Posts tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

November 21, 2011

I Refuse to Survive the Holidays

Every year around this time I start noticing the magazine articles, tv talk show blurbs, and even blog posts about “how to survive the holidays”. While I know these can be incredibly helpful when you don’t know how to deal with your rude Aunt Marge or have backed yourself into a corner by saying yes to every event invitation that comes your way- complete with requisite cooking and gifting tasks (“gifts must be handmade” says the invite- oh yes, that sounds cool- until you realize you need to not only figure out what you can make, but actually make it, by next week.)…. this year every one of these tips has me both laughing and groaning. Putting “the holidays” and “survival” in the same sentence brings up images of harried women on a remote island, trying to forage and craft a “lovely traditional holiday” while competing in immunity challenges and plotting votes to exile their tribe sisters. The idea of “surviving” the upcoming holidays just seems equally absurd to me.

I have survived the holidays. Worn out, sick, grumpy and making up ugly holiday stories about how I can never do enough and my efforts are always thwarted or aren’t appreciated. No more. I plan to CELEBRATE! I will grab hold of joy and wave it boldly through the streets. I will appreciate everything around me and be delighted. Small things. Big things. Giving in delight and doing what is fun. Survive the holidays? No thanks. I think I’ll have fun and celebrate instead.

How? By refusing to do things that don’t feel good and running with what does. I’ve ordered Thanksgiving dinner. On Black Friday, I might go out – not to shop- but to observe the absurdity of it all and smile at everyone I see. Funnier than reality tv. My kids and I will snip paper snowflakes and cover things in glitter. It will be ephemeral and euphoric (or not ;-D, then I’ll stop). Impromptu holiday movie parties, with appropriately themed snacks featuring the 4 food groups- candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Because it’s fun. I’ll plan a day to wrap gifts, because I love creating beautiful packages, complete with holiday chick flicks. I will take my daughter to do her holiday shopping- she’s so excited to do it. Perhaps we’ll make a day of it. And that’s probably it. No pressure. No obligations. No trying to be Martha Stewart or Mrs. S. Claus or June Cleaver or Molly Weasley (I mean, the woman has a wand. No muggle should even attempt that one!) Likely I’ll strike several of these things from the list. And I’ll do it gleefully. And joyously. And while singing out whatever tune strikes my fancy… whether it’s Deck the Halls, Caught in a Mosh or Blah, Blah, Blah. Because I’m celebrating…. life and love and light and everything. And celebrating feels good. If not, it’s not celebration.

So, what about you? How will you ditch survival and celebrate?

Lesley

ps. Somehow I feel like I’m missing out on that whole plotting thing…. but hey, I bet I can find some kind of joyous plotting to do…. hmmm….

December 3, 2010

Joy: the most important ingredient

This week I’d like to send you over to my friend Scott Noelle’s website to read his Thanksgiving message (then come back!).  It was particularly timely for me last week, as I spent a part of Thanksgiving day feeling anything but thankful.  My 10yo was screaming, my 6yo was attempting to create havoc in response, my 15yo walked in and began making snarky commentary, my dh was cleaning violently, and I was thinking (among other things that I’d rather not mention) that I’d be lucky to ever get around to cooking the meal that I didn’t really want to cook in the first place.  Glad I didn’t invite you to dinner?  Indeed, life here is not always sunshine, unicorns and rainbows.  However, by the end of the day all was well.  We had a pretty nice Thanksgiving.  I hope those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving had one that was just as nice, though perhaps with a bit less drama.

 Here in the U.S., we’ve officially kicked off the winter holiday season.  Some people enjoy this time, others don’t, but it seems to me that being overstressed, overbooked, overindulged and overwhelmed from late November into the New Year is almost a cliché.  We have fond memories of holidays past when we were happy and relaxed, joyfully anticipating visiting with people we love, eating delicious foods, giving and receiving surprises from one another.  Then we do everything we can to try to recreate these past experiences.  Sometimes it even works!  But the efforts involved also seem to create the stress, full schedules, poor self-care and overwhelm.  It’s like we’re caught in a system of intermittent positive reinforcement- continuing to do things we don’t enjoy out of hope that we’ll have moments we do enjoy.  Kind of crazy isn’t it?

 So, this year I’ve decided that I want to live an actual season of joy.  You can join me if you like.  Every tradition, commitment, or obligation I come across as I move through the next month will be evaluated with the following questions-

 Do I want to do this? Why?

 Last Thursday, I didn’t much feel like making a Thanksgiving dinner.  I had it planned.  I had all the food here in the kitchen.  But I was feeling pretty burnt out on cooking in general and with tensions running high the last thing I thought I wanted to do was make an elaborate meal.  And around here, more than a main dish and a side dish is an elaborate meal.  But I’ve learned from some incredibly wise people that I have the ability to change my attitude about a situation, and that my attitude generally sets the tone for my entire family.  So, I retreated to my bedroom and began to examine my feelings about everything that was happening and my contributions to the stress. 

 I’m going to step aside here to mention this is not a “blame myself” moment.  I am very aware that I am not responsible for the feelings or actions of my family members.  I also know that blaming is not transformative.  Blame, whether aimed at yourself or others, keeps things stuck right where they are.  I also know that there is nothing I can change except what is within myself, and know that when I take responsibility for my contributions to a situation- my confrontational statements to my husband and my lack of willingness to stop and listen to my older daughter’s frustration and my younger daughter’s distress- I can look at whatever painful thoughts fueled those actions and decide whether or not those thoughts are serving me.

 In my examination of my thoughts,  I eventually came back to “Do I want to do this?” and “Why?”.  After considering for a bit, I decided that since we needed to eat *something*, and this meal was planned and required fairly little preparation (comparative to a usual Turkey Day feast) that I actually wanted to go ahead and cook it.  I truly had been looking forward to the meal.  I also realized that mostly I was doing this big meal because it is TRADITIONAL and something I’ve enjoyed in the past.  But the fact is, I’ve never actually enjoyed preparing a large meal alone- what I’ve enjoyed is preparing a delicious dish or two (usually in advance) and spending a day in the company of people I love.  Frantically cleaning in order to be able to cook a meal I wasn’t truly interested in cooking was separating me from the loved ones who were right here in my home and I was preventing myself from connecting with them in a meaningful way because I was focused on “having a nice Thanksgiving”- which in reality was just the outward trappings of our usual traditions. 

 To wrap up what turns into a very boring story- I made dinner.  My husband made the mashed potatoes.  My 6yo got very excited about the meal and decided to set the table.  We ended the day with pie, courtesy of Mrs. Smith and Marie Callender, and laughter.  I ended up feeling love and gratitude for my family, and for the knowledge that joy is the most important ingredient in any holiday. 

 So, as we move into the December holiday season I am not dreading any activity that is to come- but I know that if I find myself in a place of dread I am free to decide- “Do I want to do this?”  And ask myself “Why?”.

 And next Thanksgiving, I might just make reservations.

 Feel free to add your experiences in the comments! 

 Joyfully yours,

Lesley

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