Once again, I am suffering from a round of holiday depression. There is one difference this year though. I have developed some better coping skills lately, which I have been using to combat this years blues. Call it my own variation of Byron Katie's "The Work" (Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life) or Wayne Dyer's Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits, but it really has been a process of questioning my own beliefs and uncovering the truth behind my feelings. It's boiled down to a question of what is the reality behind my holiday expectations.
I grew up in a Christian home which celebrated Christmas the traditional American way. The holidays were a time of decorating the tree, setting up the nativity set, baking cookies and listening to and singing Christmas carols. Most years we would celebrate with extended family--grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and overall it was a very joyous occasion. Presents, too, were a big deal. There was a lot of secrecy and planning that went into it all (of course, the early days were also filled with visits to Santa and wondering if he would bring that special wished-for gift). My parents did a great job of making my early Christmas memories very fond ones.
When my kids were little--even while I was a single mom--Christmas was still pretty big for me. I loved playing Santa and trying to hide the Santa gifts from my kids well enough they never found out I was Santa until they were older. I would start saving for Christmas early in those days because I wanted to give my children the same sort of magical memories I had growing up. My kids still have favorite Christmas sweets they request every year.
It has only been the more recent "middle-aged" years Christmas has begun to be a drag for me. As my children are too old for Santa, the planning and plotting has gone by the wayside. Making cookies seems to tucker me out more than it used to, and the rush of working and trying to get everything done is frustrating. On top of all that, no one seems to appreciate what effort I do manage to put into it. This does not motivate me to do more.
Still, there are a few things I know. When you take away all the hype of what Christmas is "supposed" to be, you realize it is natural for the work you put into it to wear you out and wear you down. If everybody doesn't get that special present or if you don't have time to make that special cookie, it's okay. They won't die, and they will probably still be happy with what they get. There are other years and other occasions to accomplish those things. Let yourself off the hook! Focus on relaxing, on relationships, on enjoying the season of giving. Life really is too short to become upset over the little things. Often, it is our expecatations that bring us down much more than the actual events. Do what you can, enjoy what you've done and then let it go. Happiness or sadness is your choice. Making sure your expectations are realistic will make happiness that much easier to achieve.