. How different our experiences would be if we did not have expectations beyond that which we control. What if we just focused on making foods we enjoy eating, decorating with things that have meaning to us, and making sure that part of our celebration includes gratitude and being thoughtful for those who have nothing.
No matter what stage of relationship you're in, you can get back to a place of gratitude and bliss this holiday season. It just takes a little practice:
Make a list of the things that put a smile on your face, and make sure you do them! Listen to the music you love, indulge in the foods you enjoy making and eating (even the spiked eggnog!), or decorate a small, delicious-smelling tree. And try to be with people with whom you connect, not others that will make you feel even more alone. The season is too short to waste time on people who bring out insecurity and frustration in you.
Don't drink too much in order to keep a clear head if you are going to a family party where, historically, there is a lot of tension. You and your partner need to have a pre party pow-wow about how to stay connected if the tension starts. Agree to set spending limits so the bills that arrive in January don't fill you with regret. Be clever with coupon books, and get creative with DIY gifts if money is tight.
The holidays can be a teaching opportunity for your children; demonstrating generosity by donating to small local shelters and transitional homes where other children live will shift the focus from "me-me-me" to making a total stranger very happy. Instill that sense of gratitude and service in your children, and their enjoyment of the holiday will increase. Have your children prioritize their wish lists, too, and put a spending cap on what you can afford. Be realistic.
And last but not least, if you're stuck on gifting your resident Scrooges: Give up. No matter what you get them, they will never be happy anyway; you cannot solve their perpetual choice to be grumpy. That's no reason to be cranky, yourself. Embrace the season and enjoy all of the joys it has to offer.
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